A Remembrance

At the end of this past March, my father, Dewey Lipe, transitioned in his sleep after a tremendous 14-year journey with Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson’s. Normally, my blog posts here are about driving technique and traffic safety culture, but I wanted to take this moment to remember my dad and how he influenced my […]

A Remembrance

At the end of this past March, my father, Dewey Lipe, transitioned in his sleep after a tremendous 14-year journey with Lewy Body dementia and Parkinson’s. Normally, my blog posts here are about driving technique and traffic safety culture, but I wanted to take this moment to remember my dad and how he influenced my path into becoming a citizen advocate.

My dad was a quiet, gentle man with more reserves of compassion, patience, generosity, and humor than most of us combined. He was the son of a Nebraska farmer who left behind his share of the farm to become a Ph.D., a behavioral researcher, therapist, an author of two books about obesity, and a MENSA member. Of course he’d never tell you about those things himself—he was a deeply modest person in spite of his accomplishments. He adored cookies, sleeping, eating, reading, and more cookies and naps.

When I was growing up in the San Francisco Bay Area, instead of buying new cars, we usually inherited them used from my maternal grandmother. In particular, we had a rare 1965 greenish-gold Plymouth Sport Fury coupe that had actually been my grandmother’s favorite car of all time, and she had owned many. Even at a very young age, I loved this car, with its classy interior dripping with chrome, its huge steering wheel, and its proud hood ornament. I also remember having my very first crash in it, when at the tender age of 10, I was playing around alone in it and I shifted it out of gear, having no idea that it could move even when the engine wasn’t on. The car was parked on a gentle slope by our garage, and we moved steadily down the hill since I couldn’t quite reach the parking brake in time before we hit our entry gate.

A Remembrance

1965 Plymouth Sport Fury (photo courtesy of Hemmings—https://www.hemmings.com/blog/2016/01/09/hemmings-find-of-the-day-1966-plymouth-fury-iii-2/)

As a little girl, I remember that my father always seemed like the best driver in the world. He drove like his temperament—even and steady, not given to drama or sudden moves. He always seemed attentive and alert, although later I would discover that he was given to driving when drowsy. My mother suffered from mental illness and home was not a quiet place much of the time, and my father considered the car as much as an escape and a refuge as a mode of transportation.

In spite of my affection for our Sport Fury, I never really gave cars much thought until one momentous day that was to forever rock my world. For a while we had a janitorial business, and we were cleaning one of our buildings when I looked out the window and spotted a stunning mauve 1980 Lincoln Continental Pucci Edition Mark VI parked across the street, gleaming in the sun. Instantly I fell in love, like a girl might with a boy, and at the impressionable age of 11, I was hooked on all things automotive. In particular, I adored big, boxy luxo-barges like Cadillac and Lincoln—don’t ask me why, but I just thought they were the bomb. Throughout my teens and early 20s, I dreamed about having a career in automobiles, either as a designer stylist or a quality control expert, and I obsessively read everything I could about General Motors.

My absolute fixation with cars quickly grew to the point that I began begging my dad to take me to local Cadillac dealers so I could studiously investigate the latest models up close and in person. Eager to get away from the demands of my nagging mother, he obliged most willingly, and we’d frequently go to the dealer closest to us, Shepherd Cadillac on El Camino Real in Menlo Park, where I shyly befriended a kindly African-American salesman named Earl Milton. I was an artist as well at the time, and I gave the ever-patient Earl endless drawings of Coupe deVilles, Fleetwoods, and Allantes, which he kept in a little folder in his file cabinet. I’m sure Earl thought I was the most peculiar child ever, but he was always supportive and entertained any questions I had about the latest models, never putting me down or treating me any less importantly than his customers. In the meantime, my dad would hang out in the Plymouth, drinking coffee, listening to classical music, and dozing.

A Remembrance

1974 Pontiac Grand Prix (photo courtesy of MJC Classic Cars—http://www.mjcclassiccars.com/1974-pontiac-grand-prix/)

Later on, my dad started teaching me to drive. By that time, we had moved on to a considerably less elegant car—a 1974 burgundy Pontiac Grand Prix with a hood a mile long and the most ungainly proportions imaginable. My first driving lessons were in a Silicon Valley business park, where I carefully steered this behemoth around the vast parking lots and over little speed bumps. I had no idea at the time how nearsighted I was and just how much I needed glasses, but those were the days of blissful oblivion. I had been dreaming of learning to drive since I was a toddler, and I was just exhilarated at finally being behind the wheel, getting gently coached by my dad, even if we were going only a whopping 25 mph.

I eventually ended up taking driver education in my high school, and right after I got my license at the age of 18, I promptly got several jobs driving rental cars for a living, which is when I realized that what I’d learned in driver ed was not much help in the real world. Still, my dad’s incredible indulgence of my abnormal obsession with cars has stayed with me ever since.

Sadly, decades later, one of the first indicators of my dad’s dementia was when he thought his Volvo had been stolen in the parking lot of the San Jose Whole Foods while a policeman patiently pointed out that his car was still parked right where he’d left it. Later he rolled his girlfriend’s Honda on the dangerous curves of treacherous Highway 17 on his way home to Santa Cruz on a wet Christmas evening, and a few days after that, he ran through a red light in his Volvo station wagon and drove sharply into a curb. His best friend, who was riding with him in the front seat, was alarmed enough that he made my dad relinquish his driver’s license and promise not to drive again for any reason.

A Remembrance

My dad’s dream was always to get a little one-room shack on the beach in Santa Cruz and hide out, monklike, with his beloved books and coffee—two of his most favorite things in the world. He read extensively about religion, philosophy, and spirituality, and he was a practicing Rosicrucian much of his adult life. He was a quiet man who so was very quick to smile and see the profound absurdity of life, and just ride along with it.

Fly free at last into the deep universe, Dewey.

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Mi Ae Lipe

Mi Ae Lipe is a citizen advocate living near Seattle, Washington. She blogs on Driving in the Real World, Tweets daily driving news and tips at @DrivingReal, and writes a regular column on street driving for BMW CCA’s Roundel magazine. She frequently collaborates with government organizations, NGOs, and individuals. She and fellow citizen Mark Butcher are recipients of the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) 2017 Award for Public Service for their work in

Comments:

  1. Mi Ae,
    Let me offer my condolences to you. Dewey sounds like he was my kind of guy…low key and accomplished! I regularly read your column in Roundel and appreciate your efforts to enhance our collective knowledge and maybe save us from ourselves.
    I am grateful for the training I received as a new UPS driver in 1972. The Five Seeing Habits have allowed me to drive accident free for 48 years. I’m especially glad to use these skills during HPDE’s!
    No doubt Dewey is very proud of his daughter who is clearly living for a higher purpose, as was he!
    Peace and good wishes
    Chris Boone
    BMW CCA 12403

    • Thank you for your very sweet words, Chris—I really appreciate your writing in. And I am so glad that you’re enjoying the Roundel columns. It is truly an honor to write for the magazine. I’d love to ask you more about the Five Seeing Habits from your UPS training. Feel free to email me privately at miae@drivingintherealworld.com if you care to elaborate further. Thanks again. —Mi Ae

  2. I share your feelings for your loss, my dad also died of Parkinsons disease at 91 after being diagnosed in his 60’s, a long and destructive disease.
    R.I.P.

    • Thank you so much, Kevin, for your kind words. My heart goes out to you and your father—the long road down Parkinson’s can be a very bumpy one indeed. Peace and blessings, and thank you again. —Mi Ae

  3. Hello Mi Ae,
    First of all I want to express my sincere condolences to you for the loss of you Dad. He sounded like a wonderful father and a great human being. It was a very touching tribute you wrote to him.
    Reading your article brought back memories of my drives over Highway 17, especially with my ’69 2002. A lot of fun with that car. I had a lot of problems with that car, i.e. a lemon, so it was sold. I bought a 1973 Pontiac “luxury” LeMans next. One night, coming back from San Jose across 17, the lights went out and I lost all power. I coasted to a stop around a bend and tried to get off as far to the side of the road as I could as the traffic was flying by me. A little scary situation. Finally, someone pulled behind me and he looked at the car and got it running. I don’t remember what was wrong with it, too long ago, but got it fixed. I lived in Santa Cruz for 15 years and in 1978 moved to the great state of Washington…loved it there. Moved to Colorado Springs in 1993 to be closer to my parents. My dad passed away in 1999 and he too was a wonderful man…not a mean bone in his body. Emigrating from Germany in 1954 and coming to this country with really nothing more than the clothes on his back, he sent for my mom,my two brothers and myself one year later. He rented a house in Cloverdale, California and that’s where we learned the English language and went to school there. I look back at my wonderful childhood with my mom working at a bank and dad working two jobs and going to a junior college at night and them still having time to do things with us. Dad would pile us into his 1942 Packard…my first car…and driving to the ocean or over the mountains to Blue Lake or Clear Lake in Mendocino County. Of course we would usually get car sick. I could go on writing so much more about my dad, especially in Germany. But I think I might have gotten a little long winded. Mi Ae, keep on writing your excellent articles in Roundel and again, so sorry to hear about your Dad. Pete

    • Thank you so much for writing in, Pete, and for all your lovely stories—I’m so glad that you’ve shared them with me. It sounds like your father was quite a guy. One interesting tidbit regarding Germany is that my father briefly went to seminary in Switzerland when he was in his 20s (the only time he was ever out of the country), and at the end of his schooling, he went to Germany and picked up a brand-spanking-new VW Bug at the factory—I think the year was 1959. He then drove all over Europe and even went to Istanbul in it. When he came back to the States with his exotic little car, everyone thought he was so cool.
      Anyway, I can’t imagine the things that your father witnessed in his lifetime—especially with fleeing Germany in 1945. My dad did live in Santa Cruz briefly as well, and he moved up with me to WA State once it was clear he was having mental issues with his dementia. How our fathers shape us over their lives and ours. Thank you again for writing in and sharing. —Mi Ae

  4. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about your dad and the little moments in life that led to your love of cars and driving, Mi Ae.

    • Thanks, Ty, for your kind words. My childhood was full of oddities, but my dad was such a part of it and being the quiet, kind enabler. Thanks again for writing. —Mi Ae

  5. Thank you, Mi Ae, for this beautiful testimonial to your dad. Over nearly ten years of giving him weekly Reiki sessions and witnessing disease ravish his body and mind, he ever remained the perfect gentleman: kind, compassionate, intelligent, thoughtful, and with a delightful wry sense of humor that surfaced at the most unexpected times. I am privileged to have worked with him and grateful for all he taught me about humanity, compassion, and being a better Reiki practitioner. It is a delight to know he is truly flying free—no longer hindered by the limitations of the body.

    • Thank you for your very touching reply. And I too am honored that you were such a huge part of my dad’s life—I’m confident that you made his last years better and more comfortable with both your reiki and your quiet, compassionate, eloquent presence. I could never thank you enough.

  6. Thank you, Mi Ae, for this beautiful testimonial to your dad. Over nearly ten years of giving him weekly Reiki sessions and witnessing disease ravish his body and mind, he ever remained the perfect gentleman: kind, compassionate, intelligent, thoughtful, and with a delightful wry sense of humor that surfaced at the most unexpected times. I am privileged to have worked with him and grateful for all he taught me about humanity, compassion, and being a better Reiki practitioner. It is a delight to know he is truly flying free—no longer hindered by the limitations of the body.

    • Thank you for your very touching reply. And I too am honored that you were such a huge part of my dad’s life—I’m confident that you made his last years better and more comfortable with both your reiki and your quiet, compassionate, eloquent presence. I could never thank you enough.

  7. Hello Mi Ae,
    First of all I want to express my sincere condolences to you for the loss of you Dad. He sounded like a wonderful father and a great human being. It was a very touching tribute you wrote to him.
    Reading your article brought back memories of my drives over Highway 17, especially with my ’69 2002. A lot of fun with that car. I had a lot of problems with that car, i.e. a lemon, so it was sold. I bought a 1973 Pontiac “luxury” LeMans next. One night, coming back from San Jose across 17, the lights went out and I lost all power. I coasted to a stop around a bend and tried to get off as far to the side of the road as I could as the traffic was flying by me. A little scary situation. Finally, someone pulled behind me and he looked at the car and got it running. I don’t remember what was wrong with it, too long ago, but got it fixed. I lived in Santa Cruz for 15 years and in 1978 moved to the great state of Washington…loved it there. Moved to Colorado Springs in 1993 to be closer to my parents. My dad passed away in 1999 and he too was a wonderful man…not a mean bone in his body. Emigrating from Germany in 1954 and coming to this country with really nothing more than the clothes on his back, he sent for my mom,my two brothers and myself one year later. He rented a house in Cloverdale, California and that’s where we learned the English language and went to school there. I look back at my wonderful childhood with my mom working at a bank and dad working two jobs and going to a junior college at night and them still having time to do things with us. Dad would pile us into his 1942 Packard…my first car…and driving to the ocean or over the mountains to Blue Lake or Clear Lake in Mendocino County. Of course we would usually get car sick. I could go on writing so much more about my dad, especially in Germany. But I think I might have gotten a little long winded. Mi Ae, keep on writing your excellent articles in Roundel and again, so sorry to hear about your Dad. Pete

    • Thank you so much for writing in, Pete, and for all your lovely stories—I’m so glad that you’ve shared them with me. It sounds like your father was quite a guy. One interesting tidbit regarding Germany is that my father briefly went to seminary in Switzerland when he was in his 20s (the only time he was ever out of the country), and at the end of his schooling, he went to Germany and picked up a brand-spanking-new VW Bug at the factory—I think the year was 1959. He then drove all over Europe and even went to Istanbul in it. When he came back to the States with his exotic little car, everyone thought he was so cool.
      Anyway, I can’t imagine the things that your father witnessed in his lifetime—especially with fleeing Germany in 1945. My dad did live in Santa Cruz briefly as well, and he moved up with me to WA State once it was clear he was having mental issues with his dementia. How our fathers shape us over their lives and ours. Thank you again for writing in and sharing. —Mi Ae

  8. Thank you for sharing this beautiful story about your dad and the little moments in life that led to your love of cars and driving, Mi Ae.

    • Thanks, Ty, for your kind words. My childhood was full of oddities, but my dad was such a part of it and being the quiet, kind enabler. Thanks again for writing. —Mi Ae

  9. Mi Ae,
    Let me offer my condolences to you. Dewey sounds like he was my kind of guy…low key and accomplished! I regularly read your column in Roundel and appreciate your efforts to enhance our collective knowledge and maybe save us from ourselves.
    I am grateful for the training I received as a new UPS driver in 1972. The Five Seeing Habits have allowed me to drive accident free for 48 years. I’m especially glad to use these skills during HPDE’s!
    No doubt Dewey is very proud of his daughter who is clearly living for a higher purpose, as was he!
    Peace and good wishes
    Chris Boone
    BMW CCA 12403

    • Thank you for your very sweet words, Chris—I really appreciate your writing in. And I am so glad that you’re enjoying the Roundel columns. It is truly an honor to write for the magazine. I’d love to ask you more about the Five Seeing Habits from your UPS training. Feel free to email me privately at miae@drivingintherealworld.com if you care to elaborate further. Thanks again. —Mi Ae

  10. I share your feelings for your loss, my dad also died of Parkinsons disease at 91 after being diagnosed in his 60’s, a long and destructive disease.
    R.I.P.

    • Thank you so much, Kevin, for your kind words. My heart goes out to you and your father—the long road down Parkinson’s can be a very bumpy one indeed. Peace and blessings, and thank you again. —Mi Ae

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