Life is a Highway

By Crystal Hayduk

Sitting behind the wheel of his “new” car, a 25-year-old, brown Lincoln Continental, he was as happy as I’d ever seen him. The sun reflecting off the chrome could not outshine the gleam in his eyes.

“Dad, why such a big car?” I asked through the open window, standing in the parking lot next to his purchase. “This thing is a gas hog!”

“Get in.” He gestured to the buttery leather seat beside him. “Let’s go for a ride.”

I closed my eyes for a moment, as memories of sitting in the back seat of his old blue station wagon came flooding back. Driving the hilly, country roads on sunny Sunday afternoons. Rushing wind through four open windows blowing my hair. Stopping for ice cream cones, racing to lick the drips before they made a sticky mess.

Dad easily maneuvered the vehicle into downtown traffic. He allowed the Lincoln to speak for itself, with its quiet, smooth ride.

As we drove along, he pointed out some of his haunts. “This club is where Rob and I go to play cards.”

Passing through restaurant row, he noted that he and his friends get coffee at Burger King, McDonald’s, Perkins, and Eat ‘n Park. “Did you know they have senior discounts?”

I had never thought about senior discounts, but the revelation piqued my curiosity about his caffeine consumption.

“Several of the ladies and I go to T.O.P.S. here,” he said, interrupting my mental calculations of milligrams of caffeine.

“What’s T.O.P.S.?”

“It’s a weight-loss club - Take Off Pounds Sensibly.” Never taking his eyes off the road, he leaned slightly toward me and whispered, “Once in a while, we go to Dunkin’ Donuts after the meetings.”

I laughed.

We drove past the park and the movie theater – entertainment for nice days and rainy days. He even mentioned road trips to a casino in a nearby city.

Then we drove by doctors’ offices where he spent time, either for himself or with a friend in need; the hospital and skilled care facility where he visited friends who were laid up; and “the best funeral home – it’s been family-owned since I was a kid,” he declared.

By the time we pulled into Bruster’s for homemade ice cream, I realized that Dad’s ability to drive was a key factor in the satisfaction he felt at this stage of his life.

“You like to get around,” I admitted between licks of chocolate chip cookie dough ice cream. “But I still don’t understand why you bought this behemoth. It’s going to cost a small fortune in gas and insurance.”

“It’s not just for me,” he said, pausing to make eye contact.  

He explained that the car was big enough to seat passengers comfortably. He was blessed with the health, sight, and hearing to serve others. Many of his friends had given up their keys for one reason or another, but his driving helped them stay active.

When we returned to his senior apartment building, several residents were chatting in the lobby. They were eager to hear a report about my first ride in “Al’s Lincoln.”

“If it weren’t for your dad driving us, we’d sit around here a lot,” said a woman.

Her husband chimed in. “And he’s good company.”

As another woman prepared to fetch a casserole for Dad, she winked. “He’s very popular.”

And with that phrase, I finally put two and two together. Just as a licensed teenager with a car is popular among his friends, a licensed senior citizen with a car is popular, too. Access to transportation affords the freedom and independence to remain active.

“There’s no load I can't hold
Road so rough this I know
I'll be there when the light comes in
Tell 'em we're survivors

Life is a highway
I want to ride it all night long….” (From “Life is a Highway” by Tom Cochrane, 1990.)

Many seniors lack access to quality transportation. Contact Our Family Friend to learn more about how caregivers can help with transportation for shopping, errands, appointments, meetings, and activities.