Thursday, January 24, 2019

Learning to Drive

My six-foot-two dad, Tom Coffey, knew how to drive. He had no choice. A professional truck driver, he hauled goods all over Nebraska and northern Kansas. He'd delivered corn and cattle from Harlan County, Nebraska, since 1929. He'd never had a wreck.

"Want me to teach you how to drive?" Dad asked in 1952 as I inched toward sixteen. I jumped at the chance. I envisioned him delivering lectures; after all, he had majored in education in college, but this is what he did:

Dad owned a car as big as a truck, his Buick. He took me, my younger sister, mother and aunt to Sunday church services, parking his car at an angle.

After services, I noticed that Dad, oddly, moved ahead of us and skittered down the long church steps. He piled in his car. I heard the motor and watched him back. He moved the Buick to a straight spot on the street, then shut it down and exited. He met me at the bottom of the stairs. 

"Here." He handed me his cluster of keys. "Why don't you drive us home?" 

Me? Who'd only driven my bike and my big red wagon. The thought terrorized but excited me. I grabbed the keys.

"I'm not riding with her!" My sister Margery skirted the car to walk home, two blocks away.

Mom and Aunt Faith slipped in the back, Dad in the passenger seat, and I, of course, prepared to drive. The hair stood up on the back of my neck. What if I caused an accident?

My feet didn't reach the pedals, but Dad showed me how to fix that. Then he selected the ignition key from my fist-full of keys and demonstrated where to put it. I inserted it.

"You'll want to have your foot on the brake," Dad noted, "before you turn that key." 

He explained how to shift the Buick into forward and move up the street. Dad seemed relaxed, but a glance in the rear-view mirror showed Mom and Faith glued in their places, speechless.

I turned the key, heard the familiar Buick roar, touched the accelerator and edged gently forward. I knew I could drive lickety-split by pressing down the accelerator, but with my priceless cargo, I dared not. I barely crept.

Still, it excited me to nose that big old Buick up the street, around the corner, along the block to our house, into the driveway and park it without having offed any of my family.

Margery, waiting for me, thumbed her nose. My backseat passengers clambered out, chattering like chickens.

But I could drive! Few experiences in my life would top that sensation.

Tuesday, January 8, 2019

How did my surgery go?

The night before facing the knife, I lay down to sleep: Mantra boom boom boom, Mantra boom boom boom, but no sleep.

I got up and redid my wardrobe for surgery.  Tried on three different outfits: the somber all-black-and-gray one won. Went back to bed.

Couldn't think of a thing but my work-in-progress, ZACK'S LEFT HAND, a historical novel. Ideas for it drifted through my mind. Suddenly I saw a way to solve the part that had stumped me. A Good Idea. As I watched, I saw it was a Magnificent Idea, pulling together a major theme in the work. Wow!

I leapt out of bed and sat at my computer to write this marvelous revelation.

After, I opened FaceBook to read the—so many—comments about my surgery.  Many more than I expected. "Maybe a dozen," I'd thought, but FB said 174! I blushed. And every comment cheered me! I read all the way to the end, then tottered off to bed, and slept the remaining two hours.

Oh yes, and the surgery went well. I had practically no pain although my helpers insisted on picking up Oxycodone and making me take one. But six hours later, my pain was so slight I took a couple Tylenols instead. After that, nothing.

But here's the best part of the surgery: the doctor told me I have no cancer, none at all. So only my imagination had believed otherwise.

Imagination. The curse and the blessing of the writer.

Thursday, January 3, 2019

I Never Learn

A friend suggested I use a cane. He'd watched me fall flat as a pancake on the sidewalk and witnessed me stumbling over a rocky road. 

So I bought a cane and used it, hoping to offset my balance problem.

The cane seemed particularly useful out of doors. Somehow, with a walking stick in hand, I couldn't help but spot the cracks and curbs ahead of me.

However, walking with a cane felt cumbersome, so I turned to the Internet for help. There I learned how to select which hand to grip my cane and how to coordinate it with one leg.

Then came my meditation group where we sit and meditate for twenty minutes, then walk for ten minutes before we sit again.

During the ten-minute meditation walk, I followed proper cane etiquette. With my cane in my chosen right hand, I tapped it in sequence with my right leg; my left leg struck out alone.  

Tap, step; tap, step, it felt so good, almost like dancing. I really got into it. What fun! The ten minutes soon finished.

But later, I noticed that I'd drubbed my cane so vigorously that I'd injured my right shoulder. Four days later, I'm still wincing.

Unfortunately, I often march wide of the mark. Miscalculation seems to smolder in my brain, ever eager to influence my decisions.