Learning to Drive on Streets of Gold


Okay, what’s the first thing you do when you get in the car?

Check the mirrors.

No, the first thing is to buckle your seat belt.

Oh, right. I forgot. My car doesn’t have them.

What? Even my parent’s old car had them. But nobody used them in the 70’s. I used stand in the floorboard and help dad drive. What are you driving, an old clunker?

No. It’s brand new. I don’t know what kind. It reminds me of the Barbie Dream Car we had. Only it’s bright yellow.

Of course it’s yellow… You think it’s safe?

We don’t have accidents here.

Well, I’m going to buckle up, if that’s okay. It’s terrifying the first few times you ride with a beginner.

Don’t worry, I’ve done this before.

WHAT? You aren’t supposed to be driving – you don’t have your permit yet.

We don’t need them.


Well, permits or even cars, really. Most people walk.

But there are cars?

Oh, sure. I don’t think it would be paradise for some people without them. There’s this racecar guy who just turns donuts in the fields outside the gates like he won a big race. You’d get dizzy if you tried; like that time on the teacup ride.

Yeah, yeah. No one will ever let me live that down. How are the roads?

Perfect. What would you expect? We don’t have orange cones, a DOT, or widening projects like you deal with. They were perfectly planned ages ago.

So traffic isn’t bad?

Nope. No lights, signs, or speed bumps.

Well, I guess we will skip ahead to lesson nine if you don’t have to deal with that stuff. Any Roundabouts?

No. But you can teach me. It’s okay.

Well, the next lesson is dealing with weather emergencies. Any storms there?

No, not really.

It doesn’t rain?

Yes, it rains.

How’s the traction on wet gold? Slippery?

Surprisingly good.

Okay, well I’m not sure where to start then.

While you’re figuring it out, I have a question for you: How’s mommy?

You want the truth?

We do believe in that here.

She’s not good, baby. She misses you every minute. We all do. She has a job now and is working hard. But nothing can distract her from the fact that you weren’t supposed to die. You should have had a full, long life – gotten married and had children of your own. You should have been standing at our funeral… not us at yours.

I will be. Only I’ll be standing on this side holding your hand.

Is it wrong to say that I long for that day?

No, I get that. What about my sisters?

They miss you too, of course. We talk about you all the time when they come home from school. They seem to have found places and people that make them happy. When Jenna goes to college next year it will make it harder on us to have an empty nest because it will magnify the fact that it shouldn’t be empty. Mommy loves her little chicks.

I know.

But why ask me? Can’t you see all of that? I thought you would be looking down on us.

I am. But I see things differently now. I don’t see in part anymore; I see the whole. I don’t like that mommy is sad, but from here I understand just how truly short the time is until I’ll see her again… Life is a vapor. It’s like when I had a bad chemo day; we knew it was only temporary and I would feel better again. I just had to hold on.

Will you tell mommy to hold on for me?

I will. But it’s hard for us to think like you – from that perspective. We see your friends getting older and taller and it reminds us that you didn’t make it past twelve. You never got to grow up.

You should know that I did get taller.


You do grow up here and my body is perfect now, remember. No cancer. No radiation or chemo to stunt my growth. I’m not the shortest in the family anymore!

You always wanted to be taller than mom.

(both laugh)

Oh. There’s the guy turning donuts in the field. He’s so happy, I wish you could see his smile.

Hey! You’ve been driving this whole time, haven’t you?

Um… Yes.

Then why did you let me give you a lesson when you didn’t need it?

I didn’t need it, Daddy. But you did.


Happy 15th Birthday, Baby. Oh, how I wish I could teach you to drive.

23 thoughts on “Learning to Drive on Streets of Gold

  1. I can barely type, for all the tears rolling down my cheeks. My God. This was so beautiful. I hate very much that you know this pain. But, on the flip side, I’m grateful you share your heart as journey with vulnerability and transparency. I miss my little girl, though I have two amazing boys, every single day. Thank you for helping so many people feel less alone.

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