The Pain of Giving Up Driving

Guest post By Amy Bovaird

Let me introduce myself!
Hi, I’m Amy Bovaird. Aimee and I share several common threads—we’re both authors, bloggers, and speakers. We both belong to Pennwriters, a professional writing organization dedicated to improving the skills of writers at all levels. Both are names are Amy, spelled differently, of course!

We also share another common attribute—the belief that our stories will encourage others struggling with disabilities. While Aimee writes honestly to educate others about mental illness and break through the stigma and misinformation, I write to educate others on sight and hearing loss.

What Causes my Disabilities?
I have a hereditary condition called Retinitis Pigmentosa. My sight has progressively deteriorated over the years, starting with my peripheral (side) vision and it moving to tunnel vision. Finally, my central vision will be affected. Most lost most or all of their vision. We don’t know the cause of my hearing loss, only that it continues to weaken.

Thank goodness, I have come to learn I can live a happy, fulfilled life in spite of these disabilities! 

Overcoming Obstacles Requires Determination

But things aren’t always rosy. We have to push forward and overcome our own obstacles. The pastimes I enjoyed most had to do with staying mobile – traveling, driving, hiking, climbing mountains. I often traveled alone internationally, so that was my happy place.  My identity was wrapped up in the adventurer I became.

Giving Up Driving

As I gradually lost more sight, one aspect of getting around challenged me more than the others—driving. But I found ways around it. A flexible work schedule enabled me to drive into my governmental teaching job in the light and leave before it became dark. When I taught overseas, I could take public transportation. At the latter stages, my discomfort behind the wheel told me the time had come to give it up.

But yet … deep inside …

I couldn’t quite wrap my mind around the fact I couldn’t ever drive again. It’s a true rite of passage bequeathed to us in our teens.

Moving into a White Cane

When I learned to use a white cane, I gained back a lot of my independence. But because it revolved around a public tool, others didn’t always view me as having the same capabilities as I once had.

Excerpt from Second Sight: Milestones in Mobility
(to be released in October)

The except from “A Gutsy Convertible” starts with two short commuter flights, leaving from Erie, PA and arriving in Detroit, MI.  Here we go!

The cart driver eased to a halt. “Here ya’ go, ma’am. Ya’ bag’ll come in at Carrousel Three. Can I help ya’ git it?”

“N-no. I’m good.” I reached into my purse and found a couple of dollars and slipped them into the man’s hand who steered me through Detroit’s domestic airport.

My gaze, blurred as it was, swept through the throng of people—those maneuvering suitcases, parents admonishing children, and those headed out the door—seeking one person. Was that him? The man turned and waved in my direction. Yes! It had to be him. Relief coursed through me and my smile must have shown it.

“Look at you,” Mark said, taking me into his arms. “I was watching you on that airport cart. Ya’ looked mad or upset and a little bit lost. I said ‘What is goin’ on with Amy?’”

I made a face. “I coulda’ found my way here much faster on my own. Get this—the stewardess had them bring me a wheelchair while everyone else exited the plane la-la-la without a care.” I shook my head, still unsettled. “My legs aren’t broken,” I fumed. “I can move pretty fast with my cane.”

“When ya’ saw me, your face lit up like the Fourth of July fireworks we’re gonna have tomorrow night,” Mark teased, squeezing my shoulder and changing the subject. “Let’s find your bag and get outta here. Let me take that.” He lifted the strap of my burgundy leather carry-on from my shoulder.

That left me with my purse and white cane. I hesitated then folded up my cane. As expected, Mark took my arm, and looped it through his as we made our way up to the conveyor belt.

“There’s my bag.” I pointed to a small blue-gray nylon bag slowly moving on the carousel.
     He stopped in mid-step and stared at me. “How could ya’ see that? I mean, how could ya’ tell where your bag was?”

“I’m partially sighted, ya’ know.  Besides, see that bright polka-dot scarf on the handle? That scarf is permanently tied on the handle. It always makes it easier to find my bag when I fly anywhere.”

Taking a deep breath, I consciously put the unsettling airplane experience aside for the moment to focus on Mark and my weekend with him.

That evening, we ate out on the grill as he had promised. He cooked all my favorites—steak and shrimp, corn on the cob, and baked potatoes. We chatted as he brushed the barbecue sauce on the steaks.

“Ya’ see the trouble I go to for you.” He grinned. 

I took an appreciative sniff and smiled back. “It’s worth that awful flight to get here to see you—and eat steak and shrimp.”

“What? Miss World Traveler is put off by a couple of baby flights?” He jabbed me in the side, mock shock on his face.

“That’s just it,” I said. “This is my first time flying since using my white cane. “I don’t know about this wheelchair and cart business. Why don’t they just ask me what I need?”

“Silly, why don’t you just tell them?”

Silence hung in the air. I’d kept asking myself that same question throughout the flight. I didn’t have the metalanguage. Ha! This was not linguistics class at college. It required only a few simple words.   

When Mark opened the grill to check the steaks, a wave of smoke escaped. He took the foil-wrapped corn and set it aside, then added more shrimp. He turned to me. “I think airlines use wheelchairs as an easy way of identifying those who need assistance. Otherwise, how would they know who needs it? They only have so much time to get you to the next flight so it’s a matter of convenience. Think of it that way.”

“Well—” as they look for an easy way to accommodate their little airlines, they rob me of my independence.” You let them. “I certainly don’t have any problem with getting from one gate to another.” I huffed.

The next morning, the sun shone but there were clouds in the sky.

“You’re in Michiganian land now,” Mark offered. “Don’t expect your Pennsylgonian weather to follow you here. The clouds are just for show. Pure sunshine here.”

He liked to play with words, maybe to impress the writer he imagined me to be. Maybe because when a relationship is fresh, the banter is too.

After I took an early morning run, Mark said, “Let’s go shopping.” He took the convertible, which he only used on special occasions—like my arrival.

“You don’t need that right now,” he whispered, pointing to my cane. “Nothing against your stick,” he added quickly. “I’m being selfish. I’d rather hold your hand.”  

I blushed, and folded up my cane. Being with Mark was like playing the piano keys on the high end—fast and furious. My heart ran trying to keep up with the light notes, the ones I felt when I thought of: us.

Inside the store, Mark pushed the grocery cart with one hand and held onto my fingers, which rested on the steel handle, with the other. How I’d longed for such a feeling—being part of a couple again.

We picked up all kinds of party food. He’d planned a small get-together—in part, to welcome me and in part, for the Fourth of July.

My stomach did happy flip-flops. We’re kind of a couple. We’d connected via Facebook and from there, it went to phone calls and long talks. Several months after he met me, he visited. It was then he showed me a song he wrote …. about US!   “…We need to be together. You be here or I be there ‘cause I can’t send flowers through the phone…” It had a country twang.

My heart burst every time I thought about it.

Outside, the sun caused a problem for me. Even with my sunglasses, I squinted to see this man that filled my stomach with butterflies from the start. He opened the car trunk and placed several full sacks of food inside.

I eyed the bags. “Will that all fit?”

“Almost.” He grabbed the watermelon and set it aside, then closed the trunk.  “Got an idea here.” He used a pocketknife to cut through the tough rind. With a slow smile, he handed me a thick slice, dripping slice. He licked some of the juice off his fingers. “This here is Michiganian watermelon, nothin’ like it.”  

 “Hey, I can’t eat this—it’s way too big!” I held it away from me so the juice wouldn’t get on my clothes.

There in the store parking lot next to the car, we had an impromptu picnic for two. The sticky juice dripped down our fingers and onto the pavement. I attempted to eat a second one, but the juice tickled, and to my dismay, I snorted and felt a weird sensation as a seed flew up my nose. “Agh! Nose. In my nose.”

“What! You okay?” Mark looked concerned.

I took a tissue out and blew my nose. The seed came out.  “I’m good now.”

We laughed at the silliness of eating watermelon slices that big and having a seed fly up my nose,

“We’d better get these groceries home,” he said. “We have the whole afternoon for our picnic.” He glanced at the sky and frowned. “Hope the weather holds up.”

With the leftover watermelon stashed away in its flimsy plastic bag and the dark green rinds tossed in the trash, we prepared to leave.

I opened the passenger door to Mark’s small white Mustang convertible.

“She’s got some years on her,” he said caressing the glossy enamel exterior, “but she’s still my baby.”

The tips of my mouth turned up as I looked over at him. “Don’t hold back now.”

I faintly caught his shrug.  “You gotta slam the door or it won’t close all the way.” His words were part-apology and part-directive.

 “I used to love driving.” I tried not to let my voice show how I longed to feel the wheel at my fingertips, how I used to follow a curve to wherever it went, then make my way home, put the car in park and slowly take the key out of the ignition. I jingled the keys on my chain all the way to the house before I set them on my table.

I hated giving up driving, something I did twice, once before going overseas in ’97 and again, nine years later when I returned to the States.

Mark looked over at me, a dare in his eyes. “Want me to put the top down?”

“Yes!”

I kicked off my sandals and jumped onto the seat as he slowly backed out of the Kroger parking lot. I stood up, my face to the sun and tried to keep my balance. My short hair whipped around as he gained speed. “This is living!” I shouted, my words lost in the rush of the wind.

I waved my arms back and forth, thrilled at my own daring. Maybe it was that I was nearing fifty and felt sixteen again. But maybe, with the sun warming my arms and the wind fresh on my face, it didn’t matter that I couldn’t see as much as I used to or that I relied on a red and white cane to get around.  

At that moment, I trusted myself completely.

As we neared the private road leading to Mark’s house, he pulled the car over.

“Drive,” he ordered.

“What? No, I can’t. I couldn’t. Can I?”

“You want to drive, don’t you?” he sounded excited. “Is it a good vision day?”

It was no better or worse than usual, but I said, breathlessly, “Yes, it IS.”

“Then drive.” His voice held a distinct challenge.

***

You’ll have to wait until my book comes out in October to see if I took the wheel or not! Second Sight: Milestones in Mobility is the 4th book in my Mobility Series. Meanwhile, I hope you’ll check out my other books on coping with sight loss to learn about the challenges, and the resilience.

Social Media
To learn more about me, please check out and follow me on my social media sites: I’d love to hear what you think of my excerpt!

I would like to thank Aimee for inviting me to do a guest post.

Amy Bovaird

amy@amybovaird.com

www.AmyBovaird.com


Author Amazon Page

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5 thoughts on “The Pain of Giving Up Driving

  1. Thank you, Aimee, for featuring Amy B. today. She was among the first to read and review my memoir, so kudos for that + her ever-winning attitude.
    Thank God for polka-dotted scarves on luggage and for true, blue friends like Amy. By the way, I have macular degeneration, which is treatable with injections. I’m trying to hang on to my vision, but I have no way of knowing if/when I will have to give up driving. ((( )))

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hi Marian,
      So lovely to read your comment! Thank you for taking time to read my post and the excerpt to my memoir.
      Yes, kudos to you for getting the eye injections with your AMD! I hear they are in the process of testing out drops in lieu of the shots. That may be still quite limited. It seems like they’re going to town in trying to find ways to help those with AMD. Hope you don’t have to give up your driving until you’d rather not mess with it anymore (old, old age!). In the meantime find yourself a polka-dotted scarf and set it aside. You never know what it will come in handy for!
      Thanks again!
      Amy

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Hi Aimee,
    Thanks for inviting me to do a guest post. I appreciate it and hope all is going well in your recuperation from your surgery. Praying for a clean bill of health from the doctor today. Take care and God bless!
    Amy

    Like

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