Driving involves multiple decisions being made at once. Sometimes the best decision is not to drive at all.
By Teresa Swartz Roberts
Blog post 45. Copyright 2021
One day I was about to leave my yoga studio after my Yoga for Parkinson’s Disease class. It always left me feeling more relaxed and stronger than before, and I was always happy with anticipation on the drive there. The lesson could also be tiring, which I think was a factor in what happened next. As I was putting away my yoga mat, there was a bone-shaking thunk, and I rushed to the front of the building to find that one of my classmates had crashed his car into the front wall of the studio. Nobody was hurt. I heard him say, “Well, that’s the last time I drive.” Good decision.
I have just about stopped driving. I have no accidents, no tickets, no dings on the fenders. It’s just that I want to be the one to make that decision for myself rather than the state, an insurance company, or an emergency room doctor. Every time I’ve driven someone else over the last few years, I’ve asked, “How’s my driving?” I started to dislike the answers. I stopped driving on the interstate first and now rarely get behind the wheel.
I am considered homebound at this point because I do not feel capable of driving safely outside my own little bubble. I drive to Kroger to pick up groceries that my husband has ordered online. I don’t even have to get out of the car. Same thing with the Walgreens drive-through. And most restaurants have gotten pretty good at curbside service during the pandemic.
So I have given up going grocery shopping, but really I’ve only given up the experience of going up and down the aisles, not finding everything that’s on my list, and standing in a long line before rolling my cart (which always has that one wheel that just won’t go where I am going) out to my car. I am not sad about giving up that experience. I am content with the new arrangements.
I am a little sad about giving up driving altogether. That’s the next step, the step I am choosing to take now. I guess I should mark the date of my last drive in my calendar since (thankfully) it didn’t end with a bang. I haven’t really enjoyed driving the way some people do. I do like the independence and opportunity driving provides, not necessarily the act of controlling the vehicle. I guess I did get a kick out of driving sometimes, like when 16-year-old me drove past Jeff Oldham’s house with a carload of giggling girls. (He didn’t know I existed; I knew where he lived.) Or when a good song came on the radio that I could sing and dance along with. Think “Bohemian Rhapsody” in the movie Wayne’s World.
I remember Mother teaching me to drive. You could do that in those days, and Drivers’ Ed was a course offered for free at Nitro High School. I already had my license by the time a spot opened up in the class. It’s a good thing, too, because nobody at my high school knew that the first time I tried to move the car, I managed to get Mother’s Buick Skylark across the driveway rather than in the driveway.
One Sunday afternoon early in the process, I had the Skylark crawling down Myers Avenue in Dunbar with parked cars on both sides of the street because there was something special going on at the Methodist church. Mother’s patience ran out, and she said, “Move! I’ll drive us out of here!” She hopped out of the car. I hopped out of the car. Nobody put the car in park. Good times.
When I was enrolled in the Drivers’ Ed class a few months later, I was already comfortable behind the wheel. That meant that the coach who rode along didn’t have to be so alert, so we usually picked up his dry cleaning or stopped by the bank. One day “Werewolves of London” came on the radio, and he rolled down the window and howled at pedestrians.
Now, more than four decades later, I am making the decision that it’s time to stop driving. I am getting out of the driver’s seat. I am making other arrangements, my version of putting the car in park.
What I want to get across here is that I am not giving up and surrendering to Parkinson’s. I am just giving up driving. My decision. Good decision.