SUN CITY CENTER — It all started with a whir and a click-click-click.
Janet Fischesser noticed the noise as she was driving to have lunch with her son in Bradenton one Sunday afternoon two months ago.
At 86, Fischesser no longer drove her 1999 Lincoln Town Car very far from her Sun City Center home. But she still traveled to a doctor in Brandon and sometimes to meet her son, who lives in Venice.
As the noise got louder, Fischesser pulled over among the cow pastures on U.S. 41. She felt a little fear. What if her car didn't start again? It would be easy for someone to hit her over the head and steal her car or her purse.
"I thought, 'This is not smart, it's just not smart to be out in the boonies by yourself,' " said the retired executive secretary. She turned around and drove back home.
That was the day Fischesser began to think maybe it was time to stop driving a car.
• • •
The noise in her Lincoln was only the air conditioning, but she couldn't get rid of the nagging question in her mind.
She asked for advice from her children. Fischesser, who is divorced, has five spread around the country — all with opinions about what she should do.
One told her it was up to her. Another remarked: "Well, you are 86." Her youngest felt she was fine to keep driving.
She would hate to lose her independence. If she quit, her son would have to come to her. But living in a senior community was an advantage. She would still be able to use her golf cart to get to her bridge and china painting clubs, the grocery store, her eye doctor, the salon, her church, even the hospital.
Fischesser believes everyone over 70 should be required to take some sort of driving test every year. Three of her friends have gotten into accidents and given up their cars. She was in the car during one of those crashes and broke five ribs.
She got into another friend's car recently and the woman jerked the wheel left and right, pumped the gas and slammed the brakes. She resolved to never get in that car again.
Now she had to make a decision about her own driving.
She had never been in an accident that was her fault. Her reflexes and vision were okay. She had gotten only one speeding ticket — 30 years ago in Cincinnati.
She could drive just fine, she figured.
But she decided it was time to stop.
Before something did happen.
Leonora LaPeter Anton can be reached at [email protected]