Perseverance

Perseverance. That’s my mom’s middle name. It isn’t written on her birth certificate, but it should be.

Over a year ago, Mom received a notice from DMV that she was required to take the written test to renew her driver’s license.

No problem. She hustled herself, me in tow, down to DMV, got in line and pulled a number.

The place was crowded, as usual. We chatted until her number was called. A52. B-I-N-G-O.

The clerk told her, because of her age – over 80 – she was required to take the Written test.

She hadn’t taken the Written test in years. In fact, DMV normally sent her renewal without demure. But in Los Angeles there’d been a lot of accidents by elder drivers, so much so, we heard about them regularly on the nightly news: an old man sped down 2nd Street Promenade while the street was blocked off for the weekly Farmers Market … he said the accelerator was stuck, which was later disproved; a confused woman in Westminster drove through a donut shop window thinking she was backing up, not accelerating; a disoriented man drove onto the freeway going against traffic. Week after week the news was plagued with similar stories. All elderly.

Now in her 80’s Mom fell within that block of drivers.

She passed the Written test. 100%. No errors.

She took the Eye test and for the first time, failed. WHAT?

She knew she had cataracts so she stopped driving at night years ago. Otherwise she saw fine . . . well, except, she had trouble reading street signs. Didn’t matter because she drove only during daylight within a 10 mile radius from her house. She knew where she was going and how to get home from the market, dry cleaners, community center and library.

She let a few weeks pass then returned to DMV to retake the Eye test. Fail.

(For the next year Mom and I would go to DMV every 3 months for a test or to get an extension on her Driver’s License. She refused to give up, no matter what.)

Cataract surgery was her only hope.

She talked with everyone she knew about their experience with cataract surgery. Young, old, indifferent. Everyone raved over the wonders of seeing further, and more clearly. They told her, After the operation you’ll feel like a veil has been lifted from your eyes.

Her general practitioner sent her to an optomologist who immediately scheduled her for surgery. One eye at a time. That way she wouldn’t be dependent on anyone.  (Independence is her other middle name.)

Though she was nervous about subjecting herself to a surgery that would temporarily impair her vision she wanted her driver’s license even more.

Dr. Eyes performed the first operation. Within days she knew the operation was successful.  Dr. Eyes went on a 3-month vacation. Her second operation was scheduled within weeks of his return.

In about nine months both eyes were healed and with glasses her vision was just about 20/20 again.

DMV gave her a form for Dr. Eyes to complete verifying her restored vision.

But when she delivered the form to DMV the clerk gave her an Eye test again. She passed.

Then the clerk told her she had to take the Behind-The-Wheel-Driving test. WHAT?

Annoyed, and a bit confused, she scheduled the Driving test. DMV only tests senior citizens certain days per week. She had to wait some weeks to take the test.

And failed.

Problems: (1) she didn’t look over her shoulder to ensure no cars were in her blind spot, (2) wrong speed limit, (3) didn’t follow instructor’s directions.

Undaunted she scheduled the test again. Failed.

Problem: not looking over her shoulder to ensure no cars were in her blind spot.

The examiner advised her to practice. Don’t rush back to take the third, and final, driving test. Take a class. Read the manual. Have her family test her according to rule of the road. Mom did it all.

She took a refresher course at her community senior center. She devoted one whole Saturday to learn all she could from a certified driving instructor.

And the Automobile Club of Southern California offers a driving course designed for senior citizens. Mom enrolled. An Auditor drove with her for 45 minutes to assess her driving skills. He concluded that she drives fine, but must remember to look over her shoulder for cars in her blind spot. He said, “You’ll never pass unless you look over your shoulder . . . ”

She scheduled the final, Behind-The-Wheel-Driving test.

If she passed, she’d have her license for at least 3 more years.

If she failed . . . she’d face that if it happened.

On Test Day she was upbeat and optimistic.

In the car, before the examiner joined her, she recounted: look over the shoulder, watch speed limit, and follow examiner’s instructions.

She PASSED.

Joy, relief, accomplishment radiated from her glowing face.

She’ll never have to drive another day in her life if she doesn’t want to. But she can if she wants ’cause she has a current California driver’s license.

Perseverance.  That’s my mom.

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