The Turning Circle of Life

We really do take driving our cars for granted.  We have fleeting moments of appreciation, like when our car is out of action for one reason or another,  but it is never greater than when you are either at the beginning of your driving life or at the end.

My son is fifteen and like many teenagers, counting down the days until he can get his Learner’s Permit while his grandfather, my dad, is counting down the days until he can no longer drive because of his illness.

My dad was diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease about seven years ago.  He lives alone and is a fiercely independent man who loves and is loved dearly by his family.  Dad lives in the next suburb so we visit each other almost daily.  However, lately it has been us visiting him as he becomes less mobile.

My dad was enjoying life traveling the world, climbing mountains and trekking.  He was in great health, especially for a 60 year old man, when he started experiencing stiffness in his muscles and dizzy spells.  For a year, he dealt with the symptoms taking  anti-inflammatories and going to physiotherapy.  Eventually, after many doctors and tests, he was told he had Parkinson’s Disease.  My sister and I didn’t know how to take the news. He seemed fine and his hands only shook as much as someone who had drunk too much coffee.  It was hard to imagine our fit, strong dad deteriorating to the advanced state of Mohammed Ali or Michael J Fox.

Seven years later and my dad has managed his Parkinson’s better than a lot of other sufferers with his healthy lifestyle and extreme determination and stubbornness.   Recently though, the expression of pain has completely taken over the brave face and his shaking has become much worse.  He jokes about it all the time, especially in front of my children but it’s getting harder for him to smile.  He doesn’t like to talk about it, but lately he has been talking about the fact that he won’t be able to drive anymore.

About a year ago he stopped driving long distances and has only been driving locally to my house or the shops.  Now he’s realising it’s becoming dangerous as well as painful and he probably won’t be cleared to drive by his neurologist on his next visit.

I really don’t know anyone who enjoys their independence and freedom as much as my dad does.  As kids we never got the chance to watch TV on weekends because he was always packing us into the car for drives.  “Where are we going now?” we’d ask.  He always responded with “I have no idea, we’ll find out when we get there.”

Even now with my kids at home on school holidays he’ll phone them and say “Put your shoes on, I’ll be picking you up in a few minutes”.  The kids bolt for their shoes and wait on the front step to go on one of Poppy’s adventures.

As my son starts talking about learning to drive, I can’t help but think of the days when my dad taught me to drive.  We laugh now, but we had some mighty yelling matches in empty supermarket car parks but he taught me skills that have stayed with me every day since.

I find myself in the middle, watching my children on the brink of adulthood, gaining independence, needing me less and finding their place in the world. My parents on the other hand are losing their independence, relying  on me more often but they quietly know their place in the world.

So, next time you see an elderly person driving slowly in front of you, or even a Learner, don’t be so quick to go for the horn. Think about where they are in the turning circle of life and acknowledge the fact that you were once at the beginning and will one day be at the end.

Useful Links:

The RTA have a 4 page PDF brochure – Worried about the driving ability of an older driver

The RTA also has a website exclusively for younger drivers with all the information they need to get them on the road


1 Comment

  1. […] Rebellion Drives Bad Habits In a previous post, The Turning Circle of Life, I mentioned the arguments I had with my dad many moons ago when he was teaching me to drive.  One […]

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