The two of us hit the road on a cold misty morning. My VW beetle and I have been many places together but this time is different. Its orange paint is peeling and the body has more than a few dents. Its upholstery has seen better days. The headlights are stuck on dim, but that is not a problem. We won’t be out after dark.
I throw my bag with a few essentials on the passenger seat and settle behind the wheel. It takes more than a few turns of the key to get going, but I relax at the familiar hum, like a lawnmower in summer.
The road we take is much like my life has been. Straight for the first few miles, then lots of twists and turns and a long uphill grade which slows us to a crawl. I wave my arm out the window to signal the car behind to pass. It seems people are so impatient these days. Why don’t they slow down and enjoy life?
Why is that horn blasting at me? Oh dear, that poor driver, having to swerve.
On the descent, I crank down all the windows and let the wind blow as it will. I feel as free as the wind that caresses my face and musses my hair.
The radio stopped working long ago so I sing my own songs, humming when I get to parts where the words don’t come to mind.
Was that a stop sign at the intersection? Oh dear! Too late now. Lakeside Park should be around the next corner, but I don’t recognize the cross street. Did I miss a turn? I pull into an unfamiliar parking lot, turn off the engine and sit in silence. My son said to call if my old car ever gives me trouble. I notice the arrow on the fuel indicator points to empty. That looks like trouble to me.
From the glove compartment I retrieve the small phone and push the button my son painted bright orange “in case you need help.” He scolds me for going off alone, for driving at all, even if Lakeside Park is only five miles from home. He will ride his bike here, he says, then drive me back.
I am heartbroken. Today was our last trip together, me and my orange bug. Tomorrow is my birthday. Tomorrow my driver’s license expires. My son is moving me into a big place with lots of residents. He insists I will be safe and happy with nutritious meals and lots of activities and friends and a bus to take me places. They tell me that at 89 years old I deserve it.
Life will not be the same without my friend. It is not quick to start or fast along the open road. Neither is it beautiful and shiny like it once was, but it got me places. And another thing, it would never tell me I was too old to drive.
Goodbye, dear friend. I will never forget the fun you and I have had and how we have grown old together.
More than three million drivers in the U.S. are over age 85. Most have probably been good drivers for years, so when we hint to a parent that the time has come to hand over the keys, especially for her own safety, she naturally resists. How hard it must be to feel the loss of independence. I hope by the time I am up in age, self-driving cars will be the norm. They will be keyless and “handing over the keys” will be a thing of the past.