Driving Miss Daisy teaches us a lesson about aging

The other night, I revisited a film I’d only seen in bits and pieces over the years – Driving Miss Daisy.

You know how it happens – on a sleepless night flicking through television, you catch the middle, maybe the end, but hardly enough to piece together the entire storyline.

But on this particular night, completely by chance, I’d turned on the television just as the opening credits appeared on screen. What luck!

For those of you unfamiliar with the 1989 Academy Award Winner, Driving Miss Daisy follows Mrs. Daisy Werthan through the span of 25 years – beginning at age 72.

While the story certainly focuses on many social and political issues occurring in the 1950’s and 1960’s, the overwhelming theme of Driving Miss Daisy is how growing old oftentimes forces us to lose our independence.

The film very much reminded me of a situation with my own grandmother, at a time when it was becoming clear she would no longer be able to drive.

The freedom of driving

I remember the day. She got into her car to go to the local supermarket, a task she did almost every other day. Only on this particular day, she simply couldn’t remember how to get there. And so, she just kept driving and driving until two hours had gone by and she was miles from home. Eventually she flagged down a police officer who notified my family of the situation.

Much like Miss Daisy, my grandmother was furious when it was decided she could no longer drive. She came up with one excuse after another as to why she couldn’t find her way that day (the one I remember is there must have been a detour, which there wasn’t). Many years later I started to understand my grandmother’s anger. It wasn’t because she could no longer drive a car, it was because she no longer had her freedom.

Now she had to rely on others whenever she needed something from the grocery store, or just wanted to walk around a local retailer to pass the time. Club meetings and beauty parlor appointments became a scheduling nightmare, and eventually she found herself spending more and more time stranded at home.

Many of us take for granted the freedom of driving. We complain about the never-ending traffic and even the burden of maintaining a vehicle as it ages. But they seem like trivialities when you think about the freedom driving affords us.

Jennifer Yane once said, “Inside every older person is a younger person wondering what happened.”

Time passes by so quickly. Before you know it, we’ll all be asking ourselves “what happened” to the days when we were free-spirited and independent.

Driving Miss Daisy reinforces the lesson that every stage of our life is precious and should never be taken for granted.