Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Driving with My Dad

I'm driving back to my dad's house in Phoenix, Arizona. We have our first argument pulling out of the parking lot. "You need to take a left and then a right," he says.

Me: "No, I take a left and then another left."

Him: "No, to get back to the freeway you make a left out here onto McDowell."

Me: "No, I originally made a right onto McDowell, so I make a left going back."

Him: "No, you made a right into the parking lot, but you made a left onto McDowell."

Me: "No, Dad, 7th Street is that way."

And so on. He finally concedes as I pull onto the freeway, "Hmm. Good thing you're driving."

If there are two left-turning lanes, and I get in the right-hand one, he repeatedly corrects me. "You want to make a left here."

"I know. Both lanes turns left."

Or, while we're sitting there: "The light is green."

"That light is green. The left-hand turn arrow, my light, is red. It would be a really bad idea for me to go right now." (It really throws him off when I don't get into the far left lane to turn left).

Before we left for the museum, he asked, "You know how to get there?" I said yes. "How?" he asked, and I knew it was a test.

I failed the test immediately when I said, "Take 10 west to Phoenix." Crap. He jumps on it. For a guy who doesn't hear 90% of what people around him say, he sure hears it when I make a mistake. "I mean, 10 EAST," I correct myself. He wanted to make sure I had the directions written down before we actually left. Exasperated, I pulled out my iPhone and showed him the written directions I'd saved. I resisted the urge to roll my eyes and moan, "Gawd!"

He nods knowingly and brings it up later, "You were going to get us going the wrong way on the freeway!" Right, Dad, and you were going to have us run a red light.

Speaking of red lights, a few weeks ago he drove his car right through one and caused a three-car pileup. Fortunately, no one was seriously hurt, but his car was totalled. He was afraid (and we hoped) he would lose his license, but it turned out that the AZ courts are very forgiving. He paid a fine and never had to go to court.

He quickly bought himself a cheap Ford focus with a broken door lock, broken trunk latch and broken passenger side seat, and sent my sisters and I an e-mail stating flatly that he was not going to lose his license, he would be very careful and not drive when he didn't need to, but he was going to continue to drive. It closed with "I hope you agree," which is Dad-speak for "And I won't be changing my mind."

While in AZ, I put his car key on the counter when I was done driving. "What's this doing here?" he demanded.

"I put it there so I'd know where it was since I'm going to be driving your car while I'm here."

Looking me straight in the eye, he pocketed the key and said, "Now you know where it is."

His wife is worried that he'll hit someone and they'll get sued and lose the house. She mentioned it so many times I finally snapped back, "I'm not as worried about you getting sued as I am about the potential of someone losing their life."

My father is very stubborn. When we questioned the safety of his driving a few years ago, he took it upon himself to drive himself, alone, from Phoenix to Tahoe. My sister even confronted him with the possibility of killing other people with his stubbornness. I guess he showed us, huh?

I'd booked my trip to Phoenix in order to accompany him to court when we thought he'd at least get some sort of mandated driving test. That was canceled when he found out he could just pay the fine, but I'd already bought the tickets and figured I was due for a visit.

I tried making a list of alternate transportation options (lots for taking seniors to doctor's appointments, fewer for taking seniors to bowling). His wife said, "You're wasting your time. I had a ride for him to bowling. He used it once, then went out and bought his car."

I feel as helpless as I did when he decided to re-wallpaper the dining room by gluing the wallpaper over the old wallpaper. "Mom's not going to like this," I thought, but would he listen to me? No. When he bought her the car mats for Christmas, I told him, "Don't wrap those up and give them to her as a gift, she's gonna freak out." He did it anyway, and guess what? She spent the evening crying to me in her bathroom.

My sisters and I got an e-mail from his wife's son saying that "some tough decisions might have to be made." We thought, have you met our father? Ain't no one making that decision for him except him.

All we can do is pray, take the wheel as often as we can and not get too annoyed when he tells us we're going the wrong way. And if you're driving in Phoenix, and you see a dark green Ford Focus with an old male driver, stay as far away from it as you can.


Anonymous said...

Your Father is so like mine, his excuse for going up a one way street the wrong way, was to say 'I can't drive and look at signs

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