Independence Day!

Apr 21, 2013 | 5 comments

Back in the Driver's SeatOn Friday when the surgeon gave the okay for Nyel to drive again, I don’t know which of us was happier – me-the-chauffeur or Nyel-the-passenger.  It had been eleven weeks since he’d been able to drive and had been totally dependent in the matter of vehicular transportation.  In large part that’s because both our car and truck have manual transmissions and, though it was his left leg that was impaired, he needed it for that pesky clutch.

Both of us have always shied away from automatics.  It’s probably a control thing, or so I’ve always thought, and I wondered how Nyel would feel about me in that driver’s seat every time we needed to leave Oysterville.  But, not only was he a model patient for all that time, he was a gracious passenger and made few demands and offered absolutely no criticisms.

For my part, the role reversal was a little more difficult.  Heretofore, when we are in our car together it is usually Nyel who is in the driver’s seat.  Not only am I fine with that, for some years I’ve limited my driving to daylight hours and back roads.  So, when we had some necessary appointments in Portland which involved both nighttime driving and freeways, I felt a bit insecure in my temporary role as chauffeur.  But, it was kind of like riding a bicycle – it all worked out fine.

Mama 1913I also thought about both of my grandmothers, as I often do when it comes to matters involving automobiles and independence.  Neither of them ever learned to drive – not a car, anyway.  They both could manage a horse and buggy, which to my way of thinking would be even more difficult.  But they were both born in the 1870s so, by the time automobiles came along, they were approaching middle age.  It probably never occurred to them to learn to drive.

My beloved Oysterville Granny – the one I knew best – was the epitome of Victorian womanhood in the best sense of the concept.  She oversaw the home and children, always deferred to my grandfather (at least in public) and left the interactions with the world beyond her house and garden to others.  I doubt that she ever gave a thought to learning about the intricacies of an automobile.  Like managing the finances, it just wasn’t within her sphere of reference.

Mary Woods LittleNana, my Bostonian grandmother, was quite the opposite.  She was fiercely independent and, once my grandfather had retired and could squire her around, she was an active Massachusetts “club woman.”  I don’t know for sure, but I imagine she was the quintessential back seat driver.  Unfortunately (in some ways), she is the one that I’ve been told I take after, at least in personality.

As I age, I empathize more fully with my grandmothers.  I have become more and more content to leave the driving to others.  Control and independence don’t seem quite as important as they used to.  But… during the past eleven weeks, it was good to find that I’m still capable, if need be.  One wonders…


  1. Stephanie Frieze

    Tell Nyel congratulations on being back on the road! I used to like to drive, but am glad to have Dave home for a bit to do the driving for me.

  2. Louise Labby Carroll

    Sydney, This is completely off the subject, but, you had mentioned awhile back that you were considering ending your daily blog. With the outpouring of disappointed readers, me among them, you relented. Might you consider giving yourself the weekends off? It would provide you with a nice break. Just a thought…

    • sydney

      Thanks for you concern and the very practical sounding suggestion. The truth is, though, that for me retirement means that every day is a Saturday or a Sunday. For all the years I taught, Saturday and Sunday were the days that I had time to do things for ME. What that actually meant was that I could write or work on a project near and dear to my heart or, more often than not, go to my classroom to do some extra something that I didn’t have time to do on a weekday. And so it is now — every day is like a Saturday or Sunday! It’s not like writing my blog is a five-day-a-week “job.” When I quit blogging, it will be because something more all-consuming is calling me! Or maybe I’ll just run out of stuff to say!

  3. Caroline Miller

    I know what you mean about driving I’m waiting for the Japanese to perfect those self driving cars. They better hurry up.

  4. Caroline Miller

    Just read Louise’s comment. Yes, a weekend off is good. I write (M-F) Weekend gives me a much needed brain rest. Don’t know how you keep it up. But good for you.


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