I loved that 1968 Ford Thunderbird. Its powerful V-8 was integrated with luxurious comfort, lots of chrome, and a stylish, aerodynamic design. Its state-of-the-art sequential turn signals sexily cooed “follow me” ... or so my teenage-boy, hormone-ravaged, brain told me. And, my grandfather let me drive it. A 17-year-old teenager. Alone.

Like many teenagers who love their parents in a similar way, I loved that T-bird but didn’t treat it very well. Once outside of eye and ear shot and having picked up an equally hormonally ravaged buddy of mine, I peeled an inch off Gramps’ brand new rear tires, laying thick lines of black rubber on a nearby neighborhood’s once quiet street, clouds of opaque, acrid smoke wafting from the screeching rear end of that pristine car.

I guess that’s why when the time comes I probably won’t let my 17-year-old grandson drive my car alone. With age and experience, I suppose, comes wisdom. My Gramps was a very wise man but his grandpa had horses hitched to a wagon and never owned a car. So if my great-grandfather had allowed my Gramps to drive the wagon alone, Gramps couldn’t have peeled an inch of keratin off the horses’ hooves no matter how much giddy-up he used. And wagon wheels on dirt farm paths won’t squeal and smoke no matter how fast you get them horses a-goin’ from a standin’ start.

So while a wise, old man, but possessing no grandfatherly allowed experience in peeling rubber, Gramps could hardly conceive of me, his eldest grandson, treating his “steed” — his pride and joy, his brand new Ford T-bird muscled up with a 429-cubic-inch, V-8 with a 4-barrel carb and 360 horsepower — so poorly.

But I, his grandson, could conceive of it and actually implement the conception. Boy, those T-bird tires could sing and smoke! It was exhilarating — at least for me if not for the poor car. Paraphrasing the Beach Boys, it was “Fun, fun, fun until his grandpa took the T-bird away.”

So as I’ve gotten older, it’s probably fate — but more likely Karma — and either way it’s fair that because of the way I treated my grandfather, I have turned into him. I don’t have his sporty T-bird but my hairline, receding faster than a 17-year-old’s rear tires’ tread, matches my Gramps’ hairline almost to a “T” (bird).

When I wasn’t peeling rubber off Gramps’ tires, I was screaming “PEDAL ON THE RIGHT!!!” through the open windows of my car as I passed oldsters driving too slowly for my liking as if I, a 17-year-old punk nobody knucklehead who had done nothing and knew nothing, could teach senior citizens to use the right (accelerator) pedal to speed up. Of course, I didn’t know how much I didn’t know back then. It has taken me getting older and turning into my Gramps for me to finally begin to figure out how little I really know about just about everything.

The other day, an oldster now myself, going only a few miles an hour over the speed limit on NC 24 but too slowly for my co-roadies and causing a bit of a traffic jam, I was passed by at least a dozen cars, all of the drivers younger than me. As I looked over at the drivers, a few scowled at me for going too slowly for their liking. Acting far more courteously then me, at least they had the civility to only give me a scowl as they sped by and not scream through their open windows, “PEDAL ON THE RIGHT!!!”

Of course, unlike in the late '60s when air conditioning in cars was a luxury item (Gramps’ T-bird had it!) so windows were almost always rolled down in the summer, today most everyone’s windows — even on beautiful days — are rolled up, the air-conditioning and entertainment systems otherwise not working as well. This fact blessedly makes punk teenagers’ attempts at teaching moments much more difficult.

Despite receding hairlines and scowls from younger people in a hurry, there are worse things than becoming one’s grandfather, including not making it to the enlightened stage of life of understanding just how very little we really know. I won’t claim yet to have fully reached that stage and don’t know if I can ever attain the wise, old, sage my Gramps came to be. I hope I can some day. I wish he was here so I could tell him now what a knucklehead I was at 17 and how much I loved and respected him and thank him for allowing me to drive that ’68 T-bird of his even though I didn’t treat it very well.

But come to think of it, given how wise he was he probably knew all along what a knucklehead, teenage grandson he had but forgave me for it. I’d like to thank him for that grace, too, in the final analysis worth far more to me than even that ’68 T-bird.