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The car keys are all yours, dad

4:18 pm June 16th, 2014

PAT JENKINS
Visiting Angels, a network of homecare agencies specializing in the needs of elderly adults, flooded the news media recently with the results of a survey that the company tied in with Fathers Day. “In a recent national survey, 63 percent of adult children say dad’s a better driver than mom. Talk about the perfect Father’s Day gift for dad,” the company said in a press release.
The survey, which revolved around the question of when to have an elderly parent stop driving, also found that 66 percent of people who were polled said it would be harder to have the “car keys conversation” with their father. They said their dad would be the most upset if he couldn’t drive any more, whereas their mother would be more accepting if her driving days were over.
I wasn’t one of the 400 adults who Visiting Angels surveyed. But if I was, my answers wouldn’t have fit the majority of responses. You see, my father is something of an anomaly. He’s 94 and still driving. Not a lot. Just a few miles a week, at the most, to and from his home and the grocery store, church and the occasional doctor appointment. I don’t worry about needing to take the keys away from him some day, because I know that he knows he’ll know when it’s time to give up that all-important independence that four wheels and an engine give all of us.
He’s one of the safest drivers I’ve ever known. He’s not a slowpoke or overly cautious, but he’s always practiced defensive driving. He taught it to me, and I taught it to my kids. And he hasn’t lost a shred of it in his own driving. He hasn’t had an accident in probably 60 years or more. Only two things are starting to steer him toward turning the engine off for the final time. One is a medical condition that’s affecting the vision in one of his eyes, though not so much that he couldn’t get a Washington license when he moved back here last year from Arizona. The other factor is financial. He’s concerned about money (who isn’t?) and came close to canceling his car insurance when the renewal date rolled around last month.
But otherwise, it’s full speed ahead (so to speak). And I couldn’t be happier. I’m grateful that he’s still with us and still the same car guy he’s always been. He owned and operated a car repair shop in his early adult years, and later was a fleet mechanic for a dairy. Then and after he retired, he loved to do minor repairs and maintenance on his own cars and anyone else’s in his family. I can’t begin to add up the money he saved for me on car repairs. He was still getting his hands greasy until his early 80s. There was never a problem he couldn’t fix until, well after he retired, vehicles became more complex and harder to figure out.
Unfortunately for me, I didn’t inherit any of his acumen for automotive work. But that’s okay. I’m just incredibly lucky to have had him in my life and the lives of my family for so long. That’s what I’ll be thinking about this Fathers Day instead of the “car keys conversation.”
Keep on trucking, dad.

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