01/18/2012 12:29 pm ET Updated Mar 19, 2012

Taking Away Grandma's Car Keys

For years, I've been begging my Mom to drive. She's 74 years old and she hasn't driven since she was 17. At that time she was living in Venezuela and she was driving around with friends and she accidentally ran into a police car, then she left the scene and ran into another police car, then she fled that scene and handed over the wheel to a boy in the car who, in several terrifying minutes of twists and turns, got them home safely. Now, one might say she shouldn't have run from the police. In a perfect world, true, in the Venezuela of the 1950s not so much. My mother's parents had explained to her that the country was ruled by a dictator, the police were corrupt and God only knows what might happen if a pretty little teenaged American girl got arrested. Nuff said.

So my Mom never drove again. All my growing up years my Dad was the family chauffer. Now my Mom lives alone with a bevy of cats and gets around on buses, trains and by bumming rides from neighbors. So I'm always saying, "Mom, c'mon, get a car! Or just get a driver's license and rent a car if you need to." But she won't do it.

So the other night I'm at my friends Maxie and Tim's house and after a lovely dinner Maxie gets a phone call. Her face drops. This ain't good. Turns out Maxie's Mom, who is my Mom's age, give or take, went to the local farmer's market then somehow wound up at a drug store 80 miles away. Lost, disoriented, several hours she couldn't account for. Wisely the people at the drug store told her to stay put and contact a family member to come get her. So Maxie's husband Tim, who was about to kick back and watch the Falcons game and enjoy a few beers, volunteered to go pick up his father in law, then go find Maxie's mom and follow them back to safety. A four hour ordeal.

Luckily, Tim saved the day, qualifying him for his own wing in the son in law hall of fame.
The next day it occurred to me that if my Mom finally bowed to my pressure and got a license and a car, she could go to the store and wind up in Alabama and I'd have to sit her down for the "Mom, I don't think you should drive anymore." at which point Mom would grab the first blunt object she could find and bludgeon me to death. So I'm just going to let it go. Besides my Mom is a nervous wreck. She'd probably be a lousy driver. That said, my brother is an awful driver and I've got an uncle who has killed more mail boxes than email.

The real kicker to this whole thing is the realization the parents of my entire peer group are old, and being old affects their lives in all sorts of unpleasant ways. Lets face it, losing your ability to drive is losing your freedom. Those strong, young, confident people who raised us are old. Which means way too soon, we'll be old. Someday I'll be leaving the Red Lobster after dinner and someone will say, "Phil?... you okay to drive?" And I'll say, "What?... am I still alive?" Then let let me drive anyway because they have TV shows to watch or whatever.

When I was in my twenties and I saw an old person driving; lumbering down the road in a Lincoln Town Car, going 25 MPH, left turn signal on since the Nixon administration, nothing but white hair and knuckles visible, I'd think, "Give it up Grandpa!"

Now I think, "You go Grandpa!... but please, stay the hell away from me!"