Get Back On That Horse

by Loesje Shema

The first thing I remember about my dad was that he simply would not give up. As a child, he seemed harsh and immovable to me, though now it all fits into place in my mind.

I was sixteen or seventeen and learning to drive the car. To teach me, Dad had me drive him all over the county visiting his patients. (Though this was the 1960’s, he still made house calls. Most of his patients were very old or ill with cancer, and lived in the country.)

We lived in a house with a very steep driveway. You could either hit a retaining wall on the left side or fall off a big drop on the right if you didn’t back down just so. I drove our Vista Cruiser station wagon backwards over the bank and three of the wheels were down in the hole. There was enough of the car still on the driveway so that the tow truck could not drive around to pull it up from the front. At Dad’s insistence, they looped the tow cable around a sturdy redwood tree in front of the car, hooked it to the bumper, and pulled from behind. Dad sat in the car and pushed on the accelerator until the car was safely back on the driveway.

I wailed “I’m so sorry! I’m so sorry!” the entire time, panicked that I had destroyed the car.

After the tow truck left, Dad said, “Let’s go,” and got in on the passenger side. I sobbed, “I can’t, I almost ruined the car! Please don’t make me!” He said “Get in the car and back it down the driveway. When you fall off your horse you get back on again.”

There was no arguing with him. I backed the car down without incident, though my eyes felt like boiled eggs from crying so hard.

To this day, I think about my dad when I back down that stinkin’ driveway. He gave me curiosity, strength of character, an ability to laugh at myself, and taught me how to channel being stubborn into the quality of sheer determination.

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