Jan 182019

Ninety-seven-year-old Prince Philip, the husband of Queen Elizabeth II, flipped his Land Rover on one of the family estates earlier this week. Reports say he was uninjured, but two women in a Kia sustained minor injuries. While no fault was cited in reports, MSN notes “Witnesses told the BBC Philip appeared’very shocked’ and shaken after the collision, which caused the Land Rover he was driving to overturn.”

While certainly not the top story on any media outlet in these days of Rasputin, several pundits weighed in on the question that challenges Baby Boomers. Should my aging parent continue to drive? I guarantee you my 88-year-old father and I will have a discussion about this in the next few days, and he will cite Prince Philip’s driving and his age. Never mind the Prince was likely driving with an aide in the wide-open spaces of Sandringham Estate. Never mind he was in a Land Rover. Never mind he was likely at low speed.

My father is a very active man. He lives in the town where he went to college and still participates in college activities. He is very busy in his fraternity which is about three miles from the senior center where he lives in an apartment. Last weekend his area received about seven inches of snow. His 8 a.m. Saturday morning alumni fraternity meeting was not canceled. Dad insisted on going and finangled a younger fraternity brother to pick him up.

While you may think I’m being overly critical, the whole driving thing is something I can fully understand. I have not driven at night for probably 15 years (unless there is a dire emergency, which hasn’t happened yet.) Winter is challenging because where we live on the eastern side of the Central Standard Time Zone, its pretty dark after 4 p.m. This is one of the reasons I retired early.

Dad had a stroke in his eye about two months ago. He recovered, and his eye doctor was amazed at how well he did. My brother and I didn’t want him driving as he recovered. And it wasn’t only his vision — it was his car, a 2000 Park Avenue Buick. If you are unfamiliar with the model, visit any senior center in your area and go to where the residents park their cars. I’ll buy you a cherry Coke if you don’t find at least six of the Park Avenue sedans, in beige, the color of the year. The good thing about this vehicle is that is it the size of the semi-trailers Ringling Bros formerly used to haul elephants to the circus. You can see him coming, as well as keep six sides of beef in the trunk for transport if that tickles your fancy.

Dad’s girlfriend who has a much newer Nissan small SUV (which sits up higher and make it easier to see from the wheel) was the primary driver during his incarceration from driving. He was not a happy camper.

It will be interesting to see if Prince Philip stops driving. While he has people who can drive him around, so does my father. My brother lives a mile away and takes him many places. His senior center has a bus that will take him to and from his doctor’s appointments. (Dad is not a fan because of the six dollar fee and the inconvenience of waiting.) And of course Dad’s girlfriend is happy and willing to be the driver.

Of course, I worry about Dad. But I also worry about the other guy. I don’t drive at night anymore because my night vision is terrible and I’m afraid. Fear is not the right mind-set for driving, but neither is unfounded confidence.

hen I was a child and grew up in snowy NE Indiana, we rarely missed church or a high school basketball game because of weather. My dad always drove a big Chevy sedan. No 4-wheel drive. No SUV. No special traction control. If you went into the ditch, someone pulled you out. It was a small county, and everyone knew everyone. It’s a different world now, and Dad lives in a small city where he doesn’t know everyone.

One must respect the independence driving gives my father and countless other seniors like him. AARP has outlined excellent talking points for the difficult conversation. I guess I’ll forward this along to Prince Charles and Princess Anne.

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