Gripping the wheel too firmly, I listened carefully to each direction. While I’d held my hand over his to shift the clutch many times, now pushing the pedal seemed too much to coordinate. I was terrified anyway. Too many accidents as a young girl, one with a drunk driver, made me leery of cars and driving. As a teen, I either walked or bused everywhere. If my date seemed an irresponsible driver, I had him stop the car and I took the bus home.
But in my early twenties, I dated this guy who insisted that I had to get over this fear, driving was an absolutely essential life skill.“Besides”, he said,” imagine all the freedom it will give you, to go where and when you choose. More importantly, you are the one in control.” That last part appealed to me the most, that and he was a careful driver.
So, late at night, we drove up and down the back road of an industrial area. Every single short street had a stop sign. Every one. Well, lots of time to practice that clutch! It certainly did give me a sore foot and running shoes took the place of date dress-up pumps. It took me weeks and weeks of driving down that street without any other cars on the road to master my fear. The first time I went up and onto a ‘real’ road , I panicked and quickly turned down the next street.
When he thought I was ready, I scheduled the test. And failed. The tester actually grabbed the steering wheel when I swerved too much in rush hour, narrowly missing a parked car.
Ultimately, I failed four times. The last time, I felt like giving up. BUT….
When I finally passed, I nearly hugged the instructor,who must have sensed my elation for he quickly jumped out of the car. I remarked that I was going to tease my husband (yep- the guy who taught me) and say I’d failed again.
” Doubt it, that grin is shining in your eyes.”
Obtaining my driving license later in life gave me insight into how challenging it can be. So, naturally it was me who placed my sons behind the wheel to teach them. My sons did not have the naked fear I’d experienced driving. They’d never been in an serious accident. Although, two near accidents in one week while I was driving stopped one son’s lessons for six months.
While it all becomes so routine as time goes by, I like to gift others the wonderment one feels doing a task solo, the very first time.
As each son passed their driving test, my first sentence on getting back home was always, “Go drive. Now. All alone”
The first son’s eyes literally lit up. “You aren’t serious?”
I am. I was. Driving solo my very first time is a wonderful memory I can recall with ease.
Driving my children to their many activities throughout the years , I daily reflect how facing my fear has indeed given me freedom and control.
But, most important, it was the love of a man who cared enough to push me beyond my fear that finally got me behind that wheel.
I am forever grateful.