I met Buddy when I was finishing up my teens and about to embark on my 20’s. Buddy was growing older. I was growing up. We were both at ‘lost and in trying to find’ places. You know those places where you are at a crossroads—where you are or have lost and are trying to find your way and must hold on to faith and hope that the unexpected that happened and the choices you made will work out on the empty, long, and stretched road ahead that will eventually have the signs, meaning and reasoning yet again.
Buddy was middle-aged. He had just been laid off after years of dedication, loyalty, stability, and hard work to his employer. My Dad did not tell me the details, but he took on Buddy to help out at my Dad’s workplace after the lay-off. The lay-off was resulting in unspoken aloud marital discord to feed Buddy and his family and make ends meet. My Dad never said in words, but he always did in actions: “If you are in a better place than others, then your place is to try to help others better themselves.”
As for me, I was at a phase of fear, anxiety, and worry over what others my age had already happily achieved and obtained: A Driver’s License.
Unlike the majority of my fellow peers who craved and pursued their driver’s license like a dog on the desperate hunt for food, I was a big cowering chicken when it came to independence and freedom. This was an odd and fearful to feel this gripping hold of fear when it came to my driver’s license because I had always been rather bold in my pursuit of independence and freedom under my Dad’s single parenthood of raising me rather protected due to my health circumstances and being seen as ‘fragile’ by so many. I wanted to be an adult, but I also wanted to just be a kid. The hard part was knowing that I just could not have both. The hardest part was knowing I had no choice but to be an adult.
I had just failed my first driver’s test and was stubbornly refusing to take the road test again. My Dad gave Buddy a task: Teach me how to drive this second time around. The catch: In reverse.
My biggest problem when it came to driving was in reverse. I was peachy just careening on the roads straight, putting on the blinkers, knew about neutral, brake and gas, and the list went on. But, in reverse, I was downright confused when the car wouldn’t go in the direction I wanted to when I backed out from a parking spot or failed repeatedly in parallel parking. I can still hear my father’s voice rising up to an octave of trepidation as soon as the gear was on reverse and I struggled to drive: “Turn your wheel straight!”
Buddy was quiet and calm with a soft-spoken and barely audible voice, which contradicted his wild and wiry gray hair and disheveled appearance. He looked like a very skinny version of Albert Einstein. In our second or third lesson, we sat in my car (aka: Perry) in the middle of a huge and empty parking lot. I gulped and my palms sweat into the steering wheel. My mouth suddenly felt like cotton and I could go for a whole gallon of water to guzzle down right then and there, but then I probably would have peed on myself.
I knew what was to come. I was going to have to drive in reverse. God help me. God help Buddy.
Perry purred gently as a way to encourage me that I was going to be okay.
Buddy instructed gently, “OK, check your car mirrors and rear view mirror again.”
I swallowed and adjusted myself yet again more so than the car and rear view mirrors.
“You are going to slowly put the gear in reverse while looking behind you and accelerate very, very gently. We are just going to go in reverse straight back.”
When I looked in the car’s mirrors and in the rear window as I shifted the gear in reverse, I was disoriented. With my short stature that required me to sit on two pillows to see over the steering wheel, I had to depend more so on the car’s mirrors and especially my gut feeling rather than the rear window that made everything in the back appear distorted and discombobulated.
By my side, Buddy said, “You have to trust me. It’s going to be OK.”
The car was back in park. I looked in his eyes and read understanding that we were both in somewhat the same situations of not knowing what would lie ahead with me trying to obtain my driver’s license that seemed like the biggest deal ever and with him not knowing what would lie ahead with his employment and, yet, you can’t help but retrospect and wonder how what happened in life played out to where you are now and if you could have done something differently in the past or if you did the best you could in that moment in time to change the chain of life events. Isn’t this just like the mind to play tricks on you to helplessly rewind and remember something from the past and the images and memories are distorted, but the lingered feelings are raw and real to you? When have you experienced this?
Sometimes, your best just isn’t good enough. Always, you will never know how your life would have played out differently and if that ‘different’ would have been better based on the best choices you made at that particular time and place. You need reverse to go forward. All you can do is, indeed, go forward from reverse.
Every decision results in consequences and retrospect, but regret is a deep pressing feeling that has no concrete and explainable reason. I made a life rule for myself long ago to never live my life in regret or dwell on the past because the consequences and time tells me that I will live with them and find a way to go forward with those decisions that I had made in that place and time. I do not regret, but I do retrospect and reflect an awfully lot. It is easy to look back, but it is never easy to look ahead when we do not know if what we did in reverse was right. When have you went into retrospect mode on your life and the choices being ‘right’ for going forwards? When did you feel that the best that you gave in that moment in time was not good enough based on the consequences that resulted? What have you questioned in your life as to why it had to happen to have forced your hand to make a choice? What are your regrets? What do you wish you had known now then you had known then? How would you have done things differently?
I trusted Buddy. I think he trusted me, too. On that day and the days that followed with Buddy, we practiced reverse to go forward. There was fear of driving, but there was also tons of laughter and smiles and a great camaraderie of friendship and trust that developed when we drove around and around the parking lot in forward and reverse as well as in the village towns near by. I passed my second road test with flying colors. To this day, I will reverse in a parking spot as my preference for parking. As for Buddy, I do not know what happened to him, but, I know, he is okay and that wherever he is, he went in reverse to only go forward—and to keep on going.
Keep smilin’ until we meet again,