His Eyes Would Sparkle And Shine


It was 16 years ago and it was a beautiful Friday afternoon.  I was in 6th grade and had just completed my first week back to school after being at home for a bit with the chicken pox.  Getting those at 12 was just brutal.  I will never forget how relieved I was to come home that afternoon, but that relief was short lived when I saw my mother come home from work.  She had clearly been crying for quite some time and the gentleman she was with at the time had to help her walk into our house.  That afternoon my father had made a choice that would affect all of us for the rest of our lives….

My father had met at a local watering hole with his best buddy.  Who knows what they were actually there for; alcoholics don’t need reasons to be at these places, they are always there.  They, too, decided to make the best of the weather and go cruising down a back road.  Both had been drinking but only one had a license.  My dad had just been released from jail a few months earlier due to the ‘3 strikes and you’re out’ rule for drunk drivers.  He spent a couple months in jail and the only thing it changed was kept him from driving; he lost his license for a LONG time.  I guess we all felt relieved that he couldn’t drive anymore.

As they drove along this winding road, they attempted to maintain a high rate of speed through an upcoming s-curve.  They made it through the first half of the curve, but the second part, they were not so lucky.  The car they were riding in went hurling off the road before flipping several times and ejecting my father from the car.  The driver was trapped in the car with only a bruise on his neck from the seat belt.  My father went flying 30 feet from the car and was killed during the ejection as his head went through the portion of the car where the door closes with the car.  As the once white car comes to a rest in a crumpled metal ball, my father, too, was laying in the field in a crumpled pile.

My mother, after taking a while to compose herself, came from her bedroom and sat my sister and I down to talk with us.  She had informed us that our father was in another accident.  My parents had been divorced for a bit when this all happened and his accidents were a partial factor in that life changing decision.  I asked if we could go see him, assuming he was in a hospital or crashed out on someone’s couch again.  My mother shook her head and began to cry again.  She said he didn’t make it this time.  I was frozen, shocked still in my own skin.  How does a 12 year old and a 7 year old understand the death of a parent?  How do these children understand death at all?  I began to cry as I saw everyone around me crying.  I didn’t know what else to do.

When it came time to see my father one last time, I still felt frozen.  I was physically alive, but in all other senses, I was dead.  I truly don’t think I’ve ever recovered, but I’ve learned to accept those dead parts of me.  I walked up to his casket, not really sure of what I would see.  I wanted to see my dad the way I always had, the pale factory worker with dirty hands, scrubby hair and always a 5 o’clock shadow.  There was only one thing that was him, his attire.  They put him in his Harley-Davidson t-shirt and jeans with the worn out Converse athletic high tops he had had for almost 10 years.  But he had so much make up on his face to cover up all the swelling and bruising that he didn’t look like my dad.  They had an open casket, but he was faced so you couldn’t see one side of his face as his jaw was busted out and they put a turtle neck over his twisted neck.  The funeral home played a lot of my father’s favorite songs in the background as our family is not really into that organ music.  But it was when they decided to have him carried out to Lynyrd Skynyrd’s ‘Free Bird’ that all of a sudden all that was left of me was sucked out and I cried like I had never cried before.  Watching my family around me cry as they watched me cry just was too much.

The next year I would see society, the justice system and my family at their worst.  Court, money and moral battles took over our lives as everyone fought about everything.  My sister and I had to sit back and watch our lives continue to unravel all because my father decided to take a drunk joy ride one beautiful Friday afternoon.  Please, think about this story the next time you are about to get behind the wheel of a car.  Do you want to put a family through this?  Do you want to put yourself through the legal troubles that will follow?  If you or someone you know battles with this sort of problem, please share this story and let them know they can get help.  Friends and family don’t let the ones they love drive drunk.  Don’t change someone’s life this way.  Don’t let someone else have this kind of story to relive every day for the rest of their lives.

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