From the time my son, Paul, was a teenager his passion was cars. Eventually he set up a business repairing foreign cars. When I got back up to the States after being in the USVI’s, he suggested and arranged for me to get a 2006 British racing green MINI Cooper S. Boy, was he right on. The MINI fit my minimalist lifestyle perfectly. It is small, compact and comfortable and has the extra power and space when needed. All that at 33 miles per gallon on the road. How about that! The MINI was right there when I needed it. I jumped into the car and took off. The MINI supported my independence and flexibility. And, it is great to look at to boot.
However, I have a condition called Aging Macular Degeneration (AMD), and a little over a year ago I had a cataract operation on my right eye. I developed an inflamed retina. The inflamed retina did not respond to the initial treatment. At the doctor’s recommendation we followed through with the next step — an injection of the medication directly into the eyeball. Two days later a haze developed over my right eye. There was no clear explanation and eventually the haze went away and a mild version of the inflamed retina came back.
My driver’s license expired on my 91st birthday in January. The doctor arranged for me to get a restricted license. It did not allow me to drive at night, on the Interstate or over 45 miles an hour. I felt fine with that because I had pretty much placed those limitations on myself already. I passed the drivers test, got the license with the restrictions, and was good to go. But over the past year I felt less and less comfortable driving and based on my experience.
Here’s what happened. Over the last two months I’ve only used the MINI four times (all at midday when there was little traffic.) I walk to the bank and to the biweekly Farmer’s Market for food and socialization. I have made arrangements with my hairstylist to come to my apartment. I have also tried out EZ Rider, a local transportation service for seniors to see how it works. But I’ve not yet used GoGo Grandparent, a service that provides me with access to Uber and Lyft. I miss driving but I’m still holding off.
Let’s take a look at my reaction to the four times I decided to drive. Two of the four times I went to group presentations. One was at the at the Chapel Hill Library, the other at the Seymour Senior Center. Later in the week I met with Carl, who did a presentation at the Senior Center. The last was at a get-together with my long-time friend, Wanda. I drove us to lunch at a local restaurant, the Jade Palace, where she served as a second pair of eyes. That is part of a longer story that I will tell you about in my next blog post entitled “Significant Changes”.
Each time I was hesitant about driving. Nonetheless, thankfully it came out without a hitch. That made me realize how important the new adjustment is. I’m following through and continuing to work on my new path.
First and foremost, stopping driving severely limits my independence and my flexibility. It also makes me more dependent on others. That is my current reality and it leaves me feeling somewhat uncomfortable. Moreover, the change takes more of my limited time, energy, resources and funds (TERF). Furthermore, as we shall see in the next blog post, no longer using the MINI makes it more difficult to adjust to changes over which I had no control.
For now I’m sticking with the plan, driving as little as possible, only locally and during daylight hours. By checking out the alternatives — like, relying on friends who have offered help, using EZRider, stocking up on supplies, etc.–I am learning the advantages and disadvantages of the various options. Importantly, I pay attention to how I feel about not driving and continue to try out and assess alternate ways of filling the gap that not driving opens up. That approach helps me make the best choice under the current circumstances.
An amended version of this article can be found on WRAL’s website here.