My oldest son is learning to drive. I am seeing San Pedro through new eyes as a passenger and not a mom who has spent years shuffling kids around. With less traffic, it is the perfect time for somebody to learn to drive, plus our cars have spiderwebs on the side mirrors and need to be driven every now and then.
Thankfully for my nerves, my son took his first mandatory behind-the-wheel driving lessons with an instructor prior to the world shutting down. When he drove away – or should I say, screeched off – for his first lesson, my husband and I watched from our front window feeling both nostalgic for the passing of time and grateful that somebody else was teaching him to drive.
My son drives my dad’s old truck and we do some essential errands, but we aren’t rushing around as I did before the pandemic. In the past, driving with him to get his required hours might have been on a to-do list. Now I can really take the time to enjoy him and the many interesting houses, buildings, and views that I have driven by but never noticed. It makes me think about what else I missed in life being so busy before, which I now think is completely overrated.
Driving south on Pacific, he makes a left on a yellow light that is more red. I close my eyes, hold on to the dashboard, and yell out a cuss word accidentally. I quickly compose myself and apologize, and we drive to Green Hills where my grandfather is buried. I only met Grandpa John once because I was adopted, and he did not know about me. We spent a few years talking on the phone catching up on lost time. I flew to Salt Lake City with my sister to meet him. He cried when we left a couple of days later when I hugged him goodbye.
A cemetery is an excellent place for new drivers, especially now. My son is a good driver and likes to follow the rules. We find writer Charles Bukowski’s grave not too far from Grandpa John. I have heard people from Europe visit San Pedro to visit his grave. I gave my son a couple of his books, which seemed like a San Pedro thing to do, and he enjoyed them. I look up where Bukowski lived in San Pedro, and we drive by there too.
Over by the old science center behind Home Depot, I ask my son if he remembers our visits there when he was younger. We used to go to the garden and look at the animals, and once danced around a fire pit while a Native American man was drumming. My son’s memories were not clear, but I remember it like it was yesterday. I am enjoying this time with him and hoping he will want to chauffer me over to my dad’s in the future, which is about an hour away.
The last time I visited my dad, I decided to surprise him with take-out from his favorite Mexican restaurant. My dad used to take Dial-A-Ride to the restaurant, but that has not happened for a couple of months. When I called the restaurant and ordered his favorite chicken tostada with green salsa, I forgot what type of drink he liked. I asked the lady on the phone if she happened to remember the man who ate there every Friday for lunch. She fondly remembered him and knew which beer he ordered. When I picked up the order, the beer was in a cup with a lid. I put the beer in my car console and drove to my dad’s. I had no idea if this was legal, and it felt very Las Vegas.
My dad was so happy to have his favorite meal and especially the amber beer. I kept my distance when I saw my dad, wore a mask, and instead of a hug, I gave him his favorite beer. Life is far from perfect right now, but moments like this and driving with my son are the silver linings. spt