A Very Careful Driver

“I don’t know why Dr Brown took my license away”, the 92-year old man said. He was visibly shaking with anger. “I’ve been driving since I was a young boy, and I could find my way to California without a map”.

My associate, Dr. Wilford Brown, had sent in a State Driver Profile a few months ago, and made reference to an attached letter by a family member, which in his words would be “very damning, if true”. Apparently, the Department of Motor Vehicles had thought so too, as the elderly man explained their action through clenched jaws.

“I called them up, and they said that if you wrote to them, they would give me my license back”.

“They did, huh…” I said, while mousing and clicking my way back and forth in the documents section of the electronic medical record in search of the damning letter. I could not find it.

“How could Dr. Brown say that I’m not a good driver? What does he know about that?” The man raised his trembling hand and pointed in the general direction of Dr. Brown’s office.

“He says I have memory problems. My memory is excellent. I remember everything!”

I looked at his problem list, where “Dementia” was the first diagnosis.

“Maybe someone contacted the DMV about your driving”, I said cautiously, thinking I wouldn’t want to cause conflict or mistrust in the family by revealing everything I knew about the letter. “Maybe someone didn’t like the way you drive”, I tried, wondering if perhaps the missing letter might have been inaccurate or exaggerated.

I looked at his birth date on the computer screen and did a quick search in my memory bank about old cars.

They were still making Model T Fords when he was a little boy. Maybe he even learned to drive in one. I pictured traffic around here in those days, and my mind suddenly switched to the tourist traffic on Route One every summer weekend.

“My memory is excellent”, Mr. Gordon said again.

“Well, it’s not just memory, it’s eyesight, hearing, reaction time, judgement and reflexes”, I started.

“I am a very careful driver”, he interrupted. “When I come to an intersection, I stop, even if the light is green, and I look both ways before I go”.

As in a movie flashback, I saw him as a young boy, sitting next to his father, honking a rubber and brass horn and proudly maneuvering a Model T on an empty country road, surrounded only by cow pastures and potato fields.

“Well, Mr. Gordon”, I began. I knew what I had to do.

12 Responses to “A Very Careful Driver”

  1. 1 Isobel Potts July 18, 2015 at 7:41 pm

    Welcome back, Country Doctor – have you had a vacation?

    • 5 acountrydoctorwrites July 19, 2015 at 10:13 am

      I have been accused of sometimes ending my stories just before the climax. I like to provoke the reader to think about the different ways the story might end, depending on the choices we make.

      • 6 Isobel Potts July 19, 2015 at 2:40 pm

        After decades of ignoring speed limits [as well as Stop or Yield signs], the ‘old man’ in our family was proud of how quickly he could get to his destination.
        At age 90+, when he was stopped by the police for driving too slowly, his reply was “there is no minimum speed limit”.
        He then decided to sell his car and quit driving…

      • 7 Lucy July 23, 2015 at 2:50 pm

        I would love for you to tell us how you carried that necessary conversation with this gentleman. So many of us have to have these conversations with loved ones, and every bit of insight and ideas we can find are so helpful.

      • 8 Esme Pendergast July 31, 2015 at 2:48 pm

        If you are not including an ending than you are not giving readers a story, but rather a writing exercise of some kind. This is a very different thing, especially given the sort of specialty story you are asking people to create when they were least expecting it. Expect to ‘provoke’ people if you continue to offer one thing, but deliver something else. It’s a bit unkind to deceive people when you think about it.

      • 9 acountrydoctorwrites August 1, 2015 at 1:28 am

        My purpose in writing is to describe situations I and other physicians encounter and dilemmas or feelings we must deal with. I am not writing a how-to manual. The resulotion of every situation depends on the specifics involved. Medical bloggers create vignettes based on many different patients we have seen; you are right – these are “writing exercise[s] of some kind”. I offer exactly what i deliver, notes from my life as a country doctor. Sometimes what I do is a lot less interesting than the human dramas and dilemmas that I am witnessing.

      • 10 Esme Pendergast August 1, 2015 at 6:55 pm

        I’m just glad James Harriet didn’t end all his chapters: “This was a heart-rending situation, and in the end there was only one thing for me to do… But I’m not going to tell you what it was!”

  2. 11 meyati July 18, 2015 at 9:41 pm

    Thank you for the old timer’s family that is truly concerned about him and others. It sounds like he does’t have a wife to beat up and get the keys from her.
    My daughter was a speech therapist at the VA, and part of her job was assessing patients for driver’s license renewal. On the days that she did that, they had a VA security officer by her door. The VA tried to stop the sale of vehicles to these old vets that are greatly spacialy impaired from mini-strokes or worse. Only these old warriors went to a bar, and found a drinkee-drinkee girl to move in with them. The old coot would buy a car and get insurance on the drinkee girl’s DL. The next thing they were back in the VA-as they beat the drinkee girl and took the keys from her. They injured far more than themselves. Then as you say–they remember old laws. It’s far different from a lawnmower tractor and taking out a fence post, or even baling 20 acres of hay, then it is driving 50 MPH on an 8 lane street, and having red lights, sudden stops from other old geezers, emergency first responders, car wrecks. This is so hard for elders of any gender.

    I’m a woman, and the day is long gone in Denver, where a man needs to walk in front of me with a shotgun, so he can fire 3 x at each intersection to warn people that a woman driver is coming through.

  1. 1 A Very Careful Driver | Calgary Ubiquitous Rural Informed Online Services Trackback on August 10, 2015 at 4:38 pm

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