Friday, February 18, 2011

Bye Car

Deb: My Dad is just about to turn 84. At Christmastime, after a year of serious consideration, I asked him to give up his car. It is time. He and I went for a drive one day and it was NOT good. He was swerving into other lanes, running stop signs and doing a solid 10 below the speed limit.

It was an awful moment but I have to say, he handled it with grace and resignation. He knew that it was getting to the point where he might hurt himself or, worse for my Dad, someone else. That is a scenario from which he would never recover.

I don’t know if I have mentioned this, but my Dad is the kindest guy. Empathy, tenderness, and kindness just burst out of him.

So, he relented. And today we are donating his car, a 1990 Buick, to my old high school for its Auto Shop program. He loved this idea as it was killing him to think that the car would go right to the scrap-yard. After all, said he, “It’s not the car’s fault. It’s still running great.”  It has a bit of rust, but as Dad pointed out, don’t we all? It still runs like a charm, so we are going to drive it up to the school this morning and drop it off. Dad is coming with us to see it safely inside the shop and to say his goodbyes.

I can totally relate to that, as I have stood weeping over every car I have ever let go. I weep grateful tears over the car that has kept me safe, the car that has witnessed all the little stories the boy has imparted on our drives to school, the car that has accompanied us to parties and funerals and concerts and road trips.

So I know what Dad is feeling today. His car was his business partner for many years so the miles and successes and failures of every venture are wrapped up in those four wheels and a chassis.

But more than that, Dad is giving up his independence. No more shall he jump in the car on a whim and take off for destinations unknown.

It is a huge shift in our lives too, as they are now dependent on us for everything: food, meds, dry cleaning, appointments, and the like.

We have made our peace with that. I knew on the day I told him it was time to stop driving, that our lives would go into a tailspin of constant chore activity. We are still adjusting to it. We are into the everyday of it right now, remembering to ask Mum and Dad every time we go out what is wanted and what is needed. We are settling into it quite well, I have to say.

But his is the greater task. He and my Mom are trying to overcome their biggest trial. They are trying to push past the guilt of us doing every single thing for them.  When I went over yesterday to deliver the new version of the wrong pens I had bought for them, they were both crying about the situation. I try to remind them that it is our honour and pleasure to help them out. I remind them of the years that they schlepped me around and did for me, came for me and went for me. I remind them of how they took us in when we came back from L.A. and turned their lives upside down to make room for us. And they know. But still. I know what they are going through. They are trying to maintain their status as the parents as we struggle in this role-reversal tug of war. I get it. And there by the grace of God...


  1. Oh Deb...the thought of your lovely, gracious parents crying over anything tears me up. It's ironic but one of my favourite memories of them is watching them pull up in their car and park in my tiny city driveway to deliver a baby gift for the newly arrived Jake. I spotted them from the window and was so chuffed to see them as I knew I was in for a hour or so of lovely adult company. It seems like moments ago really...even though I've thought of that moment so many times over the years I know that not to be so.
    Transitions are so hard generally but it just seems unfair that they should be even more of a struggle as we age. I mean wouldn't it be nice, after a lifetime of doing for others, we could accept what could be called our right and due. But of course we can't if only because the gift of someone else assuming your responsibilities is probably the only gift that really represents loss as well as gain.
    I'll hold a good thought for you all during this time of adjustment...for there, indeed, but for the Grace of...

  2. I so get this post. I have a great grandmother that just turned 92 and yes she still drives. She is barley tall enought to look over the stearing wheel,and I have NO IDEA how she even works the brakes. She is not the worst driver on the planet but she is now getting to the point where she just need to hand over the keys. It's so bad now where the other day,she actually got a ticket for going to fast. Now that has to say something.

    We all really want her to stop driving but we are so afraid that she will be upset and confused if we ask her to give up her car. My grandmother is the kind of person where she wants to be so independent and now because she is getting so much older she just can't do the things that she use to. And she will not ask for help when she needs to go get something for town. I have always told her to call me but she never does and insted just goes herself.

    Hopefully we can get her to just give them up. We all know it's time and deep down inside she does too and just does not want to say that it's time.

  3. This is such a lovely post.
    My Dad passed away at the age of 68. He was still MY helper. Just a month before he passed away, he and his brother drove to Alberta in the middle of the night, to be there by morning, to rescue my daughter from a bad situation. When they got her home, we were there and I was so grateful to him. That was the last time that I saw him.
    My Dad was always doing stuff to help us out. He would help anyone. That's what he was like.
    He had a heart attack after he ran out of gas in his old truck (no gas gauge) and he "had to" push it, down the highway, out of the way. Then he walked quite a way (not sure how far) down the highway to a gas station. Not one person stopped to offer a hand. He had fatal heart attack later that day.
    That was 7 years ago. I still have a hard time thinking about it.

  4. Sometimes I think it's hard for our parents and us to except change. I have always told my grandparents that they took care of me and now it's my turn to take care of them. This is expecially hard for my grandfather because after he had his heart attack he has never been them same,and sometimes it just brakes my heart to know that but what he needs to relize is that he has me and that if he ever need my help then I am always going to be there. I am not going anywhere any time soon so he need to just take it for what it is worth, Change is hard for anyone,but when you have been doing something for so long it's even harder. It's like I told him when I was talking to him about not driving anymore,your not lossing your independence your get closer time with me,and that is more special then driving.

  5. What a generation we sit in while still helping our kids and now also helping aging parents. We took away my dad's car a few years before he died and he came home and said he thought he hit a car but kept driving. We went back and he had hit the car. We gave him no choice after this but fortunately he was able to afford a driver who helped him and also drove him to his office. It went downhill from there. His lease was up and was my mother's as they shared the same office. We moved all their office stuff home but my Mother kept yelling at me and my sister than we were killing her. She also got a driver as well. My father chose to stop eating and died at age 77. My Mom now is totally disabled with severe memory issues. Thank goodness my mom has enough money to have a quality life with caregivers in her home and the ability to still go out to get her nails and hair done. She was a fashionista in her day and still enjoys the pampering even though she doesn't remember she went or where. Very sad for me to watch. I visit her weekly as she doesn't remember my being there but still knows who I am. She has no affect and always asks me what's new. My Mom and I were never really close so it is still hard for me when I visit. But I kiss her and we talk or I should say I talk. Very sad all around. I have promised my self and I have my choices written down and I have friends who will deliver that final dose when I think it is my time. No rest home, no caregivers, just a peaceful ending.
    Deb your Dad and Mom seem so together and although the loss of independence is awful they sound like they can and will adjust. My parents fought us along the way. Difficult times for us as the sandwich generation.

  6. They say it is better to give than to receive, and that may be true, thus: if we are unwilling to receive, we aren't allowing others the benefits of giving.

    It can be a huge challenge to allow ourselves to be cared for by others, to let them do things for us, and to be okay with it.

    Hard as it is, it's good for YOU to help your parents. It is an honour that they rely on you, don't you feel? I did, when my mother was sick and needed me. I explained that what I was doing was for me as much as for her. What state would I have been in had I been unable to be there for her?

    I couldn't help but feel that her reliance (in some ways) on me was also a gift to me.

    Your dad looks like a darling.

  7. Annette thanks for reminding me of that lovely memory. Yes indeed the gift of help is a double edged sword. They are so very grateful for our help and sick about the fact that we have to. Betty Davis said "getting old ain't for sissys" She was right. Lyndsie, I know what you are going through. This has been on our plates for a year but too painful to deal with. At the end of the day he reluctantly gave it up. But of course each of us is different. May God keep her safe when she is driving. Melissa what a heartbreak for you. What a profound loss. He was too young and he was your helper. Of course he was. I know you have beautiful memories but I also know that sometimes, they hurt. I wish peace for you. Lyndsie I loved "you're not losing your independence, you're gaining special time with me". I have said to Barb that the best thing about this, is the lovely time spent. Oh Madge what a story. And what sadness right now with you're Mom. You are right, we should write it down so people know where we stand and what we want. And yes, we all deserve that peaceful ending don't we? when our friend Pete died last month, he simply took a last breath. I said to Colin, it's the death we all deserve. My Mom and Dad WILL indeed rise to the challenge. They are very special people. We are just in the adjustment period right now, you know what I mean? Figuring it all out. Kate, I hear every word you are saying and I keep reminding myself that if I am ever lucky enough to see my old age, that I will remember this and be graceful and grateful. I said to my Dad and Mom before Christmas, as they kept speaking of their guilt. I said "you did for me all of your life and I was never guilty, I was grateful. So please, just replace on G word for another. It worked. For about a week. God love them. Thanks for saying my Dad looks like a darling. Funniest guy and so sweet. Do you see in the Pix that he is holding his cap over his heart to pay his respects to his car?

  8. I hope hope hope I get to have my dad till he's 84!
    He will look JUST LIKE YOURS!
    Hee! (and I'm not really kidding)

  9. Deb-

    Your Dad has such a kind face!

  10. Thanks Rigel. A kind heart to go with it. In his youth, man was he a looker!

  11. Kate I meant to ask you, how old is your Dad?

  12. 72.
    And seriously, I can imagine him looking quite a bit like your dad in 10 or 12 years. Fingers crossed.

  13. My winter goal is to scan all our pictures into the computer, even my parents old ones so we can have access to them any time. It is amazing Kate to go back and see how we all look alike and how we have changed over the years. When I get it done, I'll post old shots of my Mom and Dad and get readers to do same. The parents in the heyday. Wouldn't that be fun. It's my plan anyway. xo

  14. Thank you Deb. Your Dad looks very sweet. That smile! I hope you have many more wonderful years together.
    I am in the midst of scanning my husband's family pictures into the computer. Big job but it will all be worth it I'm sure.

  15. From your lips to God's ears Melissa. Thanks. And yes I must get to the scanner!


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