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Behind the Wheel This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine.


   As far back as I remember, Dad was driving his 1986 Ford F150 with a four-speed and atough clutch. The dark blue paint was slowly chipping away, leaving rust. Ilearned how to drive in that truck, but I learned something else, too.

Oneafternoon during the winter of eighth grade, Dad told me I would be driving homeafter we finished cutting trees in the pasture. I remember being excited; drivingwas something I had never done before. Dad assisted me with the clutch and gas,and I began the slow process of learning to drive.

Looking back, it wasperfect timing. Had it been a year later, there would have been little room fordriving between a typical high-school schedule and a part-time job. Many of ourdriving excursions included a trip to the Pump Mart for a Pepsi and some scratchlottery tickets. Then we'd drive around the countryside so I could getexperience.

If the truck had been an automatic, I would have caught onquicker. At first, I felt like a baby learning to walk. I could never manage toget my feet to work together on the clutch and the gas, and the engine wouldalways die before I could get it into second gear. One positive aspect was that Inever had to worry about getting a ticket for not stopping at a stop sign, sincemy stops were always long enough.

My other problem was stopping on hills;I would roll backwards when trying to go forward. It would have been a biggerproblem if anyone had been right behind me. Dad made sure those two problemsremained minor by making me practice and practice. He told me to stop just beforethe top of a hill outside town, and I had to work my feet just right withoutrolling backwards. Getting the truck to move forward was a challenge, buteventually, after much frustration, I succeeded.

From the beginning, Dadwas determined for me to drive a stick shift. He told me, "You have to learnstick if you are going to drive." He always said if I could drive our truck,I could drive anything.

Dad was my motivator, encouraging me when I gotdiscouraged and pushing me when I needed an extra push. He kept me going, evenwhen I didn't want to drive anymore. (Trust me, that old truck was never myfavorite!) When I couldn't keep it from stalling, he would look at me and say,"Get the truck going. You can do it," as if I actually knew what I wasdoing. He believed in me, and never gave up.

He showed me unconditionalsupport, even when I made a mistake. Through learning to drive a stick shift, Ilearned my potential goes beyond all limits. If I am ever close to giving up orlosing hope, I know he will be there to make sure I keep going.

I was tooyoung then to realize what Dad had given me. Driving apparently is a simple task,but in those driving lessons, I learned more than turn signals and speed limits.I learned about what it takes to be a parent. For him, being a parent was hischoice. When I was five years old, he chose to marry my mother and become mystepfather.

Despite not being my biological father, we have always hada father/daughter relationship. He always makes sure I stay out of trouble,asking those normal, but somewhat ridiculous parent questions. I'm his onlydaughter, and he wants me to have the best he can give. It is just part of beinga parent. He always tells me, "Someday, when you have kids of your own, youwill understand."

The Greek statesman Pericles, said, "Whatyou leave behind is not what is engraved in stone, but what is woven into thelives of others." As my parent, Dad will always see a part of himself in me,woven into my personality, my achievements and my dreams.

In our society,a name is a bond, linking one person to the next. My stepfather and I do notshare the same name, but the bond between us is stronger than the bond I havewith the man who gave me my last name. When my real father could not be there tobe part of my life, my stepfather took his place and showed me what a real fatheris.




This work has been published in the Teen Ink monthly print magazine. This piece has been published in Teen Ink’s monthly print magazine.






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