When our two daughters were in their teen years I really wanted to be as involved in their lives as much as I possibly could. I fully understood some of the stresses and anxieties of teen years, but had more than a little difficulty relating to teen-aged girls. My sister Marilyn was three years older, and if she had any teen-related problems she didn’t share them with me. I was clueless to the doubts, fears, insecurities, self-image anxieties, boy friend concerns, hormone changes and I just didn’t understand the mind of a teen-aged girl!
Cathy was wonderful in her understanding and sympathetic leadership of Mary Kay and Ginny, but she had problems transferring that wisdom to me. It was not I was a slow learner, but I thought somehow the medical knowledge I learned in medical school regarding medical and psychological problems prepared me to be a good Dad to teenagers. It didn’t.
One particular week-end I thought it would be fun to accompany Cathy, Mary Kay and Ginny on a shopping trip to Monroe, Louisiana. There was a great new shopping mall on Interstate 20 called Pecanland Mall which had opened in 1985, and it quickly became a favorite of ours. The road from El Dorado to Monroe was narrow and curvy, but the trip usually took an hour and a half whereas the trip to Little Rock always took two plus hours. I don’t remember where John was this particular week-end, but he didn’t make this trip with us.
We had made the trip to Monroe many times, and I was familiar with the various curves and unevenness in the road. From Farmerville, Louisiana south towards Monroe there are some steep hills which prevent viewing oncoming traffic until they are right upon you, so I always was cautious and payed extra close attention when approaching those hills. At one particular hill a passenger car with several children riding with parents was approaching me, and a single passenger car pulled into my lane to pass. I told our girls I was pulling onto the shoulder hoping there was enough room to avoid a head-on collision. At exactly the same time the driver saw us and jerked his car back behind the car ahead of him. This sudden move caused him to start fish-tailing just as I passed over the crest of the hill. All I saw in my rear view mirror was a cloud of dirt and rocks. I knew he had crashed his vehicle and told our girls we were going back, and I made a quick U-turn. Fortunately there were no other vehicles on the road anywhere near us.
As I came back over the hill I saw the errant driver’s car had run down into a ditch, had overturned and was smoking with the wheels still turning. Our older daughter Mary Kay screamed, “We need to get a doctor, we need to get a doctor!” Cathy turned in her seat, faced Mary Kay and said, “Your Daddy IS a doctor!” Mary Kay said, “Oh yeh.” When I stopped our car as far off the narrow highway as possible, our other daughter Ginny screamed, “It’s gona’ blow up, it’s gona’ blow up!” I was pretty sure that was not going to happen. The car was lying in a huge briar patch, and when I got down the hill and navigated through the briar patch I found the driver sitting propped up against the frame of the car. He was dazed but had no obvious external wounds apart from scrapes and bruises. He was a late middle-aged Black American wearing a vested suit with a tie. I noted on the interior roof of his overturned car was a pistol, and I assumed it had been on the seat of the car when it overturned.
When I asked the driver what happened he groggily said, “Somebody ran me off the road.” I told him he had better get his story straight, because his reckless driving and attempt to pass with a double yellow line in his lane caused him to run off the highway. He said he was in a hurry to attend a funeral in Ruston, Louisiana (40 miles away), and he was running about thirty minutes late. I told him he would be attending his own funeral the way he was driving. Within fifteen minutes a local sheriff’s deputy arrived, and I was able to give him an account of the details of the accident. I had an idea there would be further investigations.
About two weeks later I received a telephone call from a lady identifying herself as an insurance investigator. She said her client claimed he “was forced off the highway” causing extensive damage to his vehicle. I gave her the exact statement I had given to the sheriff’s deputy, and told her I would be happy to testify under oath if needed. I heard nothing further concerning the wreck and assumed the preacher with the pistol was unharmed. I doubt he made it to the funeral in Ruston.
Since those days as teens both our daughters have trusted my experience as a doctor and have consulted me often concerning their own health issues and those of their families. I am confident they trust my medical judgement and wisdom. In reflection on this humorous event and others I am grateful to both of them and to our son they have thought of me more as a Daddy than as a doctor and after all, that is exactly what I desired.
PS: We continued on our shopping trip to Monroe and as best I remember, had a good lunch at the Red Lobster after purchasing dresses and accessories for both girls. Most of our conversation the rest of that day revolved around the dangerous, speeding, pistol packing preacher!