Q For all us grown men who have dads who have passed on, your recent column (Roadshow, April 18) on the death of your Pops was wonderful. I'm sure when you pulled out of the driveway on your final visit to see him, he was shedding tears because he was so proud of you. He may not have gotten the Roadshow thing in life, but I bet now he does.
A Several hundred readers sent sympathy cards, e-mails and letters. I read every one, and your kind words meant so much. Many of you also shared your experience on learning how to drive from your dads.
Q Your beautiful tribute to your father brought back many memories of my father teaching me the fine art of driving. My mother had asked Dad where we were going to go for my initial lesson. Dad indicated that there was practically no traffic out by a new development on the edge of Peoria, and Mother responded: "Well, whatever you do, don't go up that big hill out there." So Dad drove the car to the site, got out, walked around to the passenger side and said: "OK, get behind the wheel and take it up that hill."
Q Well, after a few hiccups getting started and coordinating my left foot and my right foot to not press down on the clutch and accelerator at the same time, we got about halfway up the tallest hill I had ever seen and suddenly the car stalled and started rolling backward down the hill. My dad calmly said, "Hit the brake," and I shoved the clutch to the floor.
A But "...
Q The car, of course, proceeded to go faster backward down the hill. Dad's calmness now escalated into panic as he repeated himself, "Brake, brake, brake!" while I pushed harder on the clutch, clutch, clutch. Dad leaned over with his hand to push down on the brake and as his hand hit the pedal my 17-year-old brain shifted out of neutral and my foot went crushing down on his hand and brake in one swift motion. That 1932 Chevy came to a halt just a few feet from the right side of a ditch. I smile as I recall that story and somewhere in heaven, Dad is having to confess now for the first time to Mother that he hadn't listened to her good advice.
A I think your dad is in for a scolding.
Q I went with my dad to take my driver's license exam the day I turned 16. After completing the behind-the-wheel test, I got out with the examiner, who said to my patiently waiting dad something along the lines of "Well, he did a good job driving, but I think he is too short to see over the hood, so I think we need to include a restriction on his license that he needs to sit on a pillow while driving."
Oh my God, I thought, with a horrible sinking feeling! What 16-year-old boy wants to have a "must sit on pillow" restriction on his license! Imagine what my high school friends would do with that in the cafeteria at lunch. My dad, always a quick thinker, immediately responded that we had another car that was lower and smaller and my height wouldn't be a problem with this one, and that he would let me use only that car until I grew. We didn't have another car, but I didn't say a word and got my license with only a "needs corrective lenses" restriction.
A Smart dad, relieved teen.
Q I remember my dad setting up brooms stuck in pails in front of our house and my having to parallel park between them without knocking them over. No comment on how I did.
A I can only imagine.
Q Your column made me remember my father teaching me to drive. When it was time to leave the parking lot where we'd been practicing, he told me to drive on out the exit. Panicking, I asked, "On the street?" "I hope so," he replied.
A Good one, Dad.
Q I have some similarities to you. I was raised in Chicago, the son of a split household, my mother being a Cubs fan and my dad a Cardinals fan. I learned to drive from my dad in a 1959 Chevy Impala with a stick shift on the column. He was a very patient and wise instructor. We practiced driving on the country roads west of Chicago. He also made us practice in icy parking lots on Sundays when shopping centers were closed, slamming on the brakes to show us what to do in a spinout. He would not let us take our driving test until we had shown on the steep hills of Elgin that we could parallel park with that difficult stick shift Impala. And we were further not allowed to take the test for our license until we could charge a battery and change a tire, the oil, filter and spark plugs. At 16, a young wannabe driver is highly motivated to learn whatever it takes to be allowed to be tested for your license.
A Boy, was your dad a tough but wise one.
Contact Gary Richards at firstname.lastname@example.org or 408-920-5335.