The Year Was 2009

I was 19 and had been attending college but, thanks to financial difficulties, had to leave. I moved back in with my parents and started working a minimum wage job, 50+ hours a week almost an hour away from home. Mid-December, in the middle of my shift, I got a tearful call from my mom asking me to come home. I left as soon as I could.

At home, I calmed my mom down so that I could understand her. She dropped the bomb: my dad had been having an affair for about a month, told her about it AND had no intention of stopping it.

I called into work the next day to be home with my mom to make sure she didn’t try anything stupid and when I needed a second day off, I was fired. Guess I got all the time off I needed, right?

I saw my dad about 3 times between the 14th and Christmas. The presents he got us he bought while he was with his girlfriend, and were wrapped in surgical paper from the office because he was there with her the whole time. My mom, younger sister, and I moved out the day after Christmas. It was mostly quiet for a few months, other than struggling through visits with my dad when I was so angry at him I could barely control it.

In March, my aunt came up to visit and we planned to visit my dad at my grandparents house one night. Because of a rumor, my dad ended up staying with his girlfriend that night. My sister and I stopped by dad’s on the way home, to find a police car sitting out front speaking to my dad, and my mom at the gas station across the street. ‘Supposedly’ my mom had tried to break in to get financial records and then tried to attack my dad when she realized he was there instead of with us. ‘Supposedly’ my dad then punched her and pushed her down a flight of stairs. April to June was a constant barrage of being lied to from both sides and listening to my parents bad-mouth each other.

On July 12th, 2009, I was headed home from a bonfire at a friend’s house. I was completely sober. Northbound on a north/south highway, there is a hill with an intersection about 100 feet from the crest. I looked down for half a second to put my cell phone in the cup holder. Wrong second to look down. There were two cars stopped at the intersection, going opposite directions, each making left turns. As soon as I saw the car in front of me, I slammed on the brakes. It wasn’t enough. My truck rear ended the car in front of me, which cause the car to spin around and hit the other car in the gas tank. They caught on fire. The car headed southbound had 4 teenagers in it, who all got out okay. The car I struck had a teenage girl driving and her boyfriend. She got out okay. He did not. He was pinned in the backseat and burnt to death. I can only pray that he was knocked out from the impact.

At 20 years old, I was responsible for someone’s death, a someone who was a son, a brother, a boyfriend. I was charged with vehicular homicide as a 3rd degree misdemeanor, which carries a 2 year license suspension, 2 years probation, 200 hours of community service, and 90 days in jail. I was given the maximum sentence.

In October, my dad and his girlfriend announced she was pregnant. I haven’t finished a single credit hour of school since the accident, despite my best efforts to keep going. I work for my dad because I have no way to get to another job. I have a jail sentence hanging over my head as a threat. I am afraid to go places in the town I live in because I don’t want to run into the family of the boy who died and cause them more grief. I was single for more than a year and a half. And you know what?

I love my life. I am happy. I have an amazingly supportive family. My relationship with my dad is better than it has been in 15 years. I am actually pretty good friends with his girlfriend now. I love my baby sister so much. I am in a relationship with a man who knows about the accident and loves me anyway. I am proud of myself, proud of how I have dealt with this traumatic situation that I was given, and that I’ve turned it into something positive.

I talk to young drivers about what can happen if they don’t take driving seriously. And they listen. I appreciate life so much more now than I did. I know it’s easy to be preachy and say “Oh, you just have to find the silver lining, blah blah blah.” Fuck that. A year ago I was at the lowest point I’ve been in my life, but I just kept trucking, because really, what other choice do you have? And things got better. It took time. And they definitely got worse before they got better, but it happened eventually.

My only advice is hang in there. And stay off your fucking phones while you’re driving please.

You will never get a text or call that’s more important than your child’s or your mother’s or your partner’s life.