Driving Herself: My Mother

Faithful readers might recall that back in September, I wrote a column “Praying the Neighborhood,” in which I talked about how, for a change, it was refreshing for me to really be in a prayerful mood as I drove to work praying for my neighbors and their needs as I knew them.

The freedom we gain at ages 15 to 17, when we first get a driver’s license, becomes one more loss in the journey of life.

My strongest response came from my dear mother. She has given me permission to share her own stream-of-consciousness thoughts while she is out doing errands or driving to church or my sister’s house. Keep in mind she has a few years on her, so I’m glad for her concentrated focus as she drives the very few roads she permits herself to drive on. I thought you might enjoy a drive with my mother

I often have reactions to your column. I sure don’t do any praying when out in the car! I want no music or someone to talk to. Here are my driving thoughts

Who was first at this four-way stop?

Gas price! Wow!

Hope there are no trains!

Hurry up, light!

Wow. Sure hope that guy stops!

Why is this road so rough?

I hate passing buggies and bikers (living in Amish country).

Lovely corn and beans in the country.

Watch for cops.

Look behind my car when backing.

Can I make it before it turns red?

Oh, this train traffic. Awful after the train goes through the stop!

Shall I take busy Highway 33 or drive through quiet country roads?

I hate changing lanes, so I will stay behind this slow guy.

I must take corners slower.

I like the way she is totally focused on the business at hand.

I prefer her mind game to that of the aggressive driver, whose thoughts sound something like this

Get off my tail!

I’ll give you a taste of my real high beams!

Take your half out of the middle, will you?

Why can’t you get over?

If you can’t drive over 45, you shouldn’t be on the road!

And worse.

The topic of elderly drivers (and mom is definitely elderly) becomes a different issue with each individual: the state of one’s mental alertness, physical strength, propensity to take risks or not, the kinds of medications a person is taking.

My father’s driving toward the end of his life was a different story. He got to the place where he did take risks—which scared my mother and us. We children dreaded the thought of taking his license away, it was the topic of a number of family conferences, sometimes among the siblings and sometimes with Mom and Dad. It was heartbreaking. The farmer/father who never had a serious accident could not be trusted. We even used that as encouragement to quit driving: “You have had a great record and we very much want you to be able to keep that safe record.” Eventually his urge to drive faded as his dementia increased, and mom took over driving. Occasionally she would let him drive around their retirement home complex if he was begging to drive.

While some of this column is on the light side, road safety is no laughing matter to any reasonable person. The freedom we gain at ages 15 to 17, when we first get a driver’s license, becomes one more loss in the journey of life. It is not easy for any of us, and I admire those elderly drivers who begin to set their own boundaries: not driving at night, staying only on familiar roads, driving at less busy times of day.

May we all know and be able to accept when it is time to give up driving. May you have a safe and great new year!

Comments? Send by email to or write to Another Way, 1251 Virginia Ave., Harrisonburg, VA 22802.

Posted 12/25/2014 7:00:00 AM

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