Dear Older Self,
This note is somewhere up near the top of the top ten list of notes-I-did-not-want-to-write. I kind of don’t want others to read a word I am about to write. I hope you, being older and wiser, have a better attitude. Okay. Deep breath.
So, you know your car key? That one special key that allows you to go where you want, when you want? I need to talk to you about it.
I need to talk to you about giving it up when it is time. For safety’s sake. Your safety. And the safety of the whole town.
An important aspect of your life has been safely. As a parent you have helped create a safe living environment for the family and for all who visited your home. In your professional life you offered a safe refuge for people to explore their emotional pain in order to heal and grow. As a grandparent, you have delighted in encouraging your grandchildren to take reasonable risks, while considering their own safety and the safety of others. Supporting safety has been a hallmark of your life.
In order to truly honor this cherished lifetime value, it is time to ask for help in assessing your ability to safely drive your car. This is part of what it means to live intentionally. This is part of what it means to live honestly and humbly. This is part of what it means to let go of self-serving and to live, instead, from a place of love and consideration for others.
Ask for God’s help. Write about your fears and grief as well as about your intentions to honor safety first. Talk it through with your loved ones. Make an assessment with the help of others.
Some of the questions you might ask are: Have there been close calls? Are there unexplained dents and scrapes on your car? Has anyone commented on your declining driving ability? Has anyone refused to ride with you? Are there medications you are taking that slow your response time? Do you suspect that it really is time to hand over the keys and are resisting out of fear of what this might mean? Is your neck stiff to the extent that you are unable to turn your head to look over your shoulder? Does leg pain make it difficult to move your foot from the gas pedal to the break pedal? Are you having trouble keeping track of traffic lights, pedestrians, traffic signs? Are you getting lost in familiar places? Has your eyesight or hearing gotten worse? Are there times when you get sleepy and even close your eyes while driving?
Initiate conversations with those closest to you. Share any concerns you might have about your driving. Invite them to share any concerns they might have.
Remember the elderly loved one who backed into a parked car and then drove away without even knowing he had crumbled his fender and the fender of the other car? You watched this happen. And you knew it was time to ask him to give up his car keys and driver’s license. When you talked to him about the accident that he did not even notice you were greatly relieved when he responded by immediately handing you his car keys.
Remember the contrasting experience you had with an elderly loved one who had been a dangerous driver for some time? He was getting lost in parts of town which he had known for decades. He was not looking carefully when he pulled out into traffic or when he changed lanes. You never wanted to be in the car when he was driving. When you and the others who were supporting him told him what you were observing and suggested that it was time for him to give up his keys, he was furious. He refused to do so. You had to actually intervene by removing the keys and the car in order to protect him and others from the danger he had become behind the wheel.
Dear older self, please embrace safety. Please be willing to let go of your car keys when it is time to do so. I can hardly imagine how challenging this may be to do. It is a lot to let go. It is a lot to surrender. It will be a loss in so many ways. Letting go of driving means surrendering a major part of your independence. It is inconvenient. It limits your mobility. And it means you have to “trouble” someone else with your needs.
These losses may tempt you to resist choosing what is safe. They may tempt you to minimize the problems you have experienced with driving and to down play what the people in your life are telling you about your driving. But keep in mind that you want to be a person who is safe and protective, as opposed to being a driver who has become dangerous to yourself and others.
It might help if you talk through your options for transportation with those close to you. Who might be available to drive you? What other community based transportation is available? Many communities have low cost transportation for seniors. It may be a reduced-fee taxi service, a cut-rate bus pass, dial-a-ride services, or weekly shuttles to shopping areas. These options can be easily explored with a web search or a phone call to the nearest community center or library.
Practice safety. Embrace the unexpected blessings that happen when you let other people help you. You were a chauffeur for many people over the years. And it felt good to be helpful. Now it is time to let someone else be your chauffeur. It can bless you and those who care for you in this way. Let go of fear and let love do the driving.
This meditation is taken from Notes to Our Older Selves: Suggestions for Aging With Grace by Juanita Ryan and Mary Rae. You can get a copy at Amazon.com