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That one’s headed for Memphis.

April 12, 2013

My father’s family physician demanded that he stop driving more than a year ago. Subsequent visits to the neurologist and psychologist ended with them asking my mother, “You’ve taken the keys away, right?” On a medical chart under the “Driving” section, one doctor wrote “Never” in red and underlined it. Daddy without a doubt no longer can safely operate a vehicle.

In an instant Mother’s role switched from carefree passenger to constant chauffeur, from wife to exhausted caregiver. While Daddy remains the captain of his soul, Mother steers his day-to-day life. Daddy’s overall loss of independence is emasculating, but, to me, driving in particular underscores a father’s manhood. This past Christmas my father-in-law drove my husband, mother-in-law, and me around his neighborhood to scope out the entrants for the annual community holiday light competition. He navigated the side streets and cul-de-sacs while we suctioned ourselves to the windows, noting the sophistication of classic manger scenes; smiling at old-fashioned bubble lights; and laughing at a tacky ice skating Snoopy that actually moved. My stomach packed into a snowball when I thought about Daddy, unable to take us on Christmas light car tours; on long, scenic rides through the North Georgia mountains; or somewhere as simple as the store.

The other day Mother left Daddy at home while she ran a few errands. My uncle, however, had come over to complete some yard work Daddy can’t do anymore. When Mother returned, her brother approached her with a confused expression, apprehensive about whether to bring up what weighed on his mind.

“What?!” she prodded.

“Uh. Is he s’posed to be drivin’?”

While Mother was away, Daddy backed the truck out of the garage and down the driveway, and left.

“He wudn’t gone all that long,” my uncle said.

“And how did he get the keys?!” I hysterically interrogated Mother when she later relayed the story to me.

“I left them in the ignition. They are hidden now,” she emphasized before I could freak out.

Perhaps Daddy escaped to the local Citgo station to purchase a candy bar, or coasted across nearby Cornelison Road to view the chicken houses and open fields and corn rows. Another lost freedom is taking a country drive alone.

The driving incident reminded me of a poem I wrote for Daddy in college, when per usual I mourned his future death.

The Meteor Shower

At four a.m. Daddy shines his flashlight in my face,
pulls me out of bed and says “C’mon.”

I follow his lean silhouette down the hall,
the sound of the pine needles crackling under his feet.

He stops at the top of the hill and opens his arms
to magnificent meteors drizzling down the sky.

“That one’s headed for Memphis,” he says, as I realize that,
like stars, my daddy’s not forever.

That star must have melted over Memphis
when my single tear hit the ground.

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9 Comments leave one →
  1. April 12, 2013 11:38 am

    OK now you’re just making me well up…

    • April 12, 2013 11:40 am

      Yeah, I guess there wasn’t anything humorous about this one. By the way, my sister and husband both have asked me, “Who is this ‘Optimus Prime’?” And my mother asked, “Who is your friend who comments on your blog? Their last name is…Brown??”

      Haha. All three of them are surprised that we are online Yelp friends. Let’s do that lunch sometime!

  2. Brooke McArthur permalink
    April 12, 2013 7:06 pm

    I’m sorry Bobbin. When my pawpaw was 84 he was taking care of my mamaw. My uncle had to put in a special lock on top of the door so that opened when you pulled a small string (mamaw was a bit shorty) to keep her from wondering off and becoming lost in the mountains. She became quite perplexed when the doorknob stopped working. They had to install one one the outside too since she kept locking everyone out. I have always admired your writing and you only gotten better at word craft.

    • April 13, 2013 12:11 pm

      Wow, did your grandmother suffer from dementia? It sounds like your family did everything possible to keep her safe. And thank you for the writing compliment! I hope my writing has improved since high school. ; )

  3. Timber permalink
    April 12, 2013 8:18 pm

    I just want to know where he went! Sadly, even the best interrogation techniques can’t retrieve a lost memory.

    • April 13, 2013 12:11 pm

      It wouldn’t surprise me if he just went to the Citgo to get a Snickers bar.

  4. April 13, 2013 5:03 pm

    My dad still drives but I think the keys will soon be taken away. He loves Dairy Queen and watching airplanes take off and land at the airport in Charlotte. But I know how you feel about mom being chauffeur. My mom does double duty as well. Love each day…..

    • April 17, 2013 9:24 am

      Katy, I think our mothers are the unsung heroes. I am hoping all the best for you and your family. (My dad loves frozen treats as well. The other night when my mother opened the freezer to get some ice cream, he already had eaten the entire carton.)

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