I was teaching him texting and video chatting, delighting in how excited he was at the new technology. He was smiling with wonder, and I was giggling at his naiveté about the Internet.
Then it came time to go to the grocery store. I showed him how to use the GPS and punched in the address for the store. I let him drive and told him to take his time adjusting everything to his liking before starting the car. Living in New York City I went almost ten years without driving, so I knew how stressful it could be to get behind the wheel again. He taught me how to drive in our Toyota, so it felt like I was repaying for him the patience he'd shown me as a thirteen-year-old girl.
Even with the noise blocked out from his deafness, he quickly became overwhelmed. The GPS was distracting him, so I moved it away and turned it off. He was already flustered though and, in his confusion, drove the wrong way onto an exit ramp. Cars raced toward us and Dad pulled a U-turn getting us to safety in the nick of time.
Rattled, we switched spots and I drove us the rest of the way. At the store we went our separate ways. I needed to calm my nerves and Dad was embarrassed. He picked through produce but I knew he wasn't shopping. His eyes were downcast, his chin wrinkled.
He reminded me of "Brooks" in the movie Shawshank Redemption. The Free World moved too fast for Dad. He didn't understand anything. He looked scared. Vulnerable. I wanted to protect him, teach him, make him better for the world, and the world better for him.
As we left the store, I signed, "I'll drive." I felt a little guilty, because I wanted him to have his independence and freedom but I was afraid. He scared me.
I was safe.