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A Story of Learning How to Drive - and the Lifelong Lessons Garnered


I got your Staff Member riiiight heeeere...
FBBO Gold Member
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7:37 PM
May 14, 2011
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On the Ridge, TN
Warning - Ed Story! (Please avert your eyes if you don't like these things I write...)

Bob's recent posting about his video on a couple Simca imports he'd found in a junkyard
reminded me of my youth, teaching myself how to drive in my mama's '71 Simca 1204
and how that little car turned out to be so influential on what happened with the rest
of my life, specifically regarding me with my Dad.

Now, in regards to that Simca and me coming of driving age in the early 70's:
Of course, being a pre-driving age teen then, I thought the thing was awesome because it
was so different than all the lumbering American monsters I grew up seeing family members
own (we had a '68 Monaco wagon for a family car).
The seats were VERY comfortable, soft and plush and the car was as easy as
any with the clutch and all that, despite zero power assists on anything.
Pop was trying to feed a family of 6 though, so eventually the Monaco got traded for a VW Bus
and mama was supposed to use the Simca as her "truck the kids around" vehicle.

When my parent drivers' ed wasn't progressing at a pace fast enough for my liking though,
I took it upon myself to sneak out in the seldom-used Simca when they ran off to the store or some such....
which was fine until I got caught that one fateful day.
I'm pretty sure that was the first time I ever saw a different look in my dads' eyes...
Before then, we grew up to fear "the look" because it usually meant, at the very least,
his hand headed towards that belt buckle because someone was about to get "lit up".

This time, though, the look in his eyes was different - and it made an impression on me I'll never forget:
He was very disappointed, to the point of looking downright sad in those usually intense eyes.
I was old enough then to finally realize just how small a fella could feel when he really disappointed his
dad - and I felt about an inch tall right then, at age 14.

I never forgot that - and even when he laid in the ICU several decades later and had made his peace
with Him in 2010, I found myself still looking into those eyes, seeking approval (or at the least, a lack
of disappointment) even though I was pushing 50 by then.
When I tried to brush off his usual protestations of all the medical fuss going on around him ("aww
come on Pop, you know the routine, they gotta do all this...."
), there instead came that look again,
out of those exhausted eyes...
"Make them stop" he said, more than once.
This time - I got it.
"Yes sir, I understand".

"The look" disappeared from his stare, replaced by another kind - that of peace and appreciation - and yes,
resignation to his fate.
Damn.... just damn. It freaking melted me, right there, right then.
My dad was calling his shot - and me, the last person on earth who wanted it, had just agreed to see it
through for him.

I hadn't tried to "take charge" of his situation prior to that, him being remarried still and all - but I did then.
As his wife headed toward his room, I stopped her in the hall and told her what was going on...
She being the typical ditzy, headstrong sort didn't want to listen - at first.
I saw to it she did that time, though.
The moment she saw the look in my own eyes, she shut the heck up and listened - finally.
Pop wanted me to see her through the whole process and as much as I never really thought much of her
(she was a low-buck gold digger, honestly), I had accepted the role because Pop wanted me to.

He passed peacefully the next morning, at his home as he had wanted - Christmas morning.
Some flapped their tongues about how he had "ruined Christmas for everyone else", like it was somehow
something he did to spite them....idiots.
Me, I just grinned a little to myself - Pops' wicked sense of humor had won, one last time - and I "got it"
yet again.

True to my word, I saw her through the post-funeral stuff, the allocating of personal effects and such
(he had adamantly refused to do a Will, the ol' mule) and corraled those distant relatives and such that
showed up to vulture whatever they could - which I had to do at times rather forcefully.
Didn't matter. It was my job, volunteered for - and probably kept me sane that whole time, too.
Hell, she even thanked me after it was all said and done. Shocked heck out of me...

Moral of the story?
I guess it's that the single seemingly innocent little incident with a little French car in the family driveway,
damn near 50 years ago, started my Pop and I down a relationship path in this life that was much different
than it had been before.

If anyone takes anything away from this story, it might be that "there is no such thing as a minor incident".
Whether with your kids - or perhaps, a stranger you meet - or maybe even your spouse or best friend,
ALL interactions matter, to some level or another - and ANY of them can prove to be a lot bigger down the
road than they seem at the time.

I can never hope to be the man my Pop was - but I sure am still trying to be and I think that's the point.
Isn't it?
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Amazing how life works sometimes.
Such a thing must surely occur with most of us at some point in our young years -
an event in which "the change" happens and you're suddenly on the path to adulthood.

All of a sudden, you don't have the simple, innocent relationship of kid to grownup - but
rather that of almost-adult to parent, a more responsible, equal footing sort of deal.
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