My Father Did Not Want Me To Drive

By Elizabeth Ann Quirino

“You’ll always be my baby,” my father said to me.

My Father Did Not Want Me to Drive

Unlike teenagers here in America, I did not learn how to drive till I was past my teen years when I lived in the Philippines. We did not have driver’s education classes in the Filipino school curriculum. During my growing-up years in a rural town, women drivers were the exception. Although Filipinos live in a matriarchal society, women took a backseat in the car, literally during my mother’s era.

One day when I was about to go to college, I bravely asked my father for permission.

“I want to learn how to drive, Dad,” I said at dinner. There was stunned silence. Everyone put down their forks and spoons. Gasps were heard around the family dinner table.

“What for?” dad sternly asked, a frown on his face. I persisted.

I insisted I needed to know how-to drive-in case of an emergency.

” What if one of you needed to be brought to the hospital?” I said.

Dad’s face was dark and he was tight lipped. He refused to discuss the matter. The topic of learning how to drive was dismissed.

On the sly, I secretly asked a cousin to help me get a student driver’s permit. This was tough because I needed my birth certificate, which my parents had. I managed to get it anyway, while working on my college applications. Eventually I got my student permit but no one in the family had the gumption to go against dad, no one dared teach me how to drive. The student permit stayed in a secret compartment of my wallet. It stayed there till it expired. I didn’t learn how to drive that first round.

A few years later, I asked my then boyfriend (my future husband) to teach me to drive. He knew how much Dad disapproved. He was terrified my Dad would ban him from the house, altogether forbidding to see me ever, if he so much as disobeyed Dad’s rule “women should not drive.” Again, I reasoned. I needed to be more independent. I did not want to depend on the men in the family for transportation.

Besides, I wanted to feel the power of steering the wheel, of stepping on the gas, maneuvering the stick shift gears. Eventually I learned how to drive secretly on weekends. In the afternoons while dad took his siesta, we drove to a different development where no one knew me (or so I thought). I forgot I lived in a small town. Someone saw me and told my father. He was angry but kept silent about the matter.

Years later when I was newly married with a two-year old toddler in tow, I drove all around with ease and confidence. The freedom of going anywhere I pleased, in my own car, was exhilarating. One night, it was late and I came home to my parents’ house with my little son in the car with me. I had just come from my mother-in-law’s. It was after dinner. But to my dad it was pretty late and he was livid.

We got in an argument. He told me he didn’t like me driving at all. Much less, he did not want me driving at night. How he hated the thought of me in a car, late at night, with his grandson in the back seat.

“Do you know how dangerous that is?” he yelled at me.

“Dad, I’m an adult and I know what I’m doing,” I yelled back, exasperated that he still could not get over the fact that I knew how to drive a car. At first, I thought it was a macho, chauvinistic thing about women drivers.

“It is at night when most accidents happen. I don’t want you to drive. I don’t want you driving at night. “Dad said to me in a softer, more resigned tone.

“I’ll be okay, Dad, I know how to drive very well.” I assured my father.

“It’s not you I’m worried about, “he said “it’s other reckless drivers on the road.” He looked at me with his soft, tender eyes, and I noticed he got slightly teary when he gently spoke to me.

“I’ll never stop worrying about you. You’ll always be my baby” my father said in a hoarse voice.

A tear trickled down my cheek. A lump in my throat formed. As I held my own child in my arms, I looked at Dad and understood.

“You’ll always be my baby,” dad said softly, tears brimming in his eyes.

Till the day he died, I never forgot that night.