The Changing Face: To Drive Or Not To Drive?

Written by Berdjouhi Esmerian, Brickstone Resident

As the years go by, from birth to where we are in the present moment, our bodies change. This is taken for granted. Yet, one change I have difficulty understanding is our physical appearance, specifically our faces, even after we reach adulthood. Our bodies change, but our best identifying feature, our face, becomes so different that I have difficulty reconciling my changing face with what I’ve know it all along. I look at pictures of long ago and I am amazed at the difference from my twenties to my forties, to the sixties, and now my eighties. As I look in the mirror, I cannot help wondering who that stranger is. Originally it was a young girl, then a young woman, then a mature woman, and then one day I saw my Mother’s face looking back at me. I realized that I was moving slower, there were some aches and pains in the joints as I stirred, the sound on TV had to be turned up a little bit higher than usual, etc. My memory was playing tricks on me. This is when I came up with my favorite quotation:

“If you want to stay young, you have to die young.”

Eventually, the day arrived when I realized that I had to make a very serious decision, even more serious than the one that brought me to Brickstone—it would be wise if I stopped driving. Each time I needed to go somewhere, I had to convince myself that I would be OK driving the car. I had gradually become uncomfortable and hesitated getting into it. Once I was behind the wheel and on the road, I did well, as good a driver as ever. Still, there were times when I knew my vision was not the best, I was slower than the average driver, the GPS in my brain did not work as fast as before to get me to my destination, and at times I felt as though I was in a fog.

As the months were going by, the car was in the garage more days than out for even a short drive for an errand.

I mentioned to some friends that I was considering giving up driving. They tried to discourage me and convince me that I was a good driver and healthy and “too young” at almost 85 to make such a drastic decision. I would regret it, they said. I couldn’t survive, in Rochester, without a car, they continued.

I didn’t listen to them and just around my 85th birthday I called the dealer from whom I had bought my car, and arranged for them to buy it back. They were delighted! A 2012 Subaru Legacy with four-wheel drive, not a scratch on the body, and just 45,000 miles on the odometer.

I did it.

How did I feel?

First I had a blank and lost feeling. Then I started wanting to have my car back and drive somewhere with such a passion I couldn’t understand. Someone said, I was grieving, another said I’d get used to it, another one offered to get me anything I needed from the store. Nevertheless, I wanted to get into my car, any car, and drive. I missed it. I wanted to drive. I even considered actually buying another car. Then it hit me: I was having “car withdrawal” just like withdrawal for chocolate, or cigarettes, or alcohol. This wasn’t grief, but true withdrawal.

As the weeks continue to pass by, I am adjusting to a new way of life of planning very closely all my outings by asking for our Transportation Service or accepting friends’ offers to drive me somewhere. I recently took a trip out to the Yarn Shop through Lyft. St. John’s has a partnership with the on-demand transportation company. Overall, the trip was a new experience and was very easy for me. The most interesting thing was the technology of how it all works.

All of these options, however, take a lot of planning. I cannot just go to Eastview Mall, the Yarn Shop, Wegmans, or anywhere else for an immediate need. In the spare time that I have now, I have begun to reorganize my apartment and pick up where I left off while I was finishing So Many Homelands.

My best consolation is that I don’t have to pay the high car insurance premium for an octogenarian.

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