When Dad Can’t Drive Anymore

CIMG2659The garage looked cavernous without the lumbering, maroon car parked in its usual place. Only oil spots and track marks lingered as indicators of its long-time resident.

Pangs of sadness zinged my heart as I knew dad’s car, a 1991 Lincoln Continental, was gone forever. But I wasn’t grieving the loss of the vehicle as I much as I was mourning what its absence signified.   The sale of “Mr. Lincoln,” as we affectionately called the car, meant that my dad would never drive again.

A few weeks earlier, dad’s doctor had pulled me into the hallway and told me that it wasn’t safe for my father to drive anymore.   And so, with a heavy heart, my brother and I broke the news to our 92-year old dad that his driving days were over. It caught him by surprise, as he still assumed he was competent to drive. His eyes welled briefly with tears and he asked a few questions.  Then, with his trademark grace he said, “If that’s what the doctor and you feel is best, I accept it.” “But I hate to be dependent,” he added.   We assured him that we would provide transportation wherever he needed to go.

I now serve as dad’s primary chauffeur.  It still feels strange to usher him to the passenger side of my car and help him buckle his seatbelt. For most of my life he was the one in the driver’s seat, watching out for my well-being. He mastered driving long before age 16, having grown up on a farm. Once he married, he was responsible for his family’s transportation. Mom never did get her driver’s license, and was completely dependent on dad to get her where she needed to go. As the youngest child, I recall riding in the backseat (in the days when neither seatbelts nor child car seats were required), always feeling safe with daddy at the wheel.

In the spring of my second grade year, mom and I rode with dad in our old blue farm pickup to our new home in the Pacific Northwest. Over the years we made the trek back to our original state several times to visit relatives. I remember the long hot road trips, the windows rolled down and my long brown hair whipping into a scraggly mess.  During the seemingly endless stretch across Wyoming, I watched the road signs intently, looking with anticipation for the “Little America” exit, our traditional rest stop along the way.

During my early teen years, dad never hesitated to drive me where I wanted to go, even if it meant long evening drives from the west suburbs to east Portland to attend church youth group or softball team practices.   When it was finally my turn to learn to drive, the first lessons occurred in the sprawling parking lot of the electronics plant were dad worked. He patiently tutored me on how to maneuver the mammoth 1965 Chevy Impala we jokingly referred to as “The Blue Ark.”

Later in our lives, after Mr. Lincoln had joined the family, dad happily drove me to out-of-town doctor’s appointments or anywhere else I didn’t feel comfortable driving. When my mom’s health required that she be moved to a long-term care facility, dad, though well into his eighties, made the 20-mile round trip virtually every day for three years.  I rode with him every Sunday to see mom, and witnessed dad living out his marriage vows to the very end. After mom went to heaven, dad continued our Sunday times together by visiting me at my house. Bailey, his “granddog,” excitedly whimpered and danced whenever he saw Mr. Lincoln pull into the driveway.

Although the sale of dad’s car means that a season in our lives has come to an end, my father’s response has provided me with a powerful example of how to graciously adapt to change. The very afternoon dad received the news that he would no longer be driving, he quickly switched gears and asked, “Know anyone who needs a Lincoln?”  Rather than grow bitter or depressed,  dad figured that he might as well move on and let someone else enjoy Mr. Lincoln’s company.

We began posting flyers and placing ads, but for several weeks it seemed that no one was interested in an older, large car. I continued to pray that God would lead the right person to us if we were meant to sell the vehicle. Finally my brother got a phone call from a local fellow, Everett.

On a sunny Saturday, Everett arrived with his daughter to take Mr. Lincoln for a spin down the country road. Within a short time, they returned and made an offer. That afternoon, Dad signed the bill of sale, officially transferring the car’s ownership to another 92 year-old gentleman!  It only seemed fitting that Mr. Lincoln would continue his memory-making trips with someone dad’s age.  Though I still feel a tinge of sadness over the transition, I find comfort in knowing that Mr. Lincoln, Everett, and my dad are each traveling the road God has planned for them.

4 thoughts on “When Dad Can’t Drive Anymore

  1. Ellen

    I hope I can be like your dad, Jane. Looking forward and at the good in things.
    (We had a 1965 Chevy Impala in blue, too. Ours had a white roof. Really snazzy.)


  2. Thanks, Ellen. We are both blessed to have such wonderful dads! They continue to be such good examples for us. Was your Impala a “Super Sport?” Ours belonged to my eldest brother first, then my dad inherited it, and then finally me, the baby sister, got it when it was on its last leg!


  3. Thank you for reading my blog. I’m happy to hear you enjoyed the story! Yes, we definitely are all going through seasons. Let’s make the most of each one!


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