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Thursday, January 24, 2013

Sunday Driver

Vovó Flora loved going for a drive. Most Sundays the family would load into the car and go on a day trip, to San Francisco or Santa Cruz or the Central Valley. She loved getting out and seeing new things. Later in life my mother would take her on a weekly Sunday drive. They wouldn't stop anywhere. Being out for a ride was the thing. By then Flora no longer had a car, though if it were up to her she'd still be behind the wheel.

As she aged, Flora was no longer safe on the road. In her early 80s the family was relieved when she was required to take a test to renew her driver's license. No way would an elderly nearsighted woman be allowed to remain a driver. Against all odds she passed, and continued to take her Presidential Blue 1972 Ford Maverick for trips to the hairdresser and the grocery store.  Until the day of the accident.

There is a bit of common wisdom that says most accidents happen within a mile of your home. In Flora's case it happened at her home. While backing up on her driveway she mistook the brake for the gas and shot into the street where she was clipped by a Sears van. A minor accident as far as things go, but in a panic she drove forward through the concrete wall that surrounded her property. Then she backed up, hitting the wall again. We aren't sure how many times she did this but the front and back of the car were destroyed. When my mother first saw the crushed vehicle she couldn't speak, stunned that anyone could have left that wreck unharmed. Flora was cited with reckless driving - in her own driveway - and her driving days were over. I remember her showing me the destroyed car. She opened the trunk and exclaimed in shock, "Someone stole the engine!" Which leads to a less common bit of common wisdom: If you can't tell the front of a car from the back, you should not be driving.

A few Christmases before she died, I gave Vovó Flora a framed picture of herself behind the wheel of a white car. She stared at it wordlessly, then touched the car with a shaky finger and, making a slight "vroom" sound, traced a path that would back her up out of the driveway and onto the road. It was a quick gesture, just a brief moment's dream of freedom. In those few seconds she wasn't an old woman trapped inside her house, dependent on her family for everything. She was taking the car out for a spin on a sunny day, maybe down to the store, maybe out for a Sunday drive. Anything possible.


Anonymous said...

Nicely written, Angela!

Joy McKeon said...

Beautiful!! One of these days we will be handing over our licences too. Let's hide a spare key now for a joyride later!!

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