By Dr. Marta Adelsman
I wrote the following article for the Verde Independent in the spring of 2004. It was one of the first that I wrote for the paper, and I share it with you here:
Verde Valley AZ (September 28, 2012) – One of the siblings had to do it, and the lot fell to my husband. He needed to convince his mother that she could no longer handle the responsibility of driving.
Her peripheral vision had greatly diminished, and she had had a minor stroke that impaired her judgment. After several challenging conversations about her driving, she reluctantly handed over her car keys.
Seniors often feel gloomy and resentful about giving up their car keys. Each time we spoke to my mother-in-law after she had stopped driving, until her death four years later, she talked about her car and how much she missed it.
With a car, she could come and go as she pleased. She could offer lifts to others. She could avoid “bothering” anyone else for a ride. My mother-in-law relied on her driving ability and her car ownership to elevate her status in the eyes of her non-driving friends. Her car became synonymous with freedom, independence, and self-esteem.
It’s easy to misinterpret the motives of loved ones who threaten to remove that freedom. When my husband spoke to his mother about relinquishing her car keys, she felt insulted, confused, resentful and powerless. She adamantly denied that her decreased peripheral vision, her slowed reflexes, and her tendency toward confusion made her a danger on the road. No one would take away her freedom!
Mom didn’t realize that, in truth, no one could take away her freedom. She couldn’t see that true freedom arose from an inner awareness of her value independent of her actions, abilities and outward possessions.
My mother-in-law taught me something. Watching her helplessness has spurred me into action. I will have a conversation with my three sons during this next year, well before I am a danger to others on the road.
What will I tell them? I will share with them “Mom’s Top Ten Promises to Her Children When They Take Away Her Car Keys:”
1) I will listen.
2) I will assume that your desire to stop my driving comes from your love and care for me.
3) I will accept your assessment and will not argue with you, nor will I try to talk you out of your observations.
4) I will be honest with you about feelings of disappointment or anger that I may have.
5) I will own those feelings instead of blaming you for them.
6) I will get over them.
7) I will be grateful for the money I will save by no longer owning a car.
8) I will be grateful that no one will read about me in the paper as the elderly woman who drove into a schoolyard full of children.
9) I will continue to respect you for being the capable, honorable, trustworthy adults that you are.
10) Without complaining, I will look into alternative modes of transportation.
And one last bonus promise: I will gladly accept rides from you!
Dr. Marta is available for individual and couples coaching. Write her at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 928-451-9482.