In only a few weeks, our oldest son turns sixteen. This means, among other things, that we’re careening toward that moment I’ve dreaded ever since he was wearing droopy Huggies and pedaling his red tricycle as if it were the Indy 500. Watching him, I had a distressing vision of one day handing him the keys to our family Honda while I stood on the front porch with nothing to do but wave as he pulled out of the driveway.
One might think my trepidation due to the fact that I recently spoke with our insurance agent and nearly coughed up a lung when she quoted our new rates. However, the terror that grips me is because I know that when my son drives away on his own, I will not be in the front seat to remind him about tricky signage or to keep another pair of eyes out for those knucklehead drivers weaving in and out of heavy traffic. I won’t be with my son, and I will be absolutely and completely stripped of any pretense of control over my son’s life and well-being.
I have my own memory of the first time I took our beet-maroon Oldsmobile Cutlass out by myself, feeling high on adrenaline as I imagined the cool factor of pulling up solo for our high school basketball game. With my freshly-minted license in my pocket, I put the car in reverse to back out of the driveway. My mom’s yellow Chrysler LeBaron (ugly as heck) sat parallel to the Cutlass, and I had only moved maybe 3 feet before hearing an awful scraping and wrenching. My stomach jumped up my throat. I bounded out of the car to the horrific sight of the LeBaron’s wood trim hanging there, like a peeled banana. I hadn’t even gotten onto the block before having an accident.
I turned off the ignition, took the keys in hand and slowly trudged toward the house as if I had a duffle bag of bricks slung over my shoulder. I was certain my dad would lose his mind and ground me from driving until I turned thirty. I was only halfway to the garage when my dad met me. “What happened, son?” I told him, barely able to get out the words
My dad walked over to the cars, circled the scene. “Alright,” he said, patting me on the back. Be careful tonight.” And he walked back into the house. He never said another word about my blunder.
I know now what kind of trust, what kind of faith, that moment required for my dad. For years, I’ve been amazed by my dad’s generosity and forgiveness. However, today, I’m even more amazed by his courage. My dad was not a fool; he knew the dangers. But he also knew that love requires courage.