Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Learning to Drive: A Father's Day Tribute

I spent my teenage years in a bucolic town in upstate New York in the '60s and '70s. A very small town, asleep in the land of Rip Van Winkle, and in many ways, at least ten years behind the tumult of the times. Fortunately for me, my father had an eye on the pulse of the nation and the foresight to see how different my world and my future would be. But in the summer of '72, these two forces clashed, and ironically, I was on the side of tradition. Let me explain.

I was seventeen years old and about ready to go off to college. I didn't know how to drive a car and wasn't particularly interested in learning. The way I saw it, only "fast" girls had their drivers' licenses, and I didn't want to be labeled as such. And besides, my mother didn't learn how to drive until she was thirty-six years old and pregnant with my younger brother. What was good enough for her was good enough for me. I still had time. Or so I thought. My father, however, had other ideas.

All summer long, I endured the after dinner driving lessons. I'd go without my eyeglasses (I am very nearsighted). I'd go without my learners' permit. We'd both get indigestion. When the time came, I flunked my road test by going through a stop sign (I don't remember seeing it - honest!). I was my high school class valedictorian and I had never failed at anything in my life. This time I had done everything to sabotage the effort and my parents could not understand why. But my father, determined that I would have my drivers' license before I went away to college in the fall, asked. And when I gave him my reasons, which I thought were pretty good at the time, he quickly countered with the fact that my world would be much different than the small town existence that I had lived to date and that I would need to drive a car as part of my independence. It made sense and I passed the road test on the second try.

There have been many times since then that I have been grateful that he cared enough to make sure that I got my drivers' license. That summer, he did much more than teach me how to drive a car. He gave me the first of many lessons to prepare me for my future life.

Karen Ann DeLuca