Tribute

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Non-Fiction  |  House: Booksie Classic
Probably the most difficult thing I've written to date. I intend to submit it for one of my classes when it's finished, but I know it still needs work. I'm just not sure what to do with it. This is my first attempt at putting this experience into words in the (almost) eight years since it happened, and this is, in a way, a tribute.

Submitted: April 03, 2007

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Submitted: April 03, 2007

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Tribute 

It was Sunday, May second, 1999. It was ten days before my eleventh birthday. It was early afternoon. There were five of us in a three-passenger truck. I don't remember what make or model it was, but it was red and rusted. My father was driving, and my three siblings were fighting. We weren't wearing our seatbelts, but then again we never did in the truck. The windows were wide open because it was a beautiful day. I was waving my arm in the wind currents rushing past the truck door, not paying attention to anything in particular but trying to ignore the elbows that repeatedly hit me.

We had been looking for good spots to catch minnows because my dad was an avid fisherman and he refused to pay for his bait. He'd fish with our frozen home-grown corn before he'd buy minnows. Fishing opener was approaching quickly, and he wanted to know where to set up his minnow traps before he needed to actually do it. I was along because I was my dad's "favorite" and he'd asked me to go. My siblings were just along to give my mother a break.

We were heading home after looking for good spots, driving on the rarely-driven gravel road we lived on, about ten miles from home. I wasn't paying attention to anything until I felt my body moving away from the seat as my father stepped on the brakes. I looked forward to see why we were stopping, just in time to see a huge body of water straight in front of us.

I don't remember the actual crash. I do remember a lot of screaming, and I remember looking at my dad and knowing that something wasn't right as the water started pouring into the cab of the truck. I remember looking at my arm half outside the truck and thinking that it was broken, then realizing that my vision was actually just distorted by the crumpled door my arm was resting on. I remember looking over at my sister Sandi and seeing the sheer horror in her eyes, then looking down to see my little brother on the floor of the truck in the water.

From there, things get a bit blurry in memory. I crawled out the passenger window and took my brother from my sister since he couldn't swim even when he was conscious. After getting him out of the water and being sure he was breathing I went back for my two younger sisters. When everyone except my dad was out of the truck, I went back for him.

I remember clearly two things about my final trip into the water. My father's eyes were blue, and the water had risen to his collarbone but had stopped there. I vaguely knew he was hurt, but I didn't know how badly. I'd just learned in Girl Scouts not to move an injured person, so I left the truck and returned to my siblings.

I remember thinking, "What do I do now?" as I sat on the edge of the road, looking at the back end of the truck. We waited for a couple of minutes before I decided that I was going to walk to the nearest house for help. I'd only made it a few hundred feet down the road, dripping wet and hurting badly, when I heard a car approaching. I headed for the center of the road, waving my arms and yelling. The driver of the car was a family friend; his name was Troy, he had a daughter who was Sandi's age, and he was a certified EMT. I remember the first thing he said after he parked in the middle of the road and got out of the car to come to me. He said, "Honey, why are you bleeding, and what are you doing out here?"

From there, I remember very little. Troy pulled out his first-aid kit and taped gauze to the gash on my forehead that I hadn't even noticed. He examined my little brother, who had regained consciousness while I was getting help. My siblings and I were wrapped in blankets and towels, and loaded into Troy's car. The police came, and the ambulance, and the tow truck. My dad was put on a stretcher and put into the ambulance, but we didn't see that because Troy's wife came sometime during the commotion. She kept us occupied with questions about school.

We were taken home, where my older brother Dayle met us. My mother left for the hospital, but wouldn't take any of us with her. Dayle told us that the paramedics had said that our dad was going to be all right, that he'd had a heart attack but he would be fine. I didn't think anything of this because even though my dad was only 48 years old, he'd suffered three heart attacks and to a ten-year-old, the phrase had become something familiar, not frightening.

At some point, the telephone rang. Dayle answered it. He didn't say much at first, just "okay" and "uh-huh." I was curious, but didn't really think about who was on the other end of the line. At least, until he hung up and I saw he was crying. My 26-year-old brother never cried. That was when I knew. I left the house sprinting, and I don't know how I got there but I ended up in a clearing deep in the woods. I stayed there until the sun set. I didn't cry, not that I remember. The walk home was much longer than I'd expected.

My mother wanted to hug me. My siblings wanted to hug me. They thought I was in shock. They wanted to talk about it. They wanted to tell me about the heart attack and internal bleeding that killed my father. They wanted to talk about how well I handled the situation. I hated all of it. They wanted to know if I wanted to stay home from school the next day. I didn't. We fought about it. I told my mom that staying home wasn't going to do any good. She made me stay home the next day, and the whole week. I was so pissed.  

I remember very little from the following weeks. I remember seeing my father's body at the visitation, then again at the funeral, both times against my wishes. I remember throwing dirt down onto the casket at the cemetery. I remember having to hug everyone before I was allowed to shut myself in the car. I remember that I still hadn't cried.

It's been almost eight years since my father's death, and I still haven't cried over it. Not because I don't miss him because I do, but because I've never felt the need to cry to show him that. My tribute to him is the basket of flowers hanging next to his gravestone, rather than tears.

 


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