His old cargo Chevrolet van sat in the driveway. Brown, with white trim, showing its age. There was only one back seat, the rest was filled with tools, pieces of wood, varnish and scrunched up clothes. Papers littered the floor, and should you decide to sit in the passenger seat, Dad would quickly move around stuff so there was room.
The Dented Van
Most memorable about this van, however, were the dents, nicks and dings. And a few creases. I parked next to the old Chevy in the driveway, cringing at the new crease on the passenger side.
“Dad – how did you get that new crease in the van?”
“That woman plowed right into me!” He replied. “I was pulling out of a parking lot and she drove into my van!”
“Did you see her coming?”
Rather sheepishly he replied, “No, but she should be watching. Besides, everyone gets a few dings on their vehicles, it’s just part of driving.”
I shook my head.
We could never tackle the driving topic directly. That is not how Minnesotans handle controversy.
Dad was too independent to ever stop driving on his own. I talked to my sisters; they agreed something had to be done. So as was my preferred method, I took the indirect route.
The Doctor Visit
We had a doctor visit the next week. Dr. Smith sat at his little desk in the examining room. Dad sat next to him in a chair, and I sat on the other side of Dad, trying to remain inconspicuous.
Dr. Smith gave him his usual mini-mental exam. “What year is it?” “Summer” answered my dad. “Where do you live?” “At home”. “What else is going on Lee?” “I’m dizzy, and no one knows why!”
I pulled a sheet of paper out of my purse, scribbled “DRIVING” and held it up behind my Dad’s back. Dr. Smith said, “How is your driving going Lee?” Surprised, Dad answered “Just fine.” I rolled my eyes and shook up my head. “Well good, let me know if you ever have a problem.”
Dr. Smith ignored my glare.
The Eye Doctor
The next month he had an eye doctor appointment. He regularly saw Dr. Burns due to progressive glaucoma. Surely his eye doctor will pull him off the road, I thought. I conscripted the help of Linda to help with a letter.
Together we drafted a letter to Dr. Burns, spelling out the driving issues and questioning his ability to see, especially at night.
I’ve attached excerpts of our communication, in case you want to copy the wording (even though it did not exactly work for us.)
I asked him how the appointment went. “Fine, I like her a lot. She helps me see, and she really listens.” That’s it, I thought?
I met Dr. Burns at a subsequent appointment. I again brought up the driving situation when he was in another room. Dr. Burns said if he could pass the eye exam at the license bureau, there was nothing she could do.
Clearly the medical community was not going to help with this problem. The sisters indirectly continued our quest to get him pulled off the road, none of us wanting to be the culprit.
Driver’s Bureau Step 1
Next step – write a letter to the Minnesota Department of Safety, the overseers of the driver’s bureau. Again, we explained the situation. Could they require a driver’s test of him?
They replied no, there was nothing they could do. When his license came up they would determine if he could pass the eye test.