In the spring of 2011, I pulled out of the driveway and drove about a mile to our city’s tennis courts where my son was playing on the high school team. When I turned into a parking spot in front of the courts, I knew that when I drove home it would be my last time in the driver’s seat. About an hour and a half later, I pulled back into the driveway, climbed out of the car, and said goodbye to my car keys.
It was a safety issue, not just for me, but for anyone else who would be on the road at the same time. I just couldn’t trust my feet on the pedals anymore.
I left part of my freedom and independence on the counter with my keys that day. I loved to drive, and giving up my keys was a big loss for me; and it was a loss for others too. I could no longer make a simple short trip to the store on my own or share driving on long trips. Losing my ability to drive meant that I lost a key component of relationships, as I could no longer go to those I care about.
I traded my keys for a lot of time alone in my home when I would rather be in the driver’s seat going places. As nice as my home is, there’s a monotony in always meeting with friends here. I’ve grown accustomed to missing family gatherings. I have found myself looking longingly out the window and wondering vicariously if the people driving cars are on their way down the street, down the highway, or down south for vacation.
When it came time for a newer car, I shared in researching, negotiating the price and feeling the excitement in leaving the dealership in our car; and then feeling the stark reality that I would never drive that car. Decades earlier, I instituted a family rule that whoever was driving could choose the music in the car. Seven years ago, I swallowed hard when I felt the consequences of a rule that was still in place, a rule that had always seemed fair, until then.
After years of not driving myself, I have noticed less interest in recognizing landmarks and knowing directions, a decreased sense of direction and sense of adventure. There are things I don’t miss – I never have to worry about getting a speeding ticket, causing an accident or even changing the oil.
It was the right decision to give up my keys when I did. I knew that time would come, and I knew I would know when it did. I was aware at that time that I would miss being in the driver’s seat. Seven years later, I still sometimes find myself reminiscing during the day about driving, and at night having dreams that I’m driving. I had to give up my keys, but I’m grateful for all of the years I did drive, the countless places I was able to go, and the memories I have from those times. And I am now grateful f0r our accessible van, and for the willingness of Mr. Legs to be my driver. (Click here to read my post about getting out and my chauffeur.)
You may be bothered about brushing the snow off your car, feel frustrated with other drivers, or feel irritated about the time and cost of auto maintenance; but I hope you will also appreciate the ability to drive. Feel the independence of being in the driver’s seat, the power of navigating on the open road, and simply enjoy it.
As a child, I was driven places. At 15, I was driven by the desire to drive myself. My dad and a driver’s education class taught me to drive defensively. At 16, I was given a license to drive. At 19, I owned a car. At 23, I got married, moved to a different country and learned to drive aggressively. At 27, I was driven to drive cautiously as I carried the responsibility of a little life inside my car. Some years later, I felt the gravity of having three young lives I was responsible for in the car with me. At 34, I moved to a country where road rules and lane lines were seen by drivers as mere suggestions. At all these ages and stages in between, I embraced and enjoyed the ability to drive. At 52, as a result of MS, I was driven to stop driving.