Sunday, July 18, 2010

Daddy Let Us Drive

I have memories of driving while sitting on my dad's lap. I couldn't tell you the model or year of the car. But I remember standing (yes, STANDING!) on the seat next to him and then slipping into his lap and grabbing onto the steering wheel and driving through the streets of York. His feet might have been controlling the brakes and gas but I had the WHEEL, buddy...I was in control.

When I was 13 or 14 he brought home a little Yamaha motorcycle that my brothers and I shared. Well, the allegation was that we shared. The fact was that when I rode that little Yamaha 90(yea, I hear you snickering!), it was MINE and I was as bad to the bone as any Brando wannabe. We rode on an abandoned World War II airstrip on the Naval Station in Guam. There were broad expanses of black top with no other traffic, the only hazard was the weeds and grass growing up through the cracks. Tearing around that airstrip, full speed with the warm sun in my face and the wind in my hair, I could almost forget that dad and my brothers were waiting for me to finish "my turn". I was rebelling against whatever they had to offer.

One of the blessings of my childhood was that not only did my dad have the ability to determine which "risky" endeavors he could allow us to engage in safely, he had an air about him that dared anyone to try to stop him. So it was natural when grandchildren came along that he would build a fire in the back yard so they could experience roasting hot dogs over an open fire in the middle of Huntsville. It was also natural that each of them in turn would be able to drive one of his vehicles.

Anna drove the pick up from the high school to mom's house when she was barely tall enough to reach the pedals. It was their "secret". Ask her how that made her feel.
Best of all of course was the motorcycle he bought for the boys...and girls. Because he slipped off with my girls a time or two and gave them a turn. Jess did turns around the ball field, grinning like a Cheshire cat. He called me down to the field so I could watch her. As she made her laps, I smiled to myself remembering how it felt to ride.

If anyone asked how I could let him stand my two year old in front of a fire with a hot dog on a stick, alone. Or my nine year old ride a mini motorcycle around a ball field my first response would be, "Look at that man. Why don't YOU try to stop him?" My second response would be, "Look at the man..don't you see he'd throw himself onto the fire before he would let her get hurt?" He knew how important that feeling of accomplishment is to a child and provided ways to give it to all of us.

So now, when I let my child drive the family car down the back roads home, even though she's a few years too young for a permit, I see the smile curling her lips and know what she is feeling. And I thank Daddy for letting me drive.

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