On one of the first nice, sunny days of our short Alaska summer, Amber, the kids and I went to a go-kart racetrack. Being the extreme biker and skier that my five-year-old Alden is, I was sure this would be an instant hit. Truth be told, I was pretty psyched for Alden to drive me as his passenger. There aren’t many thrilling activities we can do together. For me, this was sweet since I think that having a blind dad who can’t catch a baseball or ride a bike must be pretty lame sometimes. This was an in. I built it up for weeks while we waited for the park to open for the season. It wasn’t until the morning of that day that the thought crossed my mind: Uh-oh, what if he isn’t tall enough to ride? It saddened me to imagine him crushed by the rejection.
The big day arrived, and so did the unfortunate moment of truth. He wasn’t tall enough. I turned to look at Amber. I couldn’t contain my mischievous grin.
“Well, I’m tall enough!”
She chuckled and rolled with it without hesitation. It felt as though we were pulling a fast one on the poor teenagers who were working what was likely their first jobs. I had no cane or dog to give it away. I was just a guy in dark glasses who didn’t seem to know where he was going. We waited for one of the teens to open the gate.
“I’ll go with Alden and you can go with Acacia,” I said toAmber.
The gate opened, and in we went. Alden, who was guiding me, stalled looking at all the cars.
“C’mon Alden. Just go to the first car and help me get in.”
More stalling. Amber came and quickly led me to a car, which I awkwardly got into. I realized another problem. There was no way Alden could reach the gas pedal or brakes.
Oooohhh. They actually have the height restriction for a reason, I thought. But it was too late, and I wasn’t going to let this or any other detail get in the way. Once Alden climbed in beside me in front of the steering wheel, I fumbled around with our seatbelts trying to figure them out and finally got them fastened.
“OK Alden, you tell me when that light turns green. I’ll work the pedals for gas and the brakes, and you are going to steer. If you want me to speed up or slow down, just say faster or slower. OK?”
“OK… It’s green, Dad.”
I tried going pretty slow, slow enough that others went zooming past us. Alden sat silently steering, providing me with no feedback.
“Do you want me to go faster or slower?” I asked as we snaked around the turns
“Slower!” he gasped as if he’d forgotten that was an option.
This repeated several times until we were going about as slow as possible without stopping altogether. After several minutes I felt him pull off the track into the start-line area.
“Alden, we can keep going. We can just keep going as many times as we want until the light turns red.”
“But DAD, we made it. We are already back.”
“I know, but we don’t have to stop. Don’t you want to keep going?”
“No, Dad! We already made it back.”
At this point I realized that he had been white-knuckling it the whole way, and was super stressed out. He’d pulled off the track at the first possible opportunity and was totally done — and terrified. He hesitantly did the best job he could parking with a blind man controlling the gas and brakes. As stiff as a board, he guided his blind father out of the track area. It wasn’t until we were on the other side of the fence that he loosened up a bit and was able to speak again. At that point, after the fear had subsided and the threat of doing it again had past, he said, “That was cool, Dad!” as if to say, “I’m glad you had fun, Dad. That was insane, and I never want to go driving with you again.”