Taken from “Daddy Zen and the Art of the MountainTop” – my Series on a Father’s Love
I don’t recall the moments leading up to my being in the brilliant white 1992 Nissan Pathfinder, but I can tell you exactly how the black knob attached to the two foot long pole which fit mysteriously into the console floor-board felt in my cold, shaking hand that day. Like a doorknob to the one haunted mansion in town that no one dares turn but all brag have had. “I can do this,” was the mantra of my moment.
Dad took me out onto the rural back road “highway”, turned the Pathfinder off, got out and motioned for me to take the driver’s seat. Once settled, he casually instructed, “Put your left foot on the clutch, push it all the way to the floor, put your right foot on the brake, make sure you’re in first gear, and turn the key.” I wanted to say, “What’s a clutch, and how hard do I turn?” But what ended up happening was my insecurity. I did not, no matter how confused I was, want my father to know I had no idea what he was talking about.
The starter screamed and dad shrugged. A second passed and then, “Okay, now, you’re going to let up loosely and slowly on the clutch – and take your foot off the break. The truck will start to go – let all the way up on the clutch and keep your eye on the road. When you need to shift into second, I’ll let you know.”
The lesson continued and I passed without an incredable amount of shame. As we neared our house, dad told me to park down in the depths of the yard, not in the driveway. I thought it was weird, but did it anyway, thinking maybe he was going to dump a load of wood down there later on that night.
There were no great hooray’s for my first driving experience, no big congratulations, just a simple, “How’d it go?” and my response, “I didn’t crash, I guess.”
A few hours later my father came to me, tossed me the keys to the Pathfinder and said, “Hey, go pull the Pathfinder up into the driveway for me.”
I was fourteen. My response was, “Why?” He was much older. And, my father. His response, “Because I asked you too.” Keys in hand I pouted towards the front door, turning at the last minute to face him, “I’m not sure I can.” He again shrugged but this time a little grin surfaced, “Sure you can. You know how now.”
I sat in the Pathfinder for over an hour. The directions were all muffled in my head and I couldn’t remember which came first – the clutch, the brake, turning the keys … and I panicked. I didn’t want to break the truck, I definitely didn’t want to crash it, and I couldn’t, for the life of me, remember the right order. I’d tried a variation of two or three different combinations – all of which failed. So, I just sat there. I sat there staring at the clutch, the brake, the shaft, and the windshield, and hated myself for failing.
A little while later the passenger door opened and in slid my father.
“Whatcha doin’?” He asked.
The tears took over, “I can’t do it, I can’t remember!”
He placed his hand over mine, his gentle over my skin while my fingers white-knuckled on the knob under-neath, “Just relax. Stop. You’re over-thinking it.”
I continued to cry to myself, trying to muffle the sobs, nodding my head.
“When we were out on the road, you had this. Just trust what you learned, and do it. Stop questioning everything. Don’t think, just do it.”
I still couldn’t move.
“Courtney, turn the key.”
My father had noticed that I’d already completed the first three steps. Clutch in, first gear, break on. I just didn’t believe in myself enough to turn the key.
It started beautifully.
“Now, reverse – bring her around, put her in first, and bring her in.”
It went seamlessly. Thing was … I was already doing what I needed. I only needed someone to validate that it was the right thing.
We pulled in to the driveway, I shut her down, handed the keys to dad, and as we walked to the front door side by side he just simply smiled, “Nice … way to go.”
Daddy Zen Valley Talk #2:
1.) Teach someone who desires to achieve the lessons required to achieve and then allow them to learn on their own. When they require a little motivation, validation, and support – be there. But … KEY LESSON … don’t steal their victory because if you do … they will always question and always over-think .. and never be able to bring her home on their own.