It’s been a long time since Blake took naps on my chest while I pretended to be a good dad when I was really just finding an excuse to take a nap.
If he did that now, I would need a much bigger recliner. Watching his almost 6-foot tall frame wander around the house is a constant reminder of how old I am getting. I was 33 when he was born. Recent developments have really driven home the fact that he is getting older — and I guess I am joining him for the ride, and according to my 14-and-a-half-year-old son, that means in the car as well.
There aren’t many better examples of a rite of passage than learning to drive. I know I was excited to learn. I was one of a lucky few Oklahoma kids who was allowed to get a permit at 15 instead of 15 and a half. My mom took on the task of teaching me to drive.
One memorable lesson came when she let me drive her to an appointment where I got to navigate the open highway. While I was learning to drive, mom was telling me a story about watching Larry teach Balki to drive on the sitcom “Perfect Strangers.” Bronson Pinchot had a brief run where he played funny characters with heavy accents. Perfect Strangers was his opportunity on the small screen. He played a similar character on Beverly Hills Cop on the big screen.
Our family watched the show and mom decided to recount the story of Larry sitting Balki on the coffee table with a plunger for a gear shift, frozen broccoli for an accelerator, and a grapefruit for a brake.
As I was driving down the highway at about 55 miles per hour, mom reached the point of the story where Larry gave Balki the first real test.
I was only halfway paying attention to her story because I was busy trying not to kill us in real life.
That’s when mom did it.
“Look out!” she yelled, mimicking the sitcom scene. Not realizing that it was just a funny part of the story, I slammed on the brakes making the car screech to a stop on a highway.
Luckily, no one was behind us on that stretch of road so we lived to laugh about it.
That was a good lesson I learned for when the time came to teach Blake. He isn’t of legal age for a permit, so we found a nice big private parking lot and I let him cruise around and practice his parking and navigating from one part of the parking lot to the other. For his first time behind the wheel, he didn’t do too badly.
At first, he wanted to use his left foot for braking. That’s probably my fault. I didn’t tell him that driving the pickup was different than the go carts he has been speeding around in for years.
Also thanks to the go carts, he had a heavy foot on the accelerator and the brake. Needless to say, our heads bounced back and forth a little bit.
With a few more lessons, he will be more than ready when it is time to get him a legal permit.
Unlike my lessons with my mom, Blake’s first lesson was uneventful. I hope they stay that way.
One of the most difficult things for Dawit has been catching up with English. He had a toddler’s mastery of Tigrinyan when he was taken to an Addis Ababa foster home where they spoke mainly Amharic. Then a year later, he was in an English-only home in Kansas. He had very limited language at four years of age.
He learned ways around it and, most of the time, you have no idea that he doesn’t always understand everything he hears.
One good example came when we went to lunch with a lot of my family for my brother’s birthday Sunday. At some point, either on television or maybe from his grandfather, Dawit heard someone joke that their scrambled eggs were egg-cellent. It was a funny joke so he decided to tell his joke at the family lunch for the bigger audience.
When asked how his lunch was, Dawit went for the punchline, “It was egg-perfect.”
He didn’t get that the joke was funny because eggs were egg-cellent. So he didn’t see why his steak being egg-perfect wasn’t as funny.
Well, it was funny. We all laughed. The joke wasn’t funny, but his delivery still made it work.
We have to remember times like these when he does things that seem especially obstinate. It isn’t always disobedience. Sometimes his English just isn’t egg-perfect.
— Kent Bush is publisher of Shawnee (Oklahoma) News-Star and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.