For the past few years, my husband has suffered from a few illnesses affecting his ability to drive a car for various periods of time. This is a gut-wrenching fate for any man to accept. But the impact isn’t just one-sided.

Like many couples in their post retirement years, we decided to downsize to one car some time ago. And like many women my age, I allowed my husband to do much of the driving, especially on long distance trips and highways.

So as a consequence, during those times when my husband was unable to drive, I was thrown unceremoniously back into the driver’s seat.

 
 

The Shock and Awe of It All

Regardless of the resilient woman-of-a-certain-age I consider myself to be, I felt vulnerable and terrified to take over the driving responsibilities for both of us. How did I let this happen?

I always had a car during my working years, and I actually drove across Canada by myself in my younger days. But my driving over the past several years has been mostly limited to local areas.

And I morphed easily into the comforts of navigator/passenger, with my husband happily behind the wheel.

So, my sudden catapult back into the saddle was like being thrown mercilessly to the proverbial wolves; hungry road-wolves. I could feel the beasts sharpening their claws on the insides of my stomach every time I pulled onto a busy roadway.

So Much Togetherness

Driving my husband to hospitals, doctors’ appointments, the barbershop, hardware store etc., was not only a huge jolt to his ego, but a tremendous blow to his sense of independence.

Unlike me, he is well trained in the art of grocery shopping and always looks forward to his frequent jaunts to the various markets.

So, this was another adjustment for him, and for me – the spoiled little woman in his life who didn’t know the price of pickles. Suddenly, I was also learning the finer skills of supermarket navigation.

Where Are We Now?

We have settled in to the impact of our ongoing changing roles and responsibilities, but these have not been easy to accept. Although my husband will never make peace with my beloved passenger seat, we both dig in and make it work.

He’ll be back driving again soon, and for that we are both grateful. The adjustments for me have become easier, and I’m finally sitting comfortably enough behind the wheel and enjoying my once-abandoned driver’s seat. But it’s taken me time and persistence, and it’s not always a pretty sight.

My Parking Confessions

  • To parallel park on the street, I need to drive forward into a big honking space long enough to fit a tractor-trailer.
  • When I pull into a parking lot, my car is always the wonky one straddling the lines at a 45-degree angle.
  • My husband puts a sign on the dashboard that reads My Wife Parked This Car! He’s not being mean – he’s just setting the record straight.
  • I can’t judge distance, but what woman knows the difference between a few inches? Men have been lying to us for years! Surely, I can’t be faulted for this one.

Determined Not to Let This Happen Again

So many women I know allow their husbands to do most of the driving. If I can say anything important in this post, it’s this: get back in the saddle and stay there.

By not sharing the driving all these years, I nearly lost my independence, my confidence and my ability to step up when the road got bumpy. I put our flexibility and quality of life in jeopardy by taking the most comfortable path.

7 Things I Learned

Choose your route

Not all roadways are created equal. Select one with which you are most comfortable, and avoid rush hour traffic and busy highways if they make you nervous. Safety above all else.

Get a GPS

Take away the worry about getting lost in unfamiliar areas with a navigation system for your car. This allows you to concentrate on your driving instead of looking away to read your directions.

Make a practice run

Before going to busy, congested places like large hospitals, have someone drive with you until you’re comfortable with both the route and parking garage, including how to use the pay station for your ticket.

Plan

Prepare to get back in the saddle by taking lots of short trips in familiar areas. If you have trouble driving at night, plan your return trip during daylight hours.

Ask a friend

It’s understandable that driving can be exhausting when you’re not used to it. So, don’t let your pride get in the way of accepting help from a friend now and then.

Hire a service

There are many personal transportation services that can help to give you a break, too. So, on those days when you’re just not up to driving, contact one of these companies to do the driving for you. Then sit back and relax.

Convince your husband

It’s not easy for some husbands to willingly sit in the passenger seat. Discuss the need for you to keep up your driving skills, and offer him a muzzle to wear when you’re behind the wheel.

Final Word

Through it all, I’ve learned that change itself isn’t the challenge as we ride this bullet train into our golden years. It’s the ongoing awareness of where we are on the ride, and knowing that our orderly lives could go off the rails at any time.

How we prepare ourselves and adapt daily is the key to keeping our seats, and our sanity – especially when life throws an unexpected twist of fate onto the tracks.

Do you still love to drive? What do you enjoy most about being in your car? What is the most interesting car journey you have taken? Please share your thoughts and experiences below!

Pat SkenePat Skene retired from the corporate world of banking to find her voice. She is the author of several books for children. When she’s not writing books for kids, Pat is busy posting humorous reflections for boomers on her blog at Boomerrantz.com. Pat keeps her imagination fed and watered in Oakville, Ontario.

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