Article by Tom Sedens, photos from the Sedens family album

Father’s Day. A day that means a million things to me these days. I was raised by a father that wasn’t just a dad. My dad was a great friend to me as well. I always knew I was loved, regardless of what was going on. And that really cements everything a kid needs into place.

Driving was a big part of my childhood. We used to do a lot of it on a daily basis because I grew up on an acreage, and we had to put a ton of miles on our vehicles to drive to the city.

Father's Day Tribute - Driving Lessons from Dad
Father’s Day Tribute – Driving Lessons from Dad. Click image to enlarge

Because driving has always been a big deal to me, I spent a good chunk of our family’s driving time watching my dad do it. He was a pretty laid back driver – no road rage to be found here. As a matter of fact, the simple act of observing him taught me the basics of driving a manual. And drive a manual I did – my first experience with stretching my left leg out, pushing that weird pedal down and throwing a stick into first gear was when I was 12 years old. My parents were away, and I grabbed the keys to our F-150 4×4. I was determined to drive it that day. Of course, I never caught the fact that it might be in gear when you start it. So yes, I did receive a nice case of whiplash from the first attempt to start it in gear. Oh, and when I said “first gear” it actually turned out to be third and it was a pretty hiccupy start. But I got it after a couple of minutes, and I knew I had it because I’d watched my daddy follow those steps over and over again.

When they got home, my dad immediately noticed the truck was not where he had left it. He slowly walked over to it, as my heart sunk further and further and my mouth dried out in panic. He placed his hand on the hood, feeling the warmth. He turned around at me and just let the corners of his mouth turn into a smile. And he said: “You’re too young to be driving.” I thought to myself: “Are you kidding?! What are you going to do to me?!

And my dad followed it up with: “Your mom will have a heart attack, and besides you can’t afford the gas. Next time, you drive with me. Understand?” No punishment, not even a tongue-lashing. I’ll never forget how gently he let me down, and I never took his vehicles without asking again.

We also undertook a large number of road trips as a family. My brothers were 11 and 12 years older than me, so I barely remember them coming along. It was mostly just my parents and me. And there are two things I’ll never forget about my dad’s highway driving. First of all, divided highways weren’t as commonplace back then. Which means we spent a goodly portion of our time on two-lane highways. Which means, if you were in a hurry, you had to pass. Into oncoming traffic.

Father's Day Tribute - Driving Lessons from Dad
Father’s Day Tribute – Driving Lessons from Dad. Click image to enlarge

My dad was perhaps the most fearless highway passer I have ever driven with. I would always watch as he pulled out, and I noted that he always waited for the dashed lines. He never broke the don’t-pass-on-a-solid-line rule. But I could see… no, I could feel the eagerness, the anticipation and the rush as he saw the dashed lines coming up. And then – then he’d step on it. I’d feel the old automatic transmissions shifting lazily down to the appropriate gear. And I’d feel the old V8s rumbling up the revs as we slowly built momentum. As we slid past the slower cars, I’d start getting nervous. Because there were cars coming toward us. IN OUR LANE! And every single time, my dad seemed to cut it so close. It seemed as though it would be seconds until that vehicle would be upon us, and every single time it seemed as though he timed it just right, passing the maximum amount of cars possible and slipping us back into the right lane with inches to pass.

I also remember that he would be looking around, to both sides of the road, as we headed into the forests and mountains here in Alberta and in B.C. My daddy was a hunter, and his eye was trained to look for wildlife. And it would be hilariously predictable that he would spend as much time scanning the countryside and fields and ditches and foothills for any speck. Any hint of movement. Anything dark that didn’t belong. And it was equally hilarious that my mother would remind him ceaselessly to please watch the road. And to question whether seeing a coyote or elk was more important than the family’s safety. My dad never answered verbally, but swung his eyes back onto the road. For a few seconds.

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