Driving My Mother

Do you remember how when Adam and Eve committed their awful deed in the Garden of Eden, God put a curse on the serpent, the woman, and the man? Well, if this incident had occurred in more modern times, I’m pretty sure that God would have added in a piece about the weeping and gnashing of teeth that would occur when you are DRIVING YOUR MOTHER.

My mom is literally the worst passenger in America. It all started the first moment I got behind the wheel of a car. Once I received my learner’s permit, she was tasked with teaching me how to drive. She took me to an empty parking lot, switched places with me, and talked me through how to put the car in drive so that I could take a little spin around the lines on the pavement. The moment the car started moving under my control, she proceeded to laugh uncontrollably. I’m talking the kind of riotous laughter that results in wetting your pants, and she couldn’t stop.

Now lets stop and think about this for a minute. Here I am, a 15 year old who was ready to break free of the confines of being a child. Being able to drive myself was a rite of passage that I had looked forward to for years, and being the youngest in my class meant that all of my peers were already able to take this step into adulthood.  I finally have my moment to take the reigns of my new chariot, and here is my mother laughing hysterically in my face.  I’m sure I cried or argued, but we eventually had to switch places and shoulders still shaking in laughter, my mom had to take us home.  From then on, my dad had to take on the duty of teaching me how to drive.

Over time, my mom’s hysterics over watching me drive turned into an acute anxiety that rears its ugly head every time she sits in the passenger seat.  She huffs and puffs as we drive down the road. At any moment, the noises that come out of her mouth would make you believe that a semi was 1 second away from cramming into the side of your car, only to realize that she thought you were driving a little too close to the curb. Her hands clench the glove box, as if that one motion is going to save her from a head on collision.  The unsolicited driving advice and comments come swirling in left and right-

“Do you see that car trying to make a turn?”

“I just really feel like the car is swerving.”

“You’ve got it on my side of the road.”

“Is it just me, or does it feel like you keep letting off the gas?” 

 

And if we have to make an abrupt stop, those deep guttural cries of fear just about send me to the insane asylum.  

It must be a wonder that I make it out alive up here in these steep, mountainous roads of western North Carolina without my mom always in the car with me to remind me how narrow and scary it is!  I mean, sometimes I wonder why she even has to worry when her giant gasps of air are enough to suck all the traffic out of the way!

Our trip back home from this summer’s beach trip nearly resulted in World Wars 3 and 4. My mom is terrified of those terrible things called interstates and if she could, she would rename them “The Treacherous Roads of Certain Death.”  In an effort to calm her fears and help out because she was feeling sick, I offered to take the wheel. I still wonder how I didn’t foresee the ugliness that would ensue. Of course the noises started, and even thought she was put in the back seat, I could still see her body contorting and clenching in a way that exuded fear and anxiety over my driving ability. She didn’t say much, but the movements, noises, and gasps for breath were enough to send me over the edge. I bit my tongue, grasped the steering wheel, and engaged in self-talk to prevent myself from getting violent.  She sensed my exasperation, and tried to hold in the comment until it burst out in the middle of Columbia,

“I just feel like we are riding on the yellow lines!”

I went white, and muttered something that made it obvious I was absolutely about to lose it. After getting out of the car to let my dad drive the rest of the way back to Asheville, I said a silent vow to myself that I would NEVER again drive this woman. 

Then, a week after that fateful day in the car, my mom ended up in the hospital. It turns out that her ill feeling on the way home was actually a serious medical condition. Now it was my turn to take on that mothering fear and anxiety as she lay in the hospital bed. It was my turn to care for her in a way that I had never had to do before and in doing so, I got a glimpse into the mind of my mom when she sits in the car with me.  I realized that all of her reminders to “be careful” and advice and fears about my driving skills come from a deep-rooted love for her daughter. She cares for me in a way like no other, and her concern for my well-being is really the most wonderful goal of a mother who seeks to guide and direct her daughter away from danger. After a week spent in the hospital, it was my honor to drive my mama to the comfort of her own home.

As I try to patiently await the gift of having my own child, I hope that I have even an ounce of the grace, example, and caring concern of my mom. As I see so many kids with broken families and careless mothers and fathers, I can’t help but be thankful for the work of my parents in my life. 

The next time my mother makes a scene about my driving, I will remember the love she has given me, and then… I will kick her out of the car!

Happy Birthday to the bestest mom in the world. I love you, Ollaur!