Saturday, August 15, 2009

#53: Tell about learning to drive a car.

I couldn't wait to turn 16 and get my 365! (I know, Lou - now it's called a G1)

Driving meant freedom. Driving meant independence. And as Grampa was always quick to remind me, driving meant responsibility.

Grampa taught me how to drive, and that worried Gramma tremendously. She was against me learning to drive; insisting 16 was "far too young." Gramma, I believe, was in her early 30's when she first started to drive and has always been a nervous driver. She's a nervous passenger as well. It was no surprise she was a nervous parent of a newly licensed teenage driver.

I studied that driver's handbook more then anything I'd ever studied in school to date, or since. When the day of my 16th birthday arrived, I was nervously excited (and slightly nauseous) all day with anticipation of the written test after school. Grampa was waiting proudly out front when I got out of school that day, and I still remember climbing in the passenger seat and looking at him beaming with excitement as he asked if I was ready.

When I passed the written test without a single error, I thought the hardest part was over. Grampa and I headed towards the long line to book my road test. It was November and the next available road test date was December 4th. I laughed. December 4th? Are you serious? You do know this is only November, right? Grampa looked at me confused, and asked what the problem was.

"I'll never be ready by December 4th!" I insisted.

"Yes you will," he said calmly and confidently.

"No way," I again insisted - this time with the angry defiance that teenager's tend to sometimes have.

The clerk stood patiently while Grampa and I bantered back and forth and then he informed us that the next available date after December 4th was February 4th. This time Grampa was able to convince me to book it, telling me that if worse came to worse and I didn't feel I was ready then he would bring me back to the exam centre to reschedule. That made me feel better and February 4th it was.

We walked out to car and Grampa proceeded to walk around to the passenger's side. I looked at him with one of those what the hell are you doing kind of looks, and he shot one right back at me. "You're driving," he said as he tossed me the keys to the family's Aries K-car station wagon.

And I drove everywhere and anywhere from that point on. If someone had to go somewhere - Grampa made sure I drove. If the car needed gas, oil, air in the tires - Grampa made sure I did it. Even getting me out of bed on a Saturday at some unreasonable hour to go gas up. If we needed milk, had shopping to do ... anything. And everyday we was waiting for me outside of school at 3:15, and he'd be offering all my friends rides home. All so I could get the driving experience I needed.

He taught me the responsibilities that accompanied the privilege of driving and I learned how to put gas in the car; check the oil, brake fluid, steering fluid; change the air filters and spark plugs; wash and vacuum the car. He even had me pull over one night and said "you're going to learn to change a tire." We spent hours and hours and hours practicing parking. There was no such thing as Sunday shopping back then, so the mall parking lots were a perfect place to practice and I spent most Sunday mornings doing just that. Grampa made sure I could pull in, back in, do 3 point turns and most importantly (in his words) learn to parallel park. I learned to drive on the highway and he made sure I understood the importance of merging on and off and lane changes. Even know at 40, there are so many times while driving that I still remember and hear his teachings and words of encouragement to me as if he was sitting in the passenger's seat beside me.

I learned to drive over the winter months and there was many an argument at our house with Gramma. She didn't want me to drive when the weather was sunny and the roads were clear so just imagine how she felt about her 16 year old daughter out on the roads in ice and snow. Grampa said "if you can drive in the winter, you can drive in anything." He was adamant that I had to learn to drive under all conditions that our wonderful seasons had to offer.

I'm not exactly sure who was more proud the day I passed my road test. He was right - I would have been ready in December ... and he still reminds me of that to this day. But I credit my success to Grampa. He made the time for me. He made my interests and goals his interests and goals. He stood up for me with my mom and tried (mostly in vain) to get her to understand that this was something that was important to me. He refused to let mom instill her fears in me. He made it fun. He believed in me, and never let me stop believing in myself.

I hope he enjoyed our time and accomplishment together as much as I did. I hope he knows how special the experience was to me.

Grampa has already taught bg how to drive, and my hope is that each of you girls will get to share that same experience with Grampa.

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