Passenger | Mark’s Remarks

I have entered the season of life in which I am called on to become a driving instructor.  Son No. 1 got his license last year and is now a seasoned driver. Delirium causes me to forget if I wrote about him learning to drive. If I did, forgive me for repeating myself as I bring you up to date on Son No. 2.

Tanner is “practice” driving and logging his hours right now.  He will turn the magic age in March, and we will hopefully be practiced enough that we can send him on his way. We are in the early days of learning right now.

Teaching a teenager to drive is a delicate matter, but I approach it as I do many things in life: trust in the Lord. I’m really not being cheeky or trying to make fun of my beliefs. I am strangely calm. When I strap myself in the passenger side, the Lord is called upon immediately. In fact, there are prayers before and after. In order, the prayers would involve asking, asking in a hurried matter and then lots of praising when my feet hit the driveway.

Both sons are cautious fellows. I remember, at their age, wanting to drive faster. They, on the other hand, creep along at a slow place. I don’t complain. Soon enough, they’ll be confident enough to “goose” the gas pedal a little. I hope they creep along for as long as possible.

The first driving session involved driving from our church, down the big hill, and on back streets to our house. I knew the first launching sequence would involve a little bit of a spin out, considering the gravel in the church parking lot and the touchiness of the car gas pedal.  “Oh, sorry,” my son said. His brother had said the same thing.  I just smiled, knowing it would happen and it really wasn’t his fault.

We had just let his sister off for a church meeting and she stood on the sidelines and watched as her brother and I switched places. She wanted to observe the first moment of her brother’s driving, I suppose.  One of her friends, another shy little girl, stood close by. They talked to each other as we took off, and I can only imagine what they were saying. The “spin out” caused them to snicker, and as we drove past, they applauded. I couldn’t tell if my son was annoyed or amused.  He was busy being cautious.

Perhaps by the time I teach his sister to drive, I’ll remember the gas pedal is touchy. Heck, maybe we will have a different car by then. I might also remember that first-time drivers take wide turns, wide turns that cause me to grip the seat and tap my foot against the imaginary brake pedal.

We creep along. Good.  Down the back streets we go.  OK, here’s a parked car. Good.  Give yourself plenty of room.  Here comes a car. Good, give them plenty of room. OK, here’s another parked car and a car coming your way. Whew!  Give the driver a little more room than that, son. You’re doing fine.

I pride myself on being calm.  Again, I know the Lord is watching over us. I’m sure He is smiling at us. Really, the only thing I can do it grab the wheel if I need to. I can yell to hit the break, but that doesn’t guarantee anything. I realize, here and there, I am really quite powerless.

As I told his brother, I warned Tanner it’s possible that I might yell in the car. It’s only because there are sometimes when there is no time for niceties. I will try not to, but I make no promises.

Highway driving will follow after we have mastered streets.  We will practice parking and nighttime driving will be the final lesson. Even after the license is issued, there will be a probational period where we only drive around town. OK.  Good plan.

Seems only yesterday he was obsessed with superheroes and swords. I allow myself to think about these things, even while we creep along these streets.

Soon, my memory bubble is popped. You see, there’s a person coming at us on a bicycle and a person walking a dog.

Give them plenty of room, son. Watch out for the parked car. OK. Good. Take your time.  Exhale.

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Mark Tullis

Mark is a 25-year veteran teacher teaching in Columbia. Originally from Fairfield, Mark is married with four children. He enjoys reading, writing, and spending time with his family, and has been involved in various aspects of professional and community theater for many years and enjoys appearing in local productions. Mark has also written a "slice of life" style column for the Republic-Times since 2007.
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