Monday, September 17, 2018

Sky: Voluntary Driving Ban

Has it finally arrived: the end of my 53-year driving career? And, is Career the right word? Yes, I think so.

I’m having no trouble at all remembering the excitement of my fifteenth year…the year I came eligible to take the test for my learner’s permit. For some reason, teenagers in Massachusetts had to wait, not until 17, not until 16, but fifteen-and-a-half was good enough.

The waiting was interminable in any case. And, besides, it felt like there was some kind of magic going on. One day I was too young to drive, and the next day all was OK. I just had to take a multiple choice written test and a vision test and then I could climb behind the wheel of the family’s Chevy Impala, a tank of a vehicle if their ever was one. Is this really fair to the other drivers on the road? I mean the ones who know what they were doing out there there? I had collected a lot of semi-useless book knowledge about cars and motors. I was all over my two magazine subscriptions (Popular Mechanics and Mad). Back then, I was able to identify every American car by its radiator and could tell you more than you needed or wanted to know about the evolution of tail fin design and placement. And hood ornaments…..fascination.

Fair or not fair, the process of getting behind the wheel rocked and split open my world. I remember realizing that that my driveway was intimately connected to virtually every other road in all of North and South America. I just needed to make the correct turns and keep buying gas. Suddenly, my traveling options seemed boundless. Realistically, though, I wasn’t going to buy all that gas. I didn’t even have a car. But that didn’t stop my horizons from expanding.

Then, I stumbled upon a most elegant solution to the gas and car limitations: HITCH-HIKING! Unfortunately, I can’t remember my first ride, but it was the first of many hundreds of encounters that served to consistently define how I understood and appreciated this amazing world. I was the American boy, taking off in a car to find himself. It took over a decade to afford my own vehicle, but I got there, eventually parlaying my love of the roads and unpredictable adventures into paying work that involved a weekly round-trip truck route from northern Vermont to Boston and points in-between.

Best of all, those roads led me to Jane, my amazing life-partner and, now, care partner.

Making the transition to not driving should have been easier, though. I haven’t noticed hood ornaments in decades. A car is no longer the key to enable access to a more wonderful world. A car is….a car.

But, have I mentioned the hallucinations? How about the double vision? It doesn’t happen all the time, but enough to get my attention.

The last time I drove, I slowed down for a pedestrian making her way across the city street. I tried to make eye contact as we met, but in the literal blink of an eye, she smiled …. and……….vanished. When I got home, I told Jane that was my last time behind the wheel.

As time goes on, the hallucinations and double vision come more often. Here's an example: Sitting safely in the passenger seat, I notice two tractor trailers right in front of me. They are shouldering side-to-side into each other and I can’t understand how they can keep this up without one of them (at least) going in the ditch. Sure enough, the one on the right suddenly lurches rightward and plows through the woods without slowing a bit. The truck on the left is bashing and crashing into whatever is there to crash into on the Interstate. I tense, try to ready myself for a fireball of disaster….that never materializes.

These experiences and others like them make it clear that my driving days are done.

Besides, Jane became the principal driver once Dr. Alzheimer came on the scene. Really, this change is another example of a practical, sensible adjustment to a permanent new reality.

Still, it hurts sometimes.


  1. Oh Sky, this is big! You have my applause for voluntarily telling Jane that your driving days are over; so many people (men in particular) are absolutely unwilling to relinquish that privilege. It's a huge change.

    You have my sympathies for the hallucinations/double vision. It must be something like terrifying! Does telling us the story make it any less scary? I'm out here witnessing, FWIW.

    Sending love, Judy

  2. Sky, I am so pleased to have discovered your blog. Actually I saw a post on Facebook some months back and have been wanting to explore your reflections. Then last month, one early morning watching fruit and vegetable vendors unload their trucks in the street, I was clobbered with the rememberance of travelling with you and ???? on the veg truck run to Boston, ca 1978? The trip was an incredible adventure for me and the pungent smells of fresh and some overripe produce overwhelmed me walking down the early morning streetlight. In recalling this, I also began thinking about shared memory and how powerfully important this is, for us as individuals, as well as society and cultures. And it gives great joy to share with you as you are writing about the reality of losing memories. So this is one for the memory bank, along with a thanks to your daughter Dana for her post on your musical brain. I think often of dancing around the FRF living room with the kid tribe following SKY the pied piper, in sheer delight...thank you. Jared

    1. Once again, I'm breaking my own rule...not with driving... but with responding to comments. I'm trying to avoid getting overwhelmed. All too easy to do these days. But Jared's comments inspire me to write more...Yes, the weekly journey to Boston's wholesale produce market was nothing if not memorable.Even as The sights, sounds and smells were vital parts of the experience, Did I mention the time? Gate opens at 4:15 AM, and it was full-tilt BOOGIE for the next 5 hours. Time out for my ritual Hot roast beef sub at 6, with Everything, Please.

      My weekly shot of the city... 30+hous of work in 2 days (DAZE) as we expanded our trucking efforts to include stops at Vermont farms to pick up vegetables to deliver in Boston. The weeklly trips, affectionately called the RUN, quickly became a useful travel resource for friends and friends- to- be. It was a crazy,, wonderful, yet balanced, 8 years of my life, that I hope to never forget [ HAHA!!]

      thanks Jared