Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Lessons I Have to Teach My Son Even If They Drive Him Away from Me

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Some Lessons I Have to Teach My Son Even If They Drive Him Away from Me

Article excerpt

AT THE RIPE old age of 15 1/2, my son is entering the sacred rite of passage known as driving.

I desperately wanted to drive the minute my legs were long enough for my feet to hit the pedals. I even remember once trying to do that while waiting in the car for my father, who'd dashed into the bank. I found out, in swift order, what the brake release was for.

I also found out, also in short order, what fathers were for. As it turned out, my first driving lessons were given to me by a man named Latham Barnes. Mr. Barnes - yes, those were the days when kids wouldn't dare call adults by their first names - and his wife, Addie, had been friends of my parents, and their two daughters had been like younger sisters to my sister and me. So when my dad was killed in a job-related accident when I was 14, I think Mr. Barnes felt he had an obligation to my father to offer me male guidance. That guidance ranged from some pretty embarrassing discussions about birds and bees (of course, as becoming a father has taught me, everything's embarrassing to kids when they're teen-agers) to offering me driving lessons. The driving lessons were a big hit. We drove one Sunday afternoon to a supermarket parking lot in North County - those were the days when stores were closed on Sundays - and Mr. Barnes let me get behind the wheel. I'll never forget the exhilarating feeling I had driving around and around on that parking lot, making circles and figure-eights and learning what happens if you turn your wheel to the left and go in reverse. Through it all, Mr. Barnes was cool as a cucumber, telling me when to turn, when to stop, what to do. A few months later, my mother rewarded me with my first car, a blue 1968 Chevy Nova, which became my pride and joy. These days, my son, Will, is getting the automobile bug. So, on a recent weekend we drove to a parking lot in Forest Park, and he took the wheel. I told him how to start the engine, how to take the car out of park and how to cruise at a leisurely 10-15 mph around the lot. …

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