Call me spoiled, but I owned my own car before I had a driver’s license. And what a sweet ride it was! A 1974 ogre-green Dodge Dart.
I was never one of those teenagers itching to get behind the wheel. My sixteenth birthday went by without much thought toward my license. Then my seventeenth came and went.
I guess Dad decided enough was enough. I attended a Christian boarding school 800 kilometers from home, and each time I had a break from school, Dad would make the round trip to fetch me home, then a second round trip to take me back a week or two later. When presented with a deal on the Dart, my parents saw it as an opportunity to save time and money in the long run. They bought the car.
|This one looks pretty close to the one I had, I think.|
Now to convince Terrie she needed to learn to drive before it was time to return for Grade 12.
I passed the written test with no problem and received my learner’s permit. Mom let me drive the 25 kilometers home, but I think she had only one nerve left when we got there.
Home alone a few days later, I decided to practice parallel parking in our spacious backyard. Dad had some brand new eaves troughs waiting to be installed and I decided they would work well to represent the cars I needed to park between. How I drew that conclusion when I couldn’t even see them from the driver’s seat is beyond me. Maybe I figured I’d feel them, like speed bumps. I laid the troughs along the ground and started maneuvering the car into place.
Did you know a 1974 Dodge Dart will flatten a brand new eaves trough like long johns through the wringer?
At least I learned one thing that day.
Dad calmly hammered his eaves trough back into shape, but it never looked the same.
The next time I climbed behind the Dart’s steering wheel, Dad rode shotgun and we were going all the way from Amaranth to Winnipeg to pick up Mom. I putzed along at about 65 kilometers an hour for the first while, Dad patiently telling me to take all the time I needed and accelerate when I felt comfortable doing so. Eventually I reached the speed limit and cars stopped whizzing around us.
Naturally, I assumed we’d pull over and switch seats long before we got into city traffic. But to my surprise, Dad navigated me all the way to my aunt’s house in Winnipeg where Mom waited, no doubt wondering what was taking us so long. That trip gave me the confidence I needed to take my driving test and pass. I figured I was good to go.
But Dad had one more lesson for me. Before he’d allow me to hit the highway on my own, he needed to know I could change a tire. First, he explained the process. Then he parked himself in his favorite lawn chair to watch the show, a cold drink in one hand and a fly swatter in the other. I had to change the tire from start to finish, all by myself.
I haven’t changed a tire since.
Ten years later, my father passed away. Dad’s concern for my safety and his patient teaching are memories I cherish. Given the option, I still avoid driving in general and parallel parking in particular. But I’ve maintained my maximum number of driver’s merit points for nearly 40 years, so Dad must have done something right.
I miss that guy.
Happy Father’s Day.