He Drove Her To It (And Everything Else)

, , , , , , , | Romantic | CREDIT: pokey1984 | July 14, 2021

This is my grandmother’s story; my family has been telling the tale for decades. Grandpa himself told it to his daughter’s fiancé as a lesson in not underestimating his new bride. Grandma told it slightly differently to my mom when she and my father were engaged. This is somewhere between the two versions. It’s a lesson in “be careful what you wish for, as you just might get it.” Personally, I’ve always thought that it was hilarious.

My grandparents were very old school. Grandpa got a job working for John Deere as a teen and worked his way up the ladder to foreman, then manager. Grandma was a typical housewife in the 1950s and was held to typical housewife standards. She was to cook and clean and be prepared to entertain Grandpa’s business associates at a moment’s notice. It was her job to make sure the children were taken care of and never got in her husband’s way. She was expected to have dinner on the table at 5:30 sharp, when he got home from work. Her house and herself were to be impeccably kept at all times, etc.

They were progressive and well-off enough that Grandma had her own car. She was expected to use it to run the household errands and take the (four) kids to appointments and such. It was important that her husband not be bothered with such things. The household and family were her responsibility. He had a job.

One day, Grandpa arrived home from work, and not only was dinner not on the table, but Grandma wasn’t even there. The kids (teens at the time) hadn’t been fed. Their homework was still on the kitchen table, there were unwashed dishes in the sink, and a dozen other little chores hadn’t been done yet. Most importantly, Grandpa was inconvenienced.

He’d been home just long enough to let his frustration stew into anger when Grandma’s car pulled into the drive. He began shouting at her before she’d even had the chance to set down her purse or take off her jacket. He ranted about all the things she hadn’t done because she was out “running around” when she should have been home, taking care of the house and making his dinner. He worked very hard all day to provide for this family, was it too much to ask for a hot dinner when he got home? She’d had a very good reason for not being home, but he never let her tell it, accepting no excuses. But she was a “good wife,” so she intended to let him vent for a while, and then she would serve him supper and explain what had gone wrong.

Then, Grandpa screwed up. As sometimes happens when we speak in anger, he began to blame the wrong thing for his irritation. He began to blame the car and her access to it. He said something to the effect of, “You don’t have any business out driving around, anyway. You should be home. I should never have let you start driving in the first place! Women shouldn’t drive!”

“You don’t want me to drive?” Grandma asked calmly, retrieving her keys from her purse. “Fine. Then I won’t drive ever again.” And she set those car keys on the counter, put her things away, and served dinner.

And bless her heart, Grandma stuck with that declaration, no matter how much more difficult it made life. Grandpa had to take afternoons off in the middle of the week when a teacher scheduled a meeting. He didn’t get a moment’s peace on the weekends, between grocery trips and taking the kids to activities or doctor’s appointments or for haircuts or clothes. He had to drive Grandma to every Saturday salon appointment. Previously, Grandma had taken herself and the kids to church, letting him sleep. Now he had to wake up early on Sundays to take them all himself.

Grandpa was nearly as stubborn as his wife. He held out, expecting her to apologize and ask for her keys back. She never did. Instead, she simply rearranged the household schedule so that he could handle all the driving. Months later, after never getting a single weekend to relax, after having dinner pushed back nearly every day because he had to drive someone someplace, he finally gave in and apologized. He tried to tell her that he was wrong and that she should start driving again. He tried to tell her that he now appreciated all she did to make his life easier. He all but begged her to take those keys.

I suspect that Grandma had always disliked driving because she never did take back those keys. Nothing Grandpa said or did could convince her to get back behind the wheel. He’d said she had no business driving a car and she was going to hold him to that declaration, no matter what. For over fifty years, until the day she died, Grandma never drove a car again for any reason. Not after the kids graduated and moved out. Not after Grandpa retired. Even after Grandpa’s death in the eighties she still refused because, “My husband always said that women shouldn’t drive.”

Sadly, as with the start of most epic arguments between married persons, the details of the triggering cause have been lost to time. Grandma, telling the story forty years later, recalled that it had been a “one of those days” for her. She’d been making dinner and had it nearly ready when she’d discovered that she’d forgotten to buy something that seemed vital at the time. So she’d stepped out to fetch it, and one thing led to another until a ten-minute trip turned into nearly two hours, accounting for car trouble. The only part of said trouble that she recalled clearly was a flat tire, and only because Grandpa had to take the car to the shop to have the tire repaired later that week and he’d grumbled about how it was just another example of why women shouldn’t be driving.

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