Driving Clarence

I took my 90 year old father-in-law to the Secretary of State office because they aren’t sure he should be driving.  We met with a humorless and uncaring “public servant” who took one look at Clarence and demanded he cough up his license and proceeded to punch a whole in it and tell him “your license is suspended right now!”.  The man has a clean driving record. I doubt he’s ever broken a single law of any kind and It took all the self-control I could find to keep from grabbing that woman by the neck and demanding she show a little respect to her elders.  But her rudeness is not what this story is actually about. 

We left the office and headed for the grocery story.  I live 3 hours from Clarence and so until we can see his eye doctor and then schedule another appointment with the license people ( oh joy!) he needs supplies. We picked up his favorite things and he assured me his neighbor could drive him to church (the only place he drives to other than the grocery store and the doctor) Clarence has a 10 year old car and it has only 27,000 miles on it. But this story is not actually about Clarence’s driving record.

So we’re standing in front of the dairy section looking for milk to put on his oatmeal which he eats every morning. He’s having a problem finding the right milk. “Whole milk? 2%? Skim?”  I asked him pointing to each one.  None of those were right. He was looking for the milk with half the fat.  Finally he spots the carton on the top shelf of their cooler and I open the door to reach for the milk he is pointing to.  As I lock eyes with the “right” milk several questions flood my brain.


1.  Should I tell him that he’s not drinking milk. He’s drinking half-n-half? It’s cream… not milk.

2.  Should I tell him that it doesn’t have half the fat – that it actually has more fat than whole milk. It’s cream!

As I lift the pint of half and half off the top shelf I answer my own questions:

1.  Clarence is 5’2″ and 117 pounds – fully clothed – soaking wet.  He’s been retired for 35 years and has lived a sedentary life. I’ve never known him to exercise or do anything even remotely strenuous. He’s had a steady diet of baked beans, potato chips and Breyers Ice cream (all of which we picked up that day along with the “milk”).  He’s never had a weight problem and takes less medicine than I do.  He clearly doesn’t need low-fat food of any kind.  He’s 90. He should eat whatever he wants. Half and half on hot oatmeal probably tastes quite good. Not that I would know anything about that – I do not have any of Clarence’s wonderful genes. I eat everything called low-fat as well as no-sugar and low carb. The last time I weighed 117 pounds I was in 5th grade. Life is clearly not fair.

2. And as I put the carton of “milk” in his cart it occurred to me that what Clarence and I just shared could be described as a “Mr. McGoo moment”.  Perhaps Clarence does not need to be driving. Then again…. he did read the word “half” quite clearly from about 10 feet away. 

Monday we see the eye doctor. He will be the definitive factor in this on-going saga. Whatever the doctor says it will be several weeks before we return to the license people (oh joy!) so on Monday I’m sure we will need to visit the grocery store again. Clarence makes it an interesting and fun outing and I still find it a joy to tend to his needs. He’s a kind and funny guy. The first thing my husband David said to me when he learned he had terminal cancer was, “who will take care of my dad?”.  I said, “He’s my dad too”.

I said a prayer reminding God that Clarence needs help and God has moved me to the other side of the state.  God reminded me that 3 hours is a short trip (I’ve traveled that far to check out IKEA) and that he has provided a grandson and my sister right there in town to help meet Clarence’s needs. The Lord provides. 

To all my skinny friends out there… Clarence may be on to something. Give that half and half on oatmeal a try. He may just be a 90 year old trend setter.  Who knew?





About Karen Lavrack

Karen Lavrack is a pastor and writer starting a new life in Holland Michigan with her new husband, Ron. She writes about the joys and challenges of starting over.
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