News from the Tennessee Valley Columnists
SUNDAY, MAY 22, 2005


Driving off into the unknown

Seth talked to me in a man's voice as he drove us to the driver license examiner's office.

But the hand that turned the steering wheel was the same that held my hand just a few years ago on the way to kindergarten class.

I remember how difficult it was then to turn loose and let my son begin his journey. Now we're close to that time when he will drive out of my life, into the unknown.

After he passed the test and posed for his license photo, the woman behind the counter asked if I planned to write about it in the newspaper.

I knew what she meant.

Would poor Seth have to endure another of his father's attempts at humor? I told her I didn't know.

Seth and I survived close calls on the way to this point, but we also had a few laughs.

At age 14, driving seemed like an unattainable goal as he steered my old pickup, jerking and sputtering, through the hayfield. We almost lost Spot on the first outing when dog and boy played accidental chicken.

We both recall the deer that Seth hit one night on Nance Ford Road, just south of where rookie drivers in mule-drawn wagons used to ford Flint Creek on the Nance farm.

If I joke about my oldest son driving solo, I do so with hesitance, knowing the permanent heartache that a teenage mistake can become. The statistics on 16-year-old drivers speak for themselves.

I warned him that I have employed a network of informants to tell me how he's driving. If you see him out on the roads, feel free to relay any feedback.

As I have emphasized to him, driving is a privilege, not a right.

While I reserve the authority to take his keys, I know my control is quickly slipping away in most areas of his life. After all, it is his life.

All I can hope is that the good things he has learned from me will overcome whatever bad things I have taught him. Maybe he can apply that to the road ahead.

I'm happy that he passed his driver's exam. I'm excited for him as he looks forward to more independence. I'm proud of the direction that he seems to be headed. I hope he can keep his life between the ditches.

It's a bittersweet experience for a father who, in many ways, is still standing there in the kindergarten hallway.

It's tough, this letting go.

Scott Morris Scott Morris
DAILY City Editor

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