Last week my car had a significant malfunction. I had to replace the transmission. Everything worked out, and while it was stressful, it wasn’t a serious life issue. Most of the week I had to beg for rides, and it made me think about how grateful I have been for multiple things. The ability to learn to drive and the availability of mostly reliable cars since I have been 18. I connect cars and driving to freedom. I think about losing the ability to drive and how I would start to feel trapped by my surroundings. I think about the times before I drove and I remember standing on the porch of my house and wanting to go somewhere….just go..but I wasn’t able to do so. I am comfortable in my mobility and my independence. Sometimes I felt guilty for this ability when I thought about you.
The first time that I was behind the wheel you were in the backseat of our brown Ford Windstar. My mother had decided that I needed to drive at least once before driver’s school and she took me to a local high school to practice. She parked the car and we switched places. The first movement of the van scared me. I took my foot off of the brake and the car was moving without me telling it to do so. I put my foot on the brake again to get my bearings. Now, I was not familiar with the power function of the car and we all thrashed about in the brown bomber as the car stopped–inches from the place it started out. I took a breath. From the backseat I hear Paul yell out, “WE ARE ALL GOING TO DIE!”
That Paul and his impeccable timing.
Besides the idea that I was a failure at driving and I was never going to get the hang of this massive machine moving down the road, Paul had brought up in a joke that I could kill the family. I know that it was a joke and I was probably not going to harm them. The possibility was there. I was an impressionable and emotional teenager. What am I saying? I’m still a bit emotional.
Then he said to Mom, “Tomorrow I am going to learn to drive.”
My heart broke. Paul was older than me and was never going to learn to drive. We knew this. He did not.
Then the guilt set in. I was going through the throes of this freedom. He was not going to do so. How is that fair? He was always going to need rides. He was always going to be dependent on other people. His world of freedom would have to be created in his immediate surroundings. I would not. I still don’t know how to reconcile that. I still feel guilty. It was somewhat assuaged with our weekend drives and our singing in the car together. Overall, I still feel bad.
We will keep talking Paul. I will forgive myself for my able-bodied-ness. You loved me anyway.