Shifting gears can be a headache

Published 12:00 am Saturday, August 18, 2001

Do you remember learning to drive? Was shifting gears difficult for you?

Eons before the days of Driver’s Ed. when my father was teaching me to drive, he finally gave up on my mastering a standard transmission. Much akin to the Biblical phrase, my right foot rarely knew what my left foot was doing. So to this day I am an automatic transmission woman.

Ignoring the standard transmission was a simple alternative and easy solution to a dilemma. However, not all gear changes of daily life can be done

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Right now children of all ages are changing gears…some from summer freedom to schoolroom structure, older ones from security of home life to college campus, military base or everyday work world.

Many parents are shifting as they trade busy sports activities, seemingly unending fund-raising events, emotional and moral counseling and curfew patrol for rattling around in near empty houses. All these changes take concentration, co-ordination and just plain hard work.

As we shift gears in life we also change roles. Oftentimes we shift from being sons and daughters to spouses, then to parents and, blessedly, to grandparents. But the shifts don’t always stop there.

Recently I have down-shifted as many people in my age group often do these days. I am in first gear again…back to being a daughter. As each generation in our country lives longer than the one before it, more and more of us who thought we had run through all the gears find we must down shift. We return to the role of son or daughter, but this time we have a different purpose. Now we are the nurturers, the protectors, the providers of encouragement and gentle caring.

And so it is that I find myself again living nestled in my beloved Smoky Mountains and viewing scenes of my childhood through adult eyes and finding them more beautiful than I’d remembered. And even though my heart aches sorely for family and friends in Greenville…especially for my precious grandson, Buddy…I delight in the sparkle in my parents’ eyes, in the relaxing of their stresses and concerns, and I cherish this time with them. What was intended as assistance for them has become a blessing for me. Perhaps this is what is meant by &uot;circle of life&uot;. I’m not sure.

But this I do know. No matter if your transmission is standard or automatic, no matter which gear you’re in today, it’s going to change again and again. So be ready. You wouldn’t want to stall out on an uphill grade and not make it over the top. You never know what wonders are on the other side.

Caroline Clark McGinty is a staff writer for The Greenville Advocate.