Practical Advice For My Son #3 ~ Count Three Seconds To Stop

You will learn, soon enough, that one of the scariest days of your life will be the day you hand the car keys to your child and they drive off alone. Why this is scarier that riding with them when they have never driven at all, I can’t quite fathom; a parent is equally powerless either way, from the passenger seat or from the sofa.

Nevertheless, every time you drive away, my stomach turns over. So here you get a little practical advice that isn’t normally included in driver’s courses. You have hard some of it, but a reminder never hurts.

Learn to drive a standard shift, if you do you will never be stranded and you will understand how your car works a little more. This is a dying skill except amongst serious car aficionados. Remember when I reserved a moving truck and went to pick it up on a weekend, ready to load and leave only to discover that it was a standard shift truck (split shift at that) and the truck rental people had gone home for the weekend! Good thing I knew how to drive it.

When you feel sleepy, dizzy, lightheaded or generally weird, pull off the road. Don’t endanger yourself and others; no matter how much of a rush you are in. Late is better than dead every single time. Remember when Bob crushed his face.

Remember that if you count three seconds from the time the car in front of you passes a fixed point until you pass the same fixed point you will pretty much always be far enough back (relative speed). Nobody does this all the time but check it every once in a while to remind yourself of how much distance you need. When somebody cuts in front of you, reducing your space, make more space. Playing chicken is stupid and you don’t get there any faster.

Change your oil every 3,000 miles and generally do the maintenance on your car. Most cars will serve you well and much longer than the average American keeps a car if you just take care of them. It is nice to have a fancy new car, it is nicer to have no car payment! It is amazing how much money you can save when you don’t have to replace your car but can drive it past the end of the payments.

You have learned the hard way that when you don’t take care of things, you have to spend money to replace them. Imagine, if you took care of your stuff, how long it would last, how much money you could put in your pocket. This goes for your relationships as well. The more you care for them, the less energy you will spend and the longer they will last.


So my dad feels strongly about keeping control of his money.  I can understand that.  I feel strongly about keeping control of my money too.  Balancing his checkbook takes a really long time; I mean a really really long time.  The last go round took him all day and he was lying in wait for me when I got home to try to find the several (very several) hundred dollar error.  When I got it down to slightly less than two hundred, we just took the bank balance and called it a day.  I couldn’t find the error.  Even going through his fifteen year old pad on which he has written every check he ever wrote – except the ones he forgot to write down.

The check balancing thing doesn’t seem a matter of bad memory or incompetence, it seems a matter of alienation.  He looks at the thing and it seems foreign to him, and familiar all at the same time.  Then there are all the people out to get him, notably doctors.  All the doctors really don’t know what they are doing.  They are in cahoots with me to prevent him from driving, controlling his money, or ever getting better.  His feeling is that without their interference he would be flying a plane, working, winning tennis tournaments and driving across the country.  Age has nothing to do with it.  And all those pills intended to “help” him just cause diarrhea.
This has been quite the discussion.  We took him off all meds and then talked about what was critical to take and they added those in one at a time.  So far so good.  And he ended up so healthy that they permanently stopped several of his meds.  He was down to 3 kind of critical ones for his memory and his prostate.  No diarrhea.  For months, and months.  He took them in the hospital, he took them in rehab, he took them when he came home… for a while.  Now he doesn’t take them, and the caregivers are afraid of him so they don’t insist; not that it would do any good.  He is competent enough to know he doesn’t want to take his meds, even if he cna’t remember what they are supposed to be good for.
Diarrhea is back, couldn’t be the flu, has to be the meds so it is the last excuse to completely quit taking them (he was still good for a few times a week). He has a diagnosis of Alzheimers, early stage; and his memory is not so great (short term especially), but when is a person incompetent?  How do you know when the alienation becomes so great that the familiarity is overwhelmed?
I see it happening more and more.  His computer is a foreign country despite the millions of times he has clicked the same clicks.  The remote control is becoming more difficult.  Where “things” are is a constant battle of repetition.  But he gets up in the morning, feeds himself, dresses himself and pays his bills (often several times).
So… where’s the line?