Today is the thirtieth anniversary of the day my father was killed by a drunk driver.
He didn’t get to meet the man I’d marry, or see any of his three kids get married. While my wedding was very happy, there was a stone in my heart that day. When I lost a baby, he wasn’t there to comfort me. He didn’t get to fall in love with his first grandchild, the Princess, or sit next to Dearest Son’s incubator and marvel at the miracle of him. He didn’t get to cuddle any of his five grandchildren. He didn’t get to see his daughter’s name on a book cover.
I think about how my dad would’ve been…a doting grandpa, smug and proud, always encouraging the kids to be great, work hard, dream big. He would’ve loved McIrish and his care of the land, his work ethic and love of outdoors—qualities they shared. I think of how proud my books would have made him. He would’ve come to all the awards ceremonies, and being my dad, he would have had a big bouquet of roses each time, whether I won or lost (but being my dad, he would’ve been confident that I’d win).
Sometimes I dream that my father is back, and that I’m introducing my kids to him. Those are hard dreams. Heartbreakers.
My dad had a special nickname for me only he used. No one calls me that any more. No one has called me that in thirty years. No one will ever call me that again. I’m older than my dad ever was. He’s been gone for more than half my life, and you’d think I’d be used to it. But I’m not, even though my memories of him are foggy now. I can’t really remember his voice. I miss him every day, but three decades have passed, blurring my memories.
Grief has is a presence unto itself—the absence of him is more acute than my old memories are, worn down by thirty years. The shock of losing him in such a brutal crash, such a stupid, preventable way has given way to the weary acceptance that he’s simply gone. The facts of my life have shifted. I’m a middle-aged woman who lost her dad so long ago that it’s normal now. That doesn’t seem fair.
Yesterday, I was driving back from New York, and I glanced at the car next to me. The driver was texting as we maneuvered through the difficult traffic—traffic caused by a car accident, ironically. I thought what I always think when I see someone driving stupidly: If you crash, I hope it’s only yourself that you kill. It’s a merciless thought because in that respect, I am without mercy.
Maybe, if you’re one of those people who texts while driving, or gets behind the wheel after a few drinks, hoping you’re sober enough, you’ll think of my dad, and me, left alone to figure out life without the one person I really looked up to.
I share a lot of my life with you, my friends and readers. I wanted to share my heartache on this wretchedly significant day. Don’t drive distracted. Put your damn phone in the back seat and ignore it. Don’t drive drunk or stoned or impaired. Be watchful. Be careful. Be smart.