David Fitzsimmons: Drivers beware: Dad Vader and son Luke are taking Death Star out for a spin

2012-10-20T00:00:00Z David Fitzsimmons: Drivers beware: Dad Vader and son Luke are taking Death Star out for a spinDavid Fitzsimmons Arizona Daily Star Arizona Daily Star
October 20, 2012 12:00 am  • 

As Halloween approaches my thoughts shift to tales of terror, and that is why I am telling this tale:

My teenage son has a learner's permit and I have been teaching him to drive.

He is a good, bright and cheerful lad, and I am the Father of the Year. And I haven't had one panic attack.

It's been invigorating fun. Every time he accelerates to 35 miles an hour my heart accelerates to 35 beats a second.

If you see a minivan driven by a teenage boy with an old man who looks like a shivering, bug-eyed chihuahua sitting next to him, that's us.

No matter how cautious my son is, I feel like a tomcat trapped in a Saturn rocket commanded by Tom Sawyer. The last time we avoided a demolition derby on Speedway the unfazed space cadet said to me, "What's wrong, Dad?"

"Nothing, you're doing just fine. Drop it down to warp speed, Captain Kirk, and help me look for wipes in the glove compartment. I need to wash the seat off again."

I have become my dad, the master sergeant who taught me to drive on the runway at Davis-Monthan because my teenage sister, practicing on city streets, parallel parked on our neighbor's porch.

As Junior struggles to stay in the correct lane, I fight to stay in the correct mindset.

I am the the cool zen master of the motorway, I am Ward "The Buddha" Cleaver, calmly advising the Beaver that he should "seek out the brake pedal and depress it firmly" or we shall find out whether or not reincarnation follows death.

It is important for him to know I have faith in his capacity to do the right thing and that I do not startle him, and that is why my will is up to date and I grind my teeth at night.

There is a silver lining: his change in demeanor. My teenager defers to me now because I am the road master, the all-knowing captain of the ship and, most important, the keeper of the keys.

Last month I was the king of embarrassing dads, the master of all things uncool and the old dork who doesn't know anything.

Now I am the greatest guy in the world because I, Dad Vader, can finally say, "Luke, my son, let us take the Death Star out for a spin."

Last week I channeled my father -who was channeling his father - when I said to him, "When you are old enough to buy your own car you can listen to whatever you want to listen to on your radio, but as long as you are in my car we are not listening to (insert name of band)."

Like Cormac McCarthy's father and son duo in "The Road," we have grown closer as he dodges apocalyptic potholes and copes with blue-haired zombies awaiting resurrection in the left-turn lane.

Why, just yesterday I said to him, "Eyes on the road, Justin Bieber. Teenage girls in bikinis waving carwash signs on the street corner are the devil's handmaidens!"

Somewhere in the Tucson Mountains I said, "That was a stop sign back there." With fondness I recall the time on Speedway when I said, "I think it's safe for you to turn now. Anytime. Today. This year. Wake me when you turn."

On Roller Coaster Road I lovingly said, "Text anywhere near this machine and I'll break your thumbs."

For now I am teaching him defensive driving, and more than that, I'm doing what my dad did and what all great dads do: I'm giving him the embarrassing clunky junker to drive.

It's built like a tank. In fact, it is a tank. It's an M1 Abrams: a third generation heavily armored tank that gets one mile to the gallon, with a top speed of 45 miles an hour.

He'll drive it to high school and to his job at the doughnut shop.

Stay out of his way.

Copyright 2014 Arizona Daily Star. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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