Saturday, April 13, 2013

“The Joy of Driving”

Most of us take it for granted, but driving is liberation.  It’s mobility.  It’s freedom.  And for me, it was probably the most important thing in regaining my confidence and self reliance after my accident.  My dear friend and author of “Still Standing,” Jon Praet, is legally blind.  That seems an odd condition for a writer, but he can zoom the computer to 250% and manage quite well.  What he can’t do is drive.  And while he handles his vision problems with humor and dignity, at least most of the time, his one persistent complaint is that he can no longer drive.  I understand his longing better than most.

I’ve written about this before, but the day I got my truck after it had been modified so I could control speed and breaking with levers on the steering column, I left Tamika and my mom in the driveway and took off.  I just said, “See you later,” and went off for the day.  I went to Jackson and back, drove throughout my county, and didn’t even let bad drivers annoy me.  I had a smile on my face all day, and it was glorious.  I probably took it a bit too far because I didn’t even answer my cell phone.  I returned that evening to two very angry women who couldn’t wait to let me have it.

“Dwight, you didn’t even answer your cell phone,” Tamika said angrily.  “You could have been in a ditch or had an accident.  That was thoughtless and rude.”

“Yeah, Dwight,” my mom said because she was anxious to join the fray.  “You had us worried sick.  What were you thinking?  I’ll tell you what you were thinking.  You weren’t thinking at all.”

This went on for fifteen minutes, and if one lost steam, the other picked up the slack.  They were a tag team dedicated to the proposition that I should feel miserable for my sin. I finally gave my answer after we all took a collective breath.

“I know it was thoughtless of me, and I apologize,” I said.  “But understand this.  For the past year plus I have been flat on my back or rolling around in a wheelchair.    Even though I’ve tried to do everything I can for myself, up to now, other people had to drive me everywhere.  For the first time in over a year, I felt freedom.  I could go where I wanted, drive alone with my thoughts, and feel a sense of independence that you two take for granted every day.  I am sorry, and I know I was inconsiderate, but I loved every minute of it.    I can finally do all those things you do and don’t even think about, and it feels great.”

It was more of an explanation than an apology, and mom and Tamika still had to nurse their anger a while longer, but they understood.  Mom went home after complaining about me throughout dinner, and she couldn’t quite leave without getting the last word.

“Dwight, I forgive you, but I raised you to be more thoughtful than you were,” she said.  “Do it again, and I’ll throw your keys in the pond.”

Tamika, who is also fond of getting the last word, said: “You won’t have to, Lesa.  I’ll drive his truck in the pond first.”

And with that, we made up, and I think we all learned some lessons.  They understood just how important it was for me to drive again, and I agreed that I would never take off for the day and ignore their phone calls.  I think we all grew a little bit that day.

As of now, no one can take me off the road as I continue to strive to bring joy and inspiration to the lives of others.

Dwight Owens

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