Self Reliance

Not everything was as funny in the moment it was happening even though I can now look back on most of it with humor. For instance, my dad was in charge of teaching me how to drive. My mom made one attempt at teaching me how to use a stick shift but by the time it was over she refused to have any part of teaching me anything car related. He had the belief that you shouldn’t drive a car if you don’t understand the inner workings. So before I was allowed to get behind the wheel we had to go through a whole class on how an engine works. Apart from that, I had to be able to fix a flat tire, change my own oil, test the air pressure in the tires, replace all the spark plugs and top off all the fluids. When I questioned him about the need to be able to do all this stuff myself his only reply was, “You’re a strong person, you’re going to be a strong woman who doesn’t need a man to get by.” At first, I thought it was maybe just a cute little delusion every father has for his teen aged daughter when he already feels like he has to use a chair and whip to keep another male from taking his baby away, but now, I don’t think that was it. My whole life he taught me the importance of thinking for myself and being as independent as possible even though he knew it would mean I would take up my independence from him one day. I’m sure teaching me how to drive was a striking reminder of that fact. When it came to the actual driving I was a natural and took to it with ease. That is until it came time for maneuverability. That was when the fun really started. When I say “fun” I really mean “torturous horror”. I have no doubt that it was mutual. We went to my high school parking lot and practiced four or five times in the weeks before my test and one last time the morning of my test. Honestly, every attempt went pretty much the same way so they all run together as one very long, very stressful session. He placed four cones on the corners of the parking space and stood in front of the car as the fifth cone, until now it has never occurred to me just how brave that move was on his part. I’d love to go into a more detailed telling of all that occurred but it is mostly just a blur of him flailing around in front of me yelling, “cut the wheel” and me yelling “what does that mean?” This was usually followed by the sound of a cone being run over and a look of horror on his face like I just killed a very close and dear friend. He was so sure that I couldn’t possibly pass my test that when I walked into the building where the parents waited for their kids, he had his best sympathy face on and saying, “Most people fail at least once”. When I showed him that I passed he was shocked and terrified at the same time but tried hard to feign pride. I actually think that once the shock wore off he was just relieved that it meant the lessons were over.  Now at age 31, I have still never had to change a flat or my own oil or anything else he taught me but I do take great comfort in knowing that not only do I have the knowledge but that my dad thought enough to make sure that I wouldn’t ever have to feel helpless when it came to anything. That was something that he taught me over and over throughout my life; self-reliance.

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