I spent the morning with the worst butterflies in stomach feeling, with the 12.30pm driving test approaching. Luckily, my Dad had forgotten what today was all about. I say luckily, because post stroke, he has a tendency to worry over everything. (Anyone who knew my Dad before his ordeal, would know this is out of character for him). My Mum was buzzing around as usual, going from one task to another. When I asked her how she was feeling about the impending driving test, she said, abruptly, “Let’s just get this blasted thing done!” Blasted is a word my Mum uses a lot these days. I don’t like blasted.
Right on cue, just before 12.30pm, a man arrived at my parents’ door. Mum was upstairs. The Assessor introduced himself to my Dad and I, then I quickly explained to Dad what Mum was about to do. Mum appeared, and the man asked her for all their vehicle documents and certificate of insurance. At this time, she did not make eye contact with this friendly chap! He then asked her if she was ready to go, to which she replied “I suppose so!” Dad and I watched from the window, as the little red car sped off.
We spent the next 45 minutes discussing my Mum. This was a good day for Dad, in terms of his thought processes. He was ordering his thoughts really well and asking me valid questions. We were both incredibly anxious about the energetic Virgo, behind the wheel of the little red Vauxhall. Dad kept asking me what I thought the outcome of Mum’s assessment would be. Honestly, I just didn’t know.
At 1.20pm, the little, red car arrived back on the driveway. They both came in and I invited the man to sit down. He explained that he quickly had to sit and write up the examination before discussing the outcome. Dad was sat beside Mum, and asked her how it went, she told him that it had gone “perfectly well.”
The Assessor was ready to speak. He thanked Mum for taking him out in the car, then told her that he unfortunately had to deem her unfit to drive. I can’t explain how I felt at this point, as my emotions were all over the place…. Relieved, guilty, sad, nervous. He then proceeded to explain where she had failed.
I don’t think I was quite ready for this next bit! …. “Mary, driving towards Whimple, did you realise you had joined a funeral cortège?” Oh no, kill me now! Today was not meant to have any funny in it. I wasn’t prepared for funny! I was sat looking at Evie by my feet, willing myself not to laugh in a terribly awkward situation. I hoped this chap’s comedy genius ended here. It didn’t. My Mum then replied “Er, no?” I looked at the man praying he’d end the funeral procession anecdote. Arghh!! “Mary, you sat in a long line of mourners on their way to the crematorium. You were doing 20 mph. Other cars were overtaking the funeral cortège. You did not. In fact, you were tailgating the last of the procession.” By this point I’m desperately trying to stifle the biggest laugh. My Mum was still reeling from the initial verdict of ‘unfit to drive.’ My Dad was trying to keep up with the whole conversation. Me… I was just trying to keep my composure. This was so hard!
He then explained further things she had not carried out successfully; failing to see a young child running along the pavement in Ottery, not making allowances in her driving for his unpredictability, taking the whole road up between Ottery and Alfington, compromising cars coming from the opposite direction. My Mum remained belligerent. She was tutting. My poor Dad was teary eyed, as he dreaded the impending ramifications of this assessment.
The chap was such an empathetic character. This was a difficult verdict for a fiercely independent 77 year old to accept. She was still fighting her corner… “There are far worse drivers than me out there! I’ve not caused one accident in my life!!” I interjected that we needed to keep it this way! He was very sympathetic to Mum’s cause, whilst defending his verdict to keep her off the roads.
I walked him out to his car and joked that he should now head to the pub! He privately confessed to me that Mum had even started “polishing the dashboard” whilst driving along the A30. Marvellous!!
When I got back into the house, my Mum had tears. I’ve not seen any real emotion for over a year, so this was hard to take. I know, between the GP and I, that we were the reason behind her tears. She then began slamming doors and banging around, much like a teenager not getting their own way. Dad couldn’t cope. He sat there so vulnerable and drained.
Fortunately, my hubby had the day off and was painting the garden fences. I phoned him and asked him to come around and explain why this had to happen. As always, my old man was fantastic. My Mum has always hero worshipped the Bugsy. Even in the throes of Dementia, this can still be seen. Just when we thought that she understood she cannot ever drive again, she said she’d still be able to do short trips to Tesco!! At this point, my husband said he had to take the car keys off her. What an emotional roller coaster. Bugsy then went out and reversed the car against the back gate. As Mum watched, she was crying. I was crying. This was so hard. It’s a relief she won’t be a danger to other road users, or herself. But, again, it’s a decision I’ve had to make on her behalf.
On a lighter note, post stroke, it’s very common for a person to suffer from constipation. Dad has this problem. So I went to buy him something stronger than the Senokot he’d been taking. The Boots Pharmacist was hilarious! I am grateful for all the laughs I can get right now. He said that the Movicol “should start the party!!” … This is definitely a party I don’t want to be invited to!
So, when Hats and I arrived at Mum and Dad’s with the new medicine, we made Dad up a drink with a sachet. My parents have always shared everything… It seemed the Movicol was no exception! “Mary, would you like to try some?” …. Cue the Mother reaching for his glass! (Talk about a joint exit!!!).