"But Daddy", I whined. My father didn't bat an eye as he lowered his 6'4" frame into his little sports car. "If you want to get home, you better start learning," he calmly said and drove off, leaving me alone with my new car, a stick shift. Yeah, I had wanted a car and yeah, Daddy had tried to show me how to drive a stick shift. But I was a sixteen year old girl and still expected my daddy to jump when I cried.
Well, he wasn't jumping now. Fed up with my resistance at learning how to work a clutch - after all, why should I when there were automatic transmissions? - Daddy had done the unthinkable. He was forcing me to learn - alone!
I stood there in that parking lot of K-Mart staring at the lime green Vega, caressing the keys to my independence. I had a car! No more begging rides from friends! But I didn't know how to drive the damn thing! What to do, what to do...
With Daddy's last words "If you want to get home..." ringing in my ears I swiped at the tears on my cheeks and climbed in the Vega. "I'll show him", I muttered. It took a hundred trys but I managed to get that car moving. I sputtered and coughed that car all around the parking lot. Sure, people were laughing and shaking their heads but I just waved and kept pumping that clutch, cursing my father as the Vega jerked, stalled, and grinded its way home.
By the time I made it to my driveway, a mere two miles away, I had the hang of it. I never did thank my daddy for the gift of a car because I was furious with him for leaving me alone. Ah, the naiveté of teenagers.
Many years later, as an adult and a parent, I spoke to my father about the Vega incident. I asked him how he could have left me all alone like that. Once again, the big man never batted an eye. "You were never alone", he said, "I followed you the whole time."
Like a mama bird pushing her babies from the nest, my father had taught me how to fly, all by myself.
K. Y. Hamilton, BA, MA - Copyright 2004, 2006