Driving and Life Lessons

Old leather key wallet on top of an antique drivers license

Dad loves his wallet. Lately he looks through it several times a day then hides it somewhere in his room. During his professional life he conducted a good amount of cash business,  is accustomed to carrying large bills, and more than most of us might. Although he doesn’t remember to purchase anything anymore it is a way for me to give him a sense of purpose and perhaps comfort. The amount is much smaller and I have already decided it’s alright if he should lose it. He counts the twenty dollar bills again and again. Until recently he never bothered to carry ones and fives, and he doesn’t count them.

Dad also loves his driver’s license. Although it has expired, he still carries it. I keep other expired cards in his wallet as well. Strangely, this morning he pulled out his draft registration card dated 1956. I’ve never seen it before and have no idea how it was placed in his wallet. Then he shared a story I’ve heard many times. He was thinking about his “poor momma” and how she tested several times before passing the driving test for her license. My grandmother would get nervous and make mistakes. Finally, Dad went with her for moral support and she passed the test. Dad said she was a careful and safe driver and it was just a few years later that she was driving me all over town. Dad was also an excellent driver, but because his reaction time and vision were affecting his confidence, he willing stopped driving a couple years ago. 

Dad began teaching me to drive at a very young age. He would find a backroad in Arizona and put me on his lap behind the wheel of his 1947 Ford truck. When I was very small and squeezed into the middle of the seat with Dad on one side and my sister and mother on the other, Dad would grab my knee to make the horn honk. He was discretely pressing his elbow on the horn with his other arm. I still find myself in childlike awe of Dad.  As I grew into preadolescence, Dad would ask me to move the truck around our property or  just roll it forward a few feet while he was dumping a load of dirt. I had to stand on the gas and clutch, work the gear shift and wasn’t tall enough to see over the dash.  One day I drove into our neighbor’s fence. Dad and I spent hours repairing the fence before our neighbor arrived home. This is the only time I can remember him handling a situation this way. Dad and I still chuckle about how Mr. G. never noticed the fence repair. These days whenever Dad’s truck or a tractor needs to be moved around his property I ask him to do it.  If we have the time, I jump in and we sneak in a few laps around the block. 

At 16 years of age, a few months after I started driving, I got a speeding ticket. I was running late for the start of a parade and was the girls’ drill team commander for my high school junior reserve officers training corp (ROTC).  As taught, I took a backroad hoping to save a little time. Oops! My age and the nature of the ticket required I appear in court. To my surprise, Dad wanted to go with me. He asked me to wear my ROTC uniform. He thought it might help me make a positive impression in court. He still values a tidy appearance and tucks everything in to everything.

Dad met me at the court in our small downtown. We parked on the street, walked in off the sidewalk and stopped.  If my memory serves me correctly, there was just a few feet between the front door and a wall-to-wall partition of fancy wood. Looking up, there sat a small old man in a black robe. We were the only ones in what appeared to be a one-room courthouse. Dad was right, the Judge noticed my uniform and asked me about it. I explained the circumstances of my ticket and apologized. Dad was also in uniform wearing a shirt with his employer’s business logo neatly tucked into trousers with a belt.  He obviously made the most positive impression but not necessarily because of his appearance. I recall the judge asking him if he had taken off work to be with his daughter in court. The judge gave me a warning with six months probation. The ticket never went on my record. I was a fast learner.

Dad and I were recently in an accident where another driver drove into the back of us on the freeway. Thankfully, we were not injured. Dad told me I did well handling the moment. After dropping off my car for repairs, we took off in the rental car and stopped for lunch. I was delighted when Dad took out his wallet and paid for our meal – in cash.


Stock photo ID:870902952 Cindy Shebley


God Bless the Road Rebel

Dad has always been a “car guy”. Nearly every story he shares begins with a car, truck or tractor and then as the tale unfolds I learn about family history. During his teen years Dad and some of his friends started the Road Rebels club. The purpose of the club was to share a common interest and learn more about automobiles through hands-on experience. The father of one of the young men owned a garage where meetings were held. Dad enjoyed it so much he continued to wear his Road Rebels leather jacket for years afterward. One Sunday morning, as the story goes, the family was running late for church. As he ran out the door Dad grabbed his favorite jacket. Dad and mom settled into the last row pew just in time for the service to start. When it was time for the offering, the Deacon was short an usher and gave Dad a tap, asking him to help. Dad willing assisted in collecting the offering, moving row by row up the aisle to the front of the church for the blessing. As the congregation prayed over the collection, Mom looks up and sees in large white letters R O A D R E B E L S across Dad’s back. I never heard anything more about the jacket after that Sunday. Since then Dad has worked on many automobiles and enjoyed restorations. Industrial and truck engines became a significant part of his successful career. What I appreciate the most is that Dad taught me how to maintain my own car.

Dad is a NASCAR fan. Over the years I would often buy him tickets to races as birthday or Father’s Day gifts. He would always take Jim; his best friend of more than 40 years. They had a great time and every year gave me a detailed accounting of their day at the raceway. Lately, I have been recording the races for Dad to enjoy in shorter segments during the week since he doesn’t sit through a full-length race anymore. Dad loves it if someone watches the race with him so I sit nearby and get computer work done during the race. Imagine my surprise when I started a race for him today and he said, “This is the same one as yesterday.” I reminded him that yesterday we watched the end of a race in Atlanta and this race is in Miami. He said, “It can’t be. Its the same drivers in the same cars with the same numbers.” I wasn’t sure what to say and replied, “Yes Daddy, that’s how it works. There are quite a few races in a season.” Dad then inquired, “You mean all they do is drive around in circles for hours?” I said, “Yes Daddy.” Dad continues, “and they spin out and hit each other and roll over?” I nodded yes. Dad shakes his head and says, “That can’t be good for those drivers.” I said, “We hope they don’t have accidents but sometimes they do.” Dad jumps up and exclaims, “Stupidity!” Although still bewildered, my brain is finally catching up to the moment and now I’m trying not to laugh. I asked, “Who is your favorite driver?”, Dad says, “All my favorite drivers are dead.” I told Dad we could turn the race off if he didn’t want to watch it. He said, “I want to watch it. ” I asked him who he was rooting for and he said, “Jimmy Johnson”. Dad is enjoying the race and even laughing at a few comments by the announcers. I haven’t told Dad Jimmy Johnson is retiring this year. All I can say is, “God bless the Road Rebel!