Driving Me Crazy

driverLong ago, husband and I determined that, whenever possible, the job of teaching our children would be delegated to professionals.  It’s not that we lack skills, but rather patience.  After several episodes of family meltdown on ski slopes, ice rinks, and swimming pools, we raised the white flag.  Better to preserve an amicable family dynamic than risk damage to our relationships over the breast stroke.  Our plan cost us thousands of dollars but saved us the possibility of nervous breakdowns or homicide.

Fast forward sixteen years to the opening chapter of Driver’s Ed.  I was shocked, but delighted, to pay close to $1000 for Principessa to learn all things car from the local school.  In a convenient memory lapse, I convinced myself that her twelve hours with the instructor would magically spare me many more hours of grief.  I know, naivete has no limits.

It turns out that the driving instructor was a handsome 20-something who apparently thought that my daughter’s driving was so perfect, he could catch up on texting whilst she experimented with her own rules of the road.  I could have complained, but truth be told, I knew it would take more than twelve hours behind the wheel no matter who sat beside her.

I was duly panicked to take the passenger seat but husband jumped in with his signature, ‘It’ll be fine’ attitude.  It wasn’t fine.

Six months after receiving her permit Principessa was still unclear about right-of-way and traffic lanes.  She blamed her confusion on the conflicting instruction she had received from husband and me.  Not to mention the way it was delivered – with a healthy dose of yelling.

Poor Principessa – first in line.   All along the way, she has suffered the brunt of our parental inexperience, helping us to carve out rules that would be solidly established by the time her siblings came of age.   They can thank her for the following rules of the road:  no driving with both parents in the car at once, no radio, no eating, no friends, no flip-flops…. Take note, parents.  I give you lessons learned the hard way.

The most helpful tip I can share was created by a desperate and teary-eyed Principessa, “Mom, maybe it would help if you pretended to be someone else.”  What?  You want me not to be your crazed, anxious, white-knuckled mother in the passenger seat?   Genius!  From thence forward, I became ‘Bernard’ (pronounced Bah-naaahd) and Principessa became ‘Barbie’ (prounounced Bahhh-bie).

From the moment we adopted our alter egos with thick Boston accents, the mood in the car transformed.  It’s wondrous that we didn’t crash, so steeped were we in humorous banter.  Barbie and Bernard had a grand time on the road – for the most part.  To say that I became a flawless driving instructor would suggest a level of aplomb beyond my abilities as a quick-tempered Italian.  But I was a vast improvement incognito.

As the License Exam day approached, I found myself afraid that Principessa would fail, thereby extending my tenure as driving instructor.  So we crammed in late night sessions of parallel parking and three-point turns.  She would pass this test, damn it.  My sanity depended on it.

Alas, she did.  I waved goodbye to her on her maiden solo voyage, and recalled a radio advertisement that claims “the first year of a teen’s driving is the most dangerous year of her life.”  What the what?!  I needed that terrifying tidbit like I needed an inflated auto insurance premium.

When Principessa offered to take her siblings on an outing to the beach, I nearly vomited from the thought of losing all three at once in a car crash.   It’s going to take me a while to get used to this and to appreciate the positive aspects of having one less child to shuttle around.  In the meantime, I’m losing sleep and gaining gray hair.  And, despite that, loving it all.

The Old Shoe


I am an old shoe, shoved to the back of the closet, worn thin and out of style.  But in my hay-day I was really something.  Your consideration of my needs will polish me and help me to shine again.


I am slowing, not fading.  Please give me time to catch up.

I am needy, but not helpless.  Allow me to do what I can, and trust me when I say ‘I can’t.’

I am dull in senses but not without feeling.  Be gentle with me.

I am less clear mentally, but not stupid.  Treat me with respect.

I am fearful, but still hopeful.  Protect me and my remaining dreams.

I have less bodily control, but no less dignity.  Shield me from embarrassment and teach me things in a way that doesn’t diminish me.

I value the old ways that defined my youth.  Please don’t invalidate my long-held  beliefs.

You cannot expect me to be who I was. I am changed.  But I have not lost ‘it’ and you have not lost me.  I am still the mother who carried babies, the man who supported a family, the person who achieved and gave generously of resources.  I’m a little more crusty and vague, I admit.  But I am still valuable.   I hope you see that too.


This post is dedicated to the clients whom I am privileged to work with every day.  And to aging people everywhere.

Good Morning, Monday

keep-calm-and-love-mondayGood morning, Tiredness.  Hello Bad Mood.  Greetings, Schedule That Makes Me Cringe.  I’ve barely opened my eyes and there you are waiting for me.  How did you get in again?  Did I leave the door open?  I’ve got to remember to lock it when I go to bed.

You creatures are like a cold draft blowing through the cracks of my house.  I shiver and shudder at the feel of you and roll over to pretend it’s still dream time.  But you don’t leave.  You get increasingly loud, demanding that I rise and start the week.

Listen up.  I want you to wait outside the door.  You can’t be gathering at the foot of my bed like this.  I’m likely to trip over you and hurt myself.  I need some space in the dark of the early morning.  If you’d step aside, I might be able to peel myself off the pillow and proceed with my morning.  Making this body move is hard enough without you getting in the way.  Shoo.  Away with you.  I want to get off on the right foot.

I close my eyes tight and wish like a child for the demons to be gone when I open them again.  Someone save me.

Oh, hello Gratitude – my knight in shining armor.  Slay my dragons and whisk me away.

“You are not paralyzed.  You have the ability to move on your own.”  Grateful.

“You have a job and a home and food to eat.”  Grateful.

“You are fortunate to have lived another day.  It is a gift.”  Grateful.

Thus, Gratitude pulls me up and leads me out of the nightmare of Monday.  It splashes water in my face and opens my eyes to what’s really happening.  A day.  That’s all.  Not a nightmare.  Not a curse.  Just a day.  Seize it.

Oh, the tricks I have to play to ward off negativity.  It blows through the cracks in my soul like the cold winter wind.  Perhaps if I caulk the spaces with enough gratitude,  I can insulate myself against the pain of it’s bite.  It’s all I can hope for.  Monday mornings, like the New England winter, aren’t going away anytime soon.

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