In the Driver’s Seat
When I got my driver’s license, my dad handed his car over to me since he was stationed overseas with the Navy. He was so proud of his Mercury Capri, always keeping it immaculately clean. My dad was a man of few words, but he really showed that he had faith in me by turning over those keys. He taught me how to pump gas by myself, check the oil, and check the air in the tires. I was ready to roll!
Sliding into the seat behind the wheel for the first time, a little silver glimmer caught my eye. There, right across the bottom of the speedometer, a tiny sticker had been placed: “Buckle up for safety!” That was my dad’s unspoken way of telling me that he loved me and wanted to keep me safe.
Learning to drive
After I had some months to practice on the road, my dad came home on leave for a few days. I couldn’t wait to show him what a good driver I had become. We were visiting relatives for the holidays, and my dad suggested I drive us back to our home.
We didn’t even make it out of the driveway before I had backed up a little crookedly and caught the corner of my uncle’s gate with the rear bumper. Trying to make it better, it only got worse when the car nearly ripped the gate off its hinges.
I burst into tears out of embarrassment and fear. But, instead of fussing, Dad got out of the car, propped the gate back up, and made me “get back on the horse” and drive us home. That beautiful Capri had a scrape across the bumper, but Dad didn’t even flinch. “Buckle up, and drive us home,” he said.
Another new driver
I have thought about that little sticker many times over the years. My dad passed away several years ago, and now his grandson has his new driver’s permit. I wonder what Dad would think about our new driver who was only driving matchbox cars the last time his Grandpa saw him.
Those of you who have been through driver training with your teen know how nerve-wracking it is to sit in that passenger seat with your hands in your lap. I can now imagine what Dad must have felt when he handed me those keys. But I know what he would say, and when my son and I head out for a drive, I tell him: “Buckle up.”
This article appeared in Family Magazine.