About 20 years ago I packed up my brand new white Plymouth Laser with all of my belongings, and drove from Miami to Gainesville to begin my sophomore year at the University of Florida.
As I excitedly climbed into my little sports car, my father diligently lectured me on the dangers of speeding and the potential pitfalls of fiddling with the radio while driving on the interstate highway. He was set to follow me up to Gainesville and warned that he would not tolerate any speeding. Whatsoever. So, I stacked my U2 cds in the car and began my road trip. At the time, it didn’t matter he was following me. Any type of freedom had been so difficult to attain with my deeply entrenched traditional parents that, this brief respite was loosely akin to a Kerouac On the Road adventure. Even then, a small part of me understood my father’s permission to drive (however reluctant) had been a hard pressed victory, and in his eyes, a significant step toward adulthood
Fast forward to present day when I recently drove my aging parents to Orlando. My father, who after a series of serious health issues, has difficulty driving far distances and feels somewhat vulnerable on the road. So, this time around my husband and I drove them up — the symbolism not far from my mind.
Unfortunately, unforseen circumstances obligated us to stay in Orlando and my parents were forced to return to Miami alone. He convinced me he was well enough to drive, and after a few false starts, he commandeered his car onto I-95. I watched them leave but felt quite a bit of trepidation as they embarked on their 4 hour drive.
It was hard to see them go. My father, seemingly frail but cautious behind the wheel, stubbornly drove away. He was determined to go at it alone, unassisted, and was eager to prove that he’s ok on his own.
I suppose all things come full circle. I’m not the first to point it out but, that day, I learned that in small measures, I have to let them go, even when I think I know better.
The apple, I guess, doesn’t fall far from the tree.
May 13, 2010