Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Driving with Dad, and Other Journeys

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Driving with Dad, and Other Journeys

Article excerpt

Dad got me by default. The day I brought home my learner's permit, Mom spent a good (or maybe not-so-good) five minutes with me behind the wheel. Then she leaped from the Fairlane, barely managing to refrain from kissing the driveway in her relief to be standing on it again. When she could talk, she gasped that my roller-coaster-riding, hand-walking-off-the-high-dive dad might be better suited to oversee my stick-shift maneuvers.

"We didn't even leave the driveway," I muttered. "Yes," she said, rubbing her neck, "but what a ride!"

For some unknown reason, Dad decided I should learn to drive in his precious antique Model A. "You'll learn to double-clutch!" he exclaimed. For rather more obvious reasons, he designated the deserted roads way, way out in the country as my practice grounds. I woke up that first Saturday dreading the coming excursion. For one thing, I knew I was mechanically challenged. For another, I feared Dad would expect too much of me. But the big reason was that, unlike my friends, I wasn't sure I even wanted to learn to drive. "You can walk all over town," I told my best friend. "So what's the big deal?" Her jaw dropped. "You just might want to actually leave town someday. Has that ever occurred to you?" Sure it had. I'd been in a white-hot tear to grow up for forever. But now that it was actually happening, adulthood was zooming at me way too fast. After the first jerky lurches ("You have an egg between your foot and the clutch," Dad intoned repeatedly), my driving lessons proved to be OK. More than OK, really. It may have just been an effort to distract me or himself, but as my passenger, Dad went into storyteller mode. I heard new tales about his childhood, his relatives, his courtship of Mom. He tried out his never-ending supply of cornball jokes on me, real groaners. He described his practical-joke marathon with his buddy Red at work: "One-upmanship honed to the finest art!" And I imagine I told him a few things about myself in those long afternoons of just him and me and the country lanes. …

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