Back in the Saddle

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                                             You never know you’re in a rut,
                                             Until life kicks you in the butt,
                                             And sharpens up a prickly pin,
                                             To wake the beast of  fear within.

What happened? On April 1st of this year, my husband suffered a mild stroke during his sleep. And like a cruel April fool’s joke, it damaged the peripheral vision in one eye. Thankfully he was otherwise okay, but the damage to his eye was significant enough for him to lose his driver’s license…a fate which drove him into a gut-wrenching state of steering-wheel-withdrawal. Who can blame him? He was devastated.

Then what? As a consequence, I was suddenly thrown unceremoniously into the driver’s seat. But like many couples in their post retirement years, we had decided to downsize to one car some time ago. And like many women my age, I allowed my husband to do much of the driving – especially on long distance trips and highways. What was I thinking! 

Shock and awe: Regardless of the tough old broad that I consider myself to be, I felt vulnerable and more than a little nervous to get behind the wheel – terrified to take over the driving responsibilities for both of us. How could this happen? To him! And to me!

Reality bites: Although I always had a car during my working life, my driving over the past several years had been mostly limited to local areas. And I morphed easily into the comforts of  navigator/passenger, with my husband happily behind the wheel. So my sudden catapult back into the saddle was like being thrown mercilessly to the proverbial wolves; hungry road-wolves. I could feel the beasts sharpening their claws on the insides of my stomach every time I pulled onto the highway.

So much togetherness: Driving my husband to doctor appointments, the barber shop, hardware store etc., was not only a huge jolt to his ego and our relationship, but a tremendous blow to his sense of independence…and mine. He was also well-trained in the art of grocery shopping and always looked forward to his frequent jaunts to the various markets. So this was another adjustment for him – and for me – the spoiled little woman in his life who didn’t know the price of pickles.

Settling in: We are very thankful that his stroke was a minor one. But the impact of our changing roles and responsibilities has not been easy to accept. Alas, my husband is still having a hard time making peace with my passenger seat. So we continue to hope that his vision will be restored enough to get his license reinstated someday.

What now? In the meantime, we dig in and make it work. It’s been over 7 months since all this happened and I’m happy to blog – that I’m finally sitting comfortably behind the wheel and enjoying my once-abandoned driver’s seat. But it’s taken me all this time.   

Never again! My husband had no control over what happened to him. But I did have control over what happened to me. By not sharing the driving for all those years, I nearly lost my independence, my confidence and my ability to step up when the road got bumpy. I put our flexibility and quality of life in jeopardy by taking the easy route and I’ve learned my lesson

Getting in gear: So many women-of-a-certain-age I’ve talked to are in the same situation. That is, allowing their husbands to do most of the driving. If I can say anything important in this post, it’s this: Get back in the saddle – and stay there!

Missing in action: Now somewhere along this perilous route, my ability to park a car has crashed and burned. I can’t seem to park the blasted thing without sending my husband into fits of hysteria or hysterics, depending on my skill level of the day. This specialized set of action-genes seem to be AWOL from my refurbished arsenal of driving techniques.  

Parking confessions:

1…I can’t parallel park: To park on the street, I need to drive forward into a big honking space long enough to fit an eighteen wheeler. 

2…I can’t keep it straight: When I park in a lot, my car is the wonky one straddling the lines on a 45 degree angle. But I’ve always been an ‘outside-the-lines’ kinda gal anyway.

3…I can’t blame him: My husband puts a sign on the dashboard that reads My Wife Parked This Car!  He’s not being mean – he’s just setting the record straight.     

4…I can’t judge distance: But what woman knows the difference between a few inches? Men have been lying to us for years! Surely I can’t be faulted for this one.

Final word: Through it all, I’ve learned that change itself isn’t the challenge as we ride this bullet-train into senility. It’s the ongoing awareness of where we are on the ride – and knowing that our orderly lives could go off the rails at any time. How we prepare ourselves and adapt on a daily basis, is the key to keeping our seats and our sanity – especially when life throws an unexpected twist of fate onto the tracks. 

                                             So even though I still can’t park,
                                             And don’t like driving after dark,
                                             I’ve dug myself out of that rut,
                                             And calmed the beasts inside my gut.

Pat Skene

 

             

      

16 responses »

  1. I love this one Patti…….so glad you are more at ease with the driving. “Life” is becoming who we really are”!

    I, too, know about dealing with unpleasant “experiences” that life throws at us and you are right……..change is not the challenge……… it is our thoughts about these changes…….and…….we can change our thougts!

    Hang in there hubsey…….it will all be fine.

    Looking forward to your next blog.

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  2. Great post. A good lesson to all of us. You honesty sprinkled with humour is delightful to read.

    I swore of the 400 Series highways a long time ago. I figure there were side roads before we had to race the super highways. It might take me longer, but I feel safer. Of course, I’ve read that that’s a lie, supposedly you’re safer on 400 highways. It’s all in the mind.

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  3. Love the new post Patti, soooo much in there to relate too. I’ll bet that if a poll were taken most women do let their ‘significant others’ do most of the driving when together. But at least the younger working women have more opportunities to drive alone between working and driving their offspring everywhere! But once those munchkins have moved out and there is no longer a job to go to, we tend to go everywhere together and it is too easy to slide into that passenger seat! I’m going to claim the driver’s seat more often as well! And if it makes you feel any better your parking confessions could all be mine! Keep up the terrific job on the blog!!

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  4. Patti
    Loss of driving restricts independence and freedom. It changes the places one might go to and associated activities. It is a devastating loss.
    Patti you sure jumped into that saddle and it looks like you are doing a fine job. When teaching our children to parallel park, we would find a parked car in an off road location and practice 10x’s in a row, then go back a few days later and practice some more.
    Great advice!!!

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  5. I am a backroads driver myself. The cars on the super highways terrify me merging from all directions. I didn’t grow up in Toronto and didn’t move here until I was 40. I did drive on the QEW for about a year and a half to work, but transferred to a spot 10 minutes from home. Then I was back in my comfort zone . Perhaps I should rethink this, although my husband might be very nervous to be in the passenger seat!!

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  6. You do give sound advice to women of all ages. My grandmother did not know how to reset the time on her alarm clock, a younger sister did not know how to put air in a tire, or do other things their husbands used to do. I kind of feel for your husband as I had to give up my driver’s license when I tried to renew it and it was hard to give up even though three years had passed since I was able to drive. It’s good he has a sense of humor about it, got to love his “my wife parked this car” sign.

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  7. Great job mom. Don’t forget to mention thought, that the rest of ‘we family members’ are riding white knuckled as you begin skipping down memory lane remembering how to drive! If he can park better than you, and he can’t see….well, I rest my case. Happy trails maman and remember, red means STOP!

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