Riding Shotgun Down Lover’s Lane
In the 40-something short years I’ve been on this planet, I’ve lived a lot of different lives in lots of different places. I’ve known people in, and had friends in, all walks of life. In all of my travels, the finest man I’ve ever known lives right here under my own roof, and I call him Son.
Just like my daughter shows me things I never even knew existed, my son teaches me new ways of seeing things that I’d never have imagined I’d entertain. It takes a great man to teach an old dog new tricks, and personally, I find it refreshing to be that dog who gets to learn something new now and then. More accurately in this case, to relearn something so old that it seems new again to an old dog in his eighteenth lifetime.
In recent months, I’ve had the privilege of riding shotgun with my son on his first drive down Lover’s Lane. Honestly? It’s been a rocky road for me, because I’ve had to share not only my time, but my son’s heart, with another human being who may or may not handle either of these things with care. It’s harder than it sounds, and if not for my absolute faith in my young man’s judgment and character, I’d likely stroke out. Any ruffian worthy of the position of ‘shotgun’ knows, though, that you gotta keep moving. Keep the car running. Eyes peeled, and all that. As usual, he has proven more or less clairvoyant while I’ve done my best to not fire the shotgun wildly at everything in sight. The days of actually using the shotgun from the shotgun seat in the car are waning… it’s becoming more of a figurehead position given that the young man’s driving necessitates less and less shotgunning all of the time. I am blessed.
Since my view from the shotgun position is more or less recreational now, let me share with you what I’ve had the good fortune of seeing from my perch.
Have you ever had a rock chip in your windshield right in your line of vision? Or even a crack that runs across your view, or a chip off to the side that is an irritation when you have to look in that direction? If you grew up in the country like I did, with lots of gravel roads, you know that a windshield can be a normal wear item like brakes or tires. Replace regularly for optimal performance. After months (or years) of driving with said chips and cracks, you stop realizing how much they obscure your vision. Then when you finally do get it replaced, you can’t believe how clear your view is! How did I drive for so long with such poor visibility? That’s what it’s been like riding shotgun down Lover’s Lane with the boy recently. I’d forgotten how detailed, vibrant, and beautiful an unobscured view of love is.
Regardless of what road you’ve taken in life with respect to love, once you reach a certain age, your windshield is chipped and cracked and spider webbed, even if it’s been that way for so long that you don’t even notice anymore. That redhead that broke your heart in high school ruined you for the reds. You shy away from them now. Losing your 401K might have soured you just a bit on the topic of marriage. Husband ran off with the secretary? Not likely to date another insurance agent. Marriage riddled with discontent due to your significant other’s hobbies/habits/etc? As much as I want to slap some people for the nonsense they allow to obscure their view of love through their windshield, those rock chips and cracks are there for everyone.
Everyone except teenagers in love. Not a rock chip in sight. I’m sitting here in the shotgun seat watching rock after rock after tin can after road debris after moose after boulder bounce right off this shiny new windshield. It’s amazing? Unbelievable? No, it’s not magic. It’s youth. Unjaded, heart wide open to everything, drive like hell, never had a windshield replaced, beautiful day for a drive… youth. I just sit here in awe looking through glass so clean that it’s almost invisible, wondering how my own windshield became so unrepairably shattered. Shotgun in this ride is far better than driving my own. I got tired of replacing windshields oh about last April. I’ll just drive it like this from here on out. Hell, I’m blind in my left eye anyway, what difference does it make? But the boy? Hammer down. We’ll fix it if it breaks. Pit stop in 20, Dad, let’s not dally at the gas station. Road to cover. Ok Buddy, I’m buying the roadtrip chips and soda. You drive.
In all of my years, I’ve heard countless youths swear they would never become their parents, or grow up, or become as dead inside as the adults around them appeared to be. At some point, many adults gave up their convertibles with their shiny new windshields and perfect visibility, and plopped themselves behind the wheel of more practical transportation. Some of us bought bullet proof glass only to find that it too can be chipped even though it’s unbreakable. I have largely succeeded at remaining young at heart on the grander scale, but this recent passenger seat view of Lover’s Lane has been a wakeup call regarding how much I’ve slipped in recent years when it comes to aging of the soul. It’s a slippery slope, and right now I’m scrambling back up it… and so help me if you get in my way I’ll use your head as a stepping stone to get my own footing! You get your own shotgun seat! Or, if you have good insurance, go out today and get yourself a nice new windshield.
I know it’s not that simple… as parents, we have to be at the ready to grab the wheel if things get too badly out of control. Shotgun is never an entirely honorary position. You shouldn’t grab that seat if you aren’t prepared to fulfill its obligations. At the same time, like it or not, if you have a teenager in love, you’re in that seat anyway. (Don’t kid yourself, you aren’t driving even if you really really think you are. You’re the passenger.) You may as well enjoy as much of the ride and the view as you possibly can.
You might even learn something you forgot so long ago that it’ll seem new again when you see it.
Cheers from the Uncommonly Shotgun Rider