My dad hit a tree going 57 miles per hour. I know this because his speedometer stuck upon impact. I would drive past the scene weekly and sometimes I would stop. Pieces of side mirror, random detritus from his Chevy would litter that spot for months. The tree was too big around to hug but not big enough to instill any sense of danger. That feeling you get when you stand close at the base of a tree and look up, realize that this tree will out live you and doesn’t give the slightest shit about your problems. My dads tree had more of a “hey what’s up down there” kind of feel. Mossy, except for that impact spot.
The gas and break pedal lodged into both of his legs and the windshield knocked all the sense he had left right out of him. Forever. I’d like to say that the time around that was a blur. It wasn’t. It was in slow motion. Everything was covered in a milky film of fantasy. I remember his socks, the blank stare, the smells, the circus of women who danced the joy of a cattle dog with a herd to circle.
There’s a lot more to this story but right now what it means to me is this.
This wasn’t the hardest thing to happen to me. It was probably the worst thing that had happened to him. And in many ways him happening to me is up there on the scale of catastrophes. I loved him in the same way we all love our daddies. Blindly until age clears up the cataracts.
My truth is that when he was comatose I wanted him to die. I knew it was his last chance to get out with dignity. I knew that he was a supremely unhappy person who would never climb out of his own misery. To this day, I have no guilt in this feeling. In many ways I was right. At 15 years old I knew that he would begin losing my respect, then my friendship, then my love. I wanted to keep him in a golden light, high above me. I wanted him to be free and happy. Most importantly, I needed to survive him.
I am doing that now. I am surviving my childhood. It wasn’t any better or worse than anybody else’s. The bags I drag behind me are no heavier than yours. Mine are just filled a little bit too full right now. It is divine providence that I have so many hands helping me move.