It’s time for another break here. Time for another “B Side” post.
I started these posts back in October when I decided I needed to write about something else besides “all things autism”. My B Sides are going to be stories about my favorite memories, ones that have had a lasting impact on my life. I was going to try to write a “B Side” at least once a month but November skipped past without one. Today’s Special Needs Blog Hop about random thoughts reminded me it was time for another one. So for today’s “B Side” post – Life is a Highway.
The year was 1987. I was 15 years old and just passed my learner’s permit test. Barely passed. Back then it was a paper test and you couldn’t get more than four answers wrong or you failed. I got four answers wrong. But I ran out of there with that yellow paper waving in my hand like they do now on American Idol. The beginning of teenage freedom.
I begged my father to take me out right away for a drive. He agreed and we climbed into our Jeep Cherokee. It was January in Vermont and the roads were covered in snow and ice. My father, ever the cautious one, was reminding me to take it slow. Very slow. Very very slow. Too slow for this 15 year old.
We got about 3 miles from the house driving along the back roads in our small rural town. I made it through my first stop sign. My father started breathing again. Until he started screaming:
“You’re too far right!! You’re too far right!!”
And into the ditch we went.
(several years later when my dad was sick, we joked about his “too far right” comment – he said he was really talking about my politics. Considering how left of center my dad was politically, it wasn’t hard to be too far to the right from him. But I digress…)
We were sideways in the Jeep in the ditch. Because of all the snow, I couldn’t see the side of the road and in we went. We climbed out of the car and trudged to a nearby house to call my uncle for help (no cell phones back then of course). And for the 30 minutes it took for them to pull the Jeep out of the ditch, I avoided my father’s glare.
After checking the car to make sure there was no damage, my father handed the keys back to me.
“You’re driving home.”
I remember my shock and fear like it was yesterday. I had come inches away from totaling the car. Yet here he was, handing the keys back to me, not taking no for an answer. So very slowly, very very slowly, I drove us back home.
I think back on this moment as a mother with three kids of my own and now I get it. My father knew that if he drove home, my confidence would be shot and I would be terrified to get back in the car. And I was. I was a nervous wreck. A few months later I was involved as a passenger in a different accident (not my fault this time) and it took a long time for me to get behind the wheel again. But at that moment my father had to show me that he believed in me. He wasn’t going to let one mistake change that. If he got mad or yelled or kept me from driving for a while, my anxiety would win and I’d end up a very nervous and unsafe driver. My father chose the path of trust. And several extra hours of practice before I was allowed to test for my license.
I still hear his voice in my head when I drive sometimes – when I’m changing lanes on the highway or reminding my kids to buckle up for safety. In eight short years, my oldest will get his learner’s permit. And I hope that I can show my son that I have the same confidence and trust in him that my dad had in me.
Or I might just make my husband teach him.
“There’s no load I can’t hold
Road so rough this I know
I’ll be there when the light comes in
Tell ’em we’re survivors
Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long” – Life Is A Highway by Tom Cochrane