Learning to Drive (Im still alive)

I am a very cautious person. It’s one of the main reasons I’m still around. Caution, and a big old slice of good luck pie.

I learned to drive when I was 15. When I turned sixteen, my Dad told me to drive down to the triangle and get a loaf of bread from Hurley’s grocery store.

I drove at 35 mph down there, plunked down .59 cents for a loaf of sunbeam, got back in Dad’s little green Ford Fairlane, and promptly backed square center into one of those stinking huge light poles that they surrounded with two tons of cement.

I drove 25 mph on the way back home…

It was another 3 or 4 months before Dad let me take the car out again. I drove about 2.3 miles to the house of a girl I wanted to date. I was shy, and awkward as hell. I couldn’t think of things to say conversation wise, so I drug out my guitar and sang to her. It was kind of embarrassing and I’m sure a little strange.

Doubly so, because I flooded the car out when I started to leave, and then when I pulled out of the driveway I accidentally pushed the accelerator down too hard and “dug out” of the driveway. I did make it home safely. From that point on, my driving skills improved, and I can say without a doubt that since then I have logged hundreds of thousands of miles. Mostly cautious miles.

Since I got blackballed at the old local industrial complex, I ended up living in Trion and commuting out and back to work in various cities for about 38 years.

I worked for five years selling medical supplies all over North Georgia. My territory was huge. I put in 150 miles a day most days east….it was a great job the first three years, but not so great the last two. I had a lot of close calls those years, but lucked out and had no accidents. I did however, not latch one of the side panel doors one the supply truck one day before I took off to Calhoun. I don’t know when it flew straight out. I didn’t notice I was spilling bandaids and antibiotic ointment all over the roadway on 136. I only noticed when I turned right on River street and sheared the door off on a telephone pole. That was a hard one to explain to the boss. I was able to backtrack towards Trion, and I ended up finding most of the supplies.

I went to work for Big B Home Health care, and they gave me a new van with their logo on the side. I got to drive it out and back to Rome every day because I was on call 24-7 to deliver Oxygen and O2 supplies to people who needed them. I came home one day and parked it in my steep driveway on ninth street. I was in a hurry, and forgot to put on the parking brakes. I looked out a few minutes later, and the van had jumped out of gear and had rolled down the driveway, across ninth street and jumped the curb across the street and rolled 30 more feet into my across the street neighbors back yard, right next to the back alley. Nary a scratch did it have. Looked like I had just parked it there. I went over and drove it out the back alley and back into my driveway. This time I set the parking brakes.

Like I said, caution is the key….along with a big old slice of luck pie.

What lies ahead, what lays behind

I would like to do as we used to do when I was young and unknowing. Go off into the woods and saw down an old cedar tree and bring it into the house and decorate it.

Most of the time we’d go to Mr. Kellet’s farm, where we bought milk, and he’d let us cut one. Back when I was very young, eight or nine. The smell of those trees haunts my memory now, just as the happiness and innocence also haunts me. I knew nothing then of the world beyond my doorstep. I didn’t realize the terrible things going on out of my little inner circle.

But, they were out there. Not as obtrusive and as evident as they are to me now in this 67th year. But there nonetheless.

I watched my three little ones in their innocence and happiness this morning, and I wondered how life will play out for them. I’ll only be here for a portion of that, but I’m concerned. I know the things I have seen since my time as a child in the fifties as compared to today. Such a vast change. Such a different world. A sandpaper world now compared to my smooth white paper one.

Of all the unknown quantities which lay ahead for them, I cannot even guess. All I can do is love them, hold them, and let them know they are cherished now. So loved. Perhaps if they are able to retain some of those memories in the future, it will give them strength.

Just as I went down in the woods today to a spot where a little cedar tree was growing and put my face close to it and breathed in deeply…and momentarily was comforted. All would be right, all would be alright. Just for a moment.

Encouraging Makes a Difference

In my past, in the days when I was growing up, one encouraging word from the right person could make my day…. maybe my entire week.

If my Dad told me I had done a good job on something….anything really, I redoubled my effort to do an even better job the next time.

I had the most difficult time learning to tie my shoes. I can remember, because I was almost six before I could tie them well. Dad never got mad, just kept encouraging me to try again. “You’ll get it” he said. And I finally did.

I had a lot of problems with some relatively simple motor skill tasks. I was smart in other ways. I could read before I started school, and I was always good at doing adding, subtracting, multiplying and dividing in my head. I could figure percentages of things especially well…..but I had trouble keeping my pants zipped. Go figure.

It could be the concussion I suffered riding my tricycle down our brick steps when I was four. I busted my head open, was bloody as hell, and got knocked out. It took 12 stitches to close the wound, and I told Dr. Allen to “keep his shit’n hands off me,” while he was doing the stitching. “Where’d he learn that language?” He asked “From his Mom”. Said Dad.

It could be the severe high fever (106 degrees) that I had right before my third birthday, which caused my eyes to cross so severely, you could barely see the blue. They stayed that way for a year, then gradually uncrossed. I don’t remember it, but I’m sure my brain was about fried.

But I got over those things. I was encouraged to improve. So I did.

I used to love to take broom handles and hit rocks from my Grandpa’s dirt road driveway, out into ol’ Uncle Lark Davenport’s corn field. That field was all rocks and no dirt anyway, so he never cared. I spent many, many hours whacking rocks. I was an awkward and backward 12 year old the year..the last year, I was eligible to play little league. I was embarrassed to try out, but two great men in the community encouraged my efforts, and all of the hours I had spent whacking little rocks with a skinny stick paid off as I found I could really rip a baseball with a baseball bat. Made the Allstars that year.

I wanted to write my Freshman year in High School, but was afraid I couldn’t do it well enough. Mrs. Wingfield, who was the English teacher and editor of the school paper read some of my poetry, and encouraged me to enroll in journalism class. I ended up writing quite a few articles, and a lot of poetry. I was just looking through my old scrapbook of “inches” I wrote for the paper the other day. I thought of Ms. Jesse’s encouragement, and how she believed in me. She was a great teacher.

I could go on, but I guess my point is clear. All the things I ever succeeded at even moderately were the result of being encouraged. Trying to make me do something I don’t want to do, especially if someone is coming from a bullying attitude, or an attitude of “my way or the highway” just makes me buck up like a mule. I have even shut down in past years with people who insist they were dictators, and their word had to be obeyed or else. I once walked out of a meeting with a “boss” like that, walked to my car, and turned it on and drove home. The guy called me and begged me to come back…because I was running his factory one handed. I didn’t.

I’ve walked out of college classes on the first or second day (and some halfway through the course) because the professors were discouragers instead of encouragers. I did not need them, or their negativity in my life.

Of course some of these actions have cost me….some of them were foolhardy. But I didn’t stop to think at the time.

I don’t encourage anyone to be like me. To be like I was. I got lucky and married a sane wife with good sense, who balances out my impetuous nature with her common sense.

I’ve helped her raise three wonderful and successful children. I hope I encouraged them more often than I discouraged them. They certainly grew up with one slightly off center, brain impaired Dad.

I think nowadays we as a country, as a world…need to encourage our children and little ones. Let’s tell them that there’s nothing….nothing, that they cannot accomplish. And if we tell them, and they truly believe us, perhaps they will save this world and usher in a new age of peace and prosperity.

If I don’t see you, or talk to you before then, have a Merry Christmas..Happy holiday, nice days off, or…..whatever you want!