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Steering My Way Through the Storm

June 16, 2010

I drove home from a Target excursion today in pouring rain. For a few minutes, I could barely see the road or the cars around me.

With this new blog on my mind, it’s no surprise that my thoughts went to my brother’s 1993 car accident, which happened during a blinding rainstorm. His car hydroplaned, spun across the center line of an outmoded four-lane highway with no divider, bounced off the guard rail on the far side and spun back into the traffic lanes, where his VW GTI was struck by another car whose driver misjudged the trajectory of my brother’s car. That driver survived the crash, but her passenger did not.

One of the first things my dad said to me when I saw him that first terrible afternoon was, “Now nothing can happen to you.” Lest you misread the emphasis there, it was a desperate warning to be careful.

Gulp.

No pressure.

For a long time after that, any time I drove in the rain, I gripped the steering wheel with all the white-knuckled strength I could muster. I wasn’t paralyzed with fear, but I was very conscious of it. I didn’t want to let my dad down. I couldn’t die, too.

Dad’s words stick with me these many years later. Though I no longer hold the steering wheel in a vise grip when it rains, I still do worry a bit. Now not just for my father’s sake, but for my children’s.

Unfortunately, I can’t guarantee that nothing will happen to me.

What I can do is pledge to stay present. Stay present to my parents, stay present to my husband, stay present to my children. Stay present to the road while I’m driving.

I don’t want “nothing” to happen to me. No, I don’t want to die (at least not for a very long time), but being careful all the time can make it awfully hard to truly live. And I’m pretty sure that’s not what my dad would want for me.

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