Tuesday, September 22, 2015

Bailing Wire and Duck Tape

My two oldest boys find themselves in an interesting, and at times awkward tug-o-war. My oldest is 16, has his drivers permit and is working on his license. My fifteen year old also has his permit and is practicing the age old ritual of crossing into being all grown up, driving.
Neither of them can drive alone and their Dad won't let them drive with me. So we have two budding drivers and only one licensed adult. I drive with my boys occasionally because I'm the financially responsible party and I normally have another sighted person along for the help. Its an area of contention for my husband and I, but it helps sometimes to keep the boys both practicing and learning. God keep watch over us all.
I'm torn for the best, and most responsible way to help them when they're so close in age and are limited in their ability to be supervised. I often lose sleep and hair, worrying about what to do.
My friend, who knew me when I could see and drive, laughed at my consternation.
"You were a horrible driver when you could see," he insists. "You can't be any worse blind."
Could I?
I learned to drive, first with my older brother. If you know my older brother, you know he is brilliant, powerful, giving and an excellent father, husband and all around person. He is however,  NOT a great driver.
He drove in his early twenties, in Guatemala. He fit right into their 'take no prisoners' philosophy of speeding through intersections and around corners and break neck speeds and with various forms of livestock clinging to the doors and windows.
Later, he spent a few years in Malaysia doing the same thing, just without the livestock. He is an Indy-racer, Autobahn-wanna-be and he's fearless.
When I was 16, he took me out in our 1975 Dotson B-210 bomber. It was a conglomeration of rust, cracking vinyl, bailing wire and duck tape, but it ran.
It was also a stick shift and I had to learn to use the pedals and the shifter before I could actually drive. After grinding the gears, nearly pitching him through the windshield while I got the hang of the brake, and annoying him into driving with me, he said very little and gritted his teeth a lot.
When he and I finally got to the point that we drove, he clutched the door handle with one hand and the console with the other, praying for the both of us. He put up with me and my driving for a little while until one day a few months later.
I drove, jerkily, down a back road in the little town I'm from. Proud of myself for handling the clutch, gas and brake, all at the same time, I ignored my brothers all too obvious terror. In the little town where we lived, there were three foot wide canals running along some of the back roads. They were empty sometimes and I didn't worry about them. Unknown to me, these had the potential to be death traps. If the car were to plunge into the water, you could be drowned or washed away or both. Oblivious to this aspect of driving, I tootled down the road without a care in the world.
When the road took a sharp turn and I shifted down to decrease my speed, I forgot to steer the car, so absorbed was I in the transmission.
Now picture, My older brother and I finding ourselves hurtling toward one of these canals. He is screaming at me to stop the car. I'm in full out panic and crush the accelerator to the floor and cover my eyes with my arms.
I'm not sure how he did it, but he cranked the wheel, got my foot off the accelerator and pulled us to a dust-covered stop inches before the canal.
I don't remember what he said, how we got home or why he didn't throw me out of the car, but it was over. He never drove with me again.  I'm still surprised he used to agree to ride with me on occasion. Like I said before, he's quite the crazy driver on his own and I'm afraid some of that is my fault. All these years later though, these are some of my favorite times with him and our car. The car was just an old tin can of a thing, but I loved her, drove her into the ground and eventually turned her over to my younger brothers and sisters. Not before I crashed her a few times and used a lot more bailing wire and duck tape to keep her together.
My Dad eventually taught me how to drive and my time in New York honed, or exacerbated my skills, but I'll never forget that little car.
She was ugly, unsafe, and always on the brink of falling apart, but then so was I when I was 16.
My boys fight over and drive our old clunky Saturn and grit their teeth when they have to share. Trust me boys...It's the best time you'll ever have.

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