I was probably eight years old when it started. My mother, well into her thirties, decided she wanted to learn to drive a car. Being a very proud woman, she didn’t want anyone to know until she had actually passed the driving test. That included my father. He worked the second shift at a large aircraft manufacturing plant and alternated driving to work with four other men. I watched my mother stare at his car outside, mustering up her nerve, until one day I heard her say, “I can do this.”
Then every afternoon after my father left for work and the coast was clear, my mother told me to climb into the back seat. Off we went. I spent most of those hours cowering in the back with my hands over my eyes. I would like to tell you that in just a few short afternoons my mother became an excellent driver, but that would not be the truth. The truth was I thought I had a better chance of getting my driver’s license first. That’s when I began to wonder if telling the truth was as simple as all the adults in my life led me to believe.
I heard their conversations. My father complained to my attentive but silent mother that he couldn’t understand what was happening to the gas in his car. He referred to it as “his” car because no one else in the family could drive…he thought. My mother never really lied, she just never told the whole truth and nothing but the truth. So my father was convinced that the teenage son of our neighbor was siphoning the gas out of his car in the middle of the night. My father lost many a night’s sleep watching out his bedroom window to catch the perpetrator in action. My mother eventually passed her driver’s test and confessed the reason for the disappearing gas to my father. He laughed.
I just left a meeting with my mother’s doctor. I slip quietly into her room at the skilled nursing facility as she sleeps. I smile as I watch this fragile little gray-haired woman and remember that story. My mother’s determination and persistence afforded her the independence of being able to drive herself wherever she wanted to go for almost sixty years. Now as I sit by her bed, I am reminded once again how simply telling the truth is not that simple at all. She has been anxiously awaiting her release to go home. Back to the familiarity of daily routines that were comforting to her. Back to sit in the driver’s seat of her car and feel the freedom of driving to the grocery store, to get her hair done, or to go to church without having to ask anyone to take her and wait on them to come.
I am the one who should tell her the truth. Tell her she will not be going back to her home to live again. Tell her that she will never be able to drive again. Tell her that she will not remember all those memories that endear her to me. She stirs, opens her eyes, sees me, and asks, “Did you see my doctor?” I hesitate, smile, and say, “He thinks you are an amazing woman.” Well, I did tell the truth…I’ll just have to wait for another day when I can muster up the nerve to say, “I can do this.” Then I will tell the whole truth, and nothing but the truth. So, help me, God.