Like most teenagers, I could hardly wait to turn sixteen so I could get my driver’s license. I have known a few that waited until they were older but not many that waited as long as my mother. She didn’t learn to drive until she was fifty two years old! Can you imagine a fifty two year old grandmother standing in the line with all those pimply faced sixteen year olds?
It was a good thing that I learned to drive early because I was the one that taught my mother. You talk about a role reversal. Not only was she more than twice my age (I was nineteen) she was my mother. You can’t holler at your mother, even if she scares you half to death!
Dad had tried to teach mom when she was in her twenties. She tried to learn in an old stick shift Willy’s with a clutch but she never quite got the hang of all those pedals. Well, actually, she did get the hang of them – she somehow got her feet hung up on the gas pedal instead of the brake. Her vehicle was not intended to be an off-road vehicle but it turned out to be one that day. After she cleaned out a ditch and plowed a field she decided she didn’t need to learn to drive. She firmly held that conviction for the next thirty years.
My Dad passed away unexpectedly, when I was fifteen.My three siblings were all grown, married, and gone. That meant I became the driver of the family. The problem came when I became engaged to be married and planned to move to Birmingham, two hours from home. I was convinced that Mom had to learn to drive but she wasn’t. So I sat her down and we had a heart to heart son to mother talk. She reluctantly agreed that she would learn if I would teach her.
We were already one step ahead of the last time she tried -we had a car with an automatic transmission. The biggest problem with Mom’s 1968 Mercury Monterey was its size. That thing should have had its own zip code! I think she could have parked that car in three different states at the same time (as long as it wasn’t parallel parking). Back in those days parallel parking was part of the road test. I decided the Big K parking lot, on a Sunday afternoon while they were closed, would be a good place to practice. No, we did not practice between real cars – are you kidding me? I set up some markers for her to park between. After a few attempts, Jean, my fiancée at the time, decided to get out of the car until we finished. I wanted to join her but couldn’t. Mom said my instructions made her nervous. Her driving made me nervous! We both lived to parallel park again. Finally, the big day came. Half way into her parking place the trooper said, “Good enough.” Mom drove us home and we had cake and ice cream!
Mama and the Mercury are gone now but my memory of those days is not. I think back on that experience with a grin on my face and joy in my heart. I am so thankful that I was able to teach at least one thing to someone who taught me so much. She taught me about God, love, family, church, work, discipline, commitment, honesty, and so much more. All I did was teach her to drive (as I learned a little patience). Happy Mother’s Day!
Dr. Bill King is the powerful writer of the novel But You Shall Receive Power and the creator of the humorous character known as Billy Bob Bohannon. Bill has performed as Billy Bob for churches and civic groups across the nation since 2002. His first book of Billy Bob humor, No, Really, My Name is Brother Billy Bob Bohannon, was published in 2009. The fun continues in his follow-up books, My Name is Still Brother Billy Bob Bohannon and Clean Up the House, Boys, Mama Has Hired a Maid (both OakTara). Billy Bob will have you laughing at his tales, but before you know it, he’ll sneak in a lesson for life. Bill draws from his theological training and years of pulpit ministry but in a way that is not preachy.
You may email the author at firstname.lastname@example.org or visit his website.