Saturday, January 23, 2010

Grandma's Last Driver's License

I was checking my driver's license the other day. I started thinking maybe it'd been a while, since I couldn't remember when I got my last one. It's happened before that I've checked it and it was expired for a whole year, meaning I'd have to take the whole test. But fortunately, still being young enough, I didn't have to do the actual driving with the officer.

I lucked out when I got my original license. The really tough, legendary driving officer, that everyone hated for his toughness and strictness, just happened to be on vacation that week. Meaning I had the substitute, who didn't know what he was doing. He had me drive to the west two blocks, to the north one block, to the east two blocks and park in the original parking space. I was done in about five minutes.

But if you're old and frail, they make you go out with the guy. Like it or not.

Checking my license, it reminded me of Grandma's last driver's license test, which was probably 15 years or so, back when she was 89 or 90. The driving officer they had then was what you might call a "reluctant" driving officer. Must've been a bunch of bad experiences for him along the way, sudden starts and stops, not seeing the lights, and not noticing oncoming traffic especially on the passenger's side.

I was also nervous about it -- mostly because of all her random blackouts. But at that time she didn't want to give it up, and so to the courthouse we went.

She was walking with a cane, and had to pause and sit on one of their benches every few steps. I was lifting her by getting a good grip under her arms. But it was a struggle just to get down the hall and to the guy's office.

I saw the reluctance on his face right away. It looked like he was conferring with some other officials in there, with some discreet pointing our way. For one guy it was even funny, who was laughing and patting him on the back, like "Maybe someday you'll get a desk job!"

Anyway, the reluctant officer came over. Grandma was up against the wall, sitting on the bench, trying to catch her breath, a real struggle. And it was a day like today -- snowy, blowy, icy, ice falling from the trees, a real mess. The reluctant officer was working his hardest to get out of taking her out.

He launched in with a lot of probing questions. "Are you OK to drive? Do you feel like driving with me today? We just want to make sure that you're safe to drive. I want to make sure that you're safe and we're safe. Did you come with a car that you feel comfortable driving? Do you feel like driving with me with today?"

I was answering some of the questions for her, that she did feel comfortable enough. Since she'd dozed off, you can't get more comfortable than that. But that wasn't what he wanted to hear. He called me over and in whispers told me that perhaps it would be best if we considered her years of driving behind her. I told him she didn't actually drive anymore anyway, but she didn't want to give up her license.

He steered us in the direction of the window and said she could still get a state ID card that looked a lot like a driver's license. So with that, like the reluctant driving officer said, her driving years indeed were behind her.

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