It’s official! I have my North Carolina driver’s license. Renee and I have been suffering from test anxiety. We were afraid that we would have to take a written test. I guess you’re never too old for test anxiety to mess with your head. Anyway, I had to identify road signs and pass a vision test.
The trip to the DMV reminded me of my first driver’s test. It is one of the really good memories I have of my father and his sense of humor. The DMV had a gravel parking lot and I was driving my father’s 1963 Ford Falcon Sprint. His car was customized with a 298 V8 and Hurtz 4 on the floor. It was hot!
So, the officer gets in the passenger seat and gives me instructions. At 16, I was nervous. I accidentally popped the clutch sending a stream of gravel in the air before my rear tires gained traction. In other words, I did a wheelie. The officer was pissed and demanded that I pull over. I thought I was screwed! Fortunately for me, the officer lost his composure and started laughing. He said “Mike,” my father, had told him to give me a hard time. Dad walked over and the two of them had a good laugh at my expense. My dad knew too many of the local police and over the years it became evident that his friendship with the local cops was both good and bad for me.
The next time my dad got a good laugh at my expense was that same year. My date and I were parking at spot along the Elizabeth River. We were innocently necking, which was a big deal in those years. I went to start the car and take her home only to discover that the car had died. As we were only blocks from her home, I walked her to her front door and asked if I could use their phone. I was embarrassed to say the least. My dad showed up and pushed started the car (you old guys will know what that means).
When we got home, dad went to his room and mom and dad broke out in hysterical laughter. It wasn’t funny! I stormed into their room and yelled at them to stop, reiterating that it just wasn’t funny. “Calm down, Stewart! In the morning, I’ll show you why we were laughing,” was all my parents would say. In the morning, my dad took me back to where I had been parking and showed me a heart with my parent’s initials carved in the bench facing the river. I had been parking exactly where they used to.
They say the apple does not fall far from the tree. I apparently never fell off the tree. Yesterday, we were going through old papers when I came across a poem written by one of my father’s friends for his 66th birthday. Here are just a few lines: “Diets you’re on every other week. But damn your gut, you’re short and bold I’ve been told.”
Yes, I’m short, bold and FAT! And, yes, I’m on diets every other week. In so many ways, I am my father. In his later years, he became more pessimistic, less bold and more fearful. I am fighting those tendencies now. Test anxiety, something I had never experienced until now, is just one manifestation of the changes I’m experiencing.
Looking back on my father’s life, both pre and post-Parkinson’s should help me navigate my future and avoid the pitfalls that plagued my dad. Only time will tell. Writing is cathartic, so I will continue to write. Hopefully , in doing so, I will help others traverse this fantastic journey called life.
Here’s your song for the day and a joke or two.
What’s a teacher without students? HAPPY!
Time is a great teacher. Unfortunately, it kills all of its students.