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What Changed My Life
There’s a flash of headlight. Someone’s coming up the driveway, I think, I wonder if it’s dad. But no. It’s no the red pickup I know so well, it’s a green car and in it is a lady. I hear a door slam and almost instantaneously there’s a knock.
“Come in!” My mom calls to the stranger. The woman comes in and comes up the stairs, not bother to take off her shoes.
Who is she? I wonder. She’s about the same height as my mom. With curly brown hair that’s pulled back from her face but with wisps sticking out. She’s wearing a blue jacket and jeans which flare out around her dirty white sneakers.
My mom goes to meet her and soon they are off in rapid conversation. I don’t hear any of it. It’s all lost in their whispers. I ignore them until the murmurs stop then I look back. The lady has a grim look in her eyes that is matched by my mom’s frightened ones.
I wonder what’s going on but no one tells me anything. “Mom?” I ask.
“Just a second,” she answers, her voice shaky. I wait but she just looks back at the woman and crosses the living room to get the telephone. She dials a number and has another conversation that I can’t hear. I feel annoyed because she’s blocking the TV but I don’t feel the time is right to say something. Part of this is because of the tension in the air, and the feel of urgency.
I wait some more but go back to the TV and watch Spongebob get his boating license as she finishes her call. The night continues almost normally after that. The lady plays with my brother and I watch TV. After a whiled I go to the playroom and grab some unbroken crayons and a coloring book. I pick a picture of a butterfly, planning to give it to my brother. I work extra hard on it.
I show my mom when I’m half way done but she seems preoccupied. She’s sitting in the lay boy and staring at the wall. Her feet are tapping and she’s clenching the chair as if her life depends on it. So I go back to the couch and continue coloring.
More headlights. Who is it now? Our house has been unusually busy tonight. Again I’m wrong as my hope for my dad turns instead into the babysitter. I call her “the babysitter” most of the time because we’ve had a lot of babysitters.
She knocks on the door, “Come in!” My mom calls again, the waver gone from her voice. The babysitter comes in and my mom tells her everything that they have yet to tell me. The babysitter nods a lot and then looks toward my brother and I. I can see pity in her gaze and I wonder why.
The babysitter is one of many. Average height, brown hair, green eyes, she was nice and did things with us. At least that’s what I remember.
They finished talking and my mom grabbed her purse and a jacket from the kitchen table. She gave my brother and I a hug.
“I’ll be back in a while. Don’t stay up. Listen to the babysitter,” she says in a hurry.
“Ok. Bye,” I say, wondering where she’s going and why she has to.
She stopped and gazed at us them followed the lady that I never knew the name of down the stairs and out the door. My brother and I run to the window. I watched them go like I had watched my parents leave us so many times before to be with their friends and not come back until late. But this time was different; I was scared and wanted to know what was going on and when my mom and dad would be back.
The night progressed in a blue. We watched TV, played game, and colored until it was time to go to bed. Mom and dad still weren’t back and I was worried but forgot it. When I woke up my mom was home, but my dad was no where. She told me to come into the living room with her so she could tell me something important. She started slowly.
“Your dad was in a car accident last night,” she paused, “he was hurt bad and he won’t be coming home any time soon.”
She stopped and I just stared. I couldn’t believe it. Finally I knew what happened the night before but I regretted it. I did the only thing I knew how to do when I didn’t know what else to do. I started crying.
AFTERWORD: That night my father was out drinking with his friends. I was about 7, my brother about 5. He decided to drive him and a friend home. Going to fast around a tight corner he rolled his pick up and both men had to be air lifted to a hospital. They both lived. My father suffered brain injuries and cannot move one of his fingers. He has pains and a messed up shoulder. I wasn’t allowed to go see my father for about a month, and even then he looked horrific. Because of alcohol I had to watch my father learn to walk again in that white hospital. One of my earliest memories after this is watching him struggle just to walk 10 feet down the hallway. My mother and father are now divorced and my father has been sober for more than 6 years. My mother is struggling with alcoholism. Please, don’t let this same thing happen to you or your loved ones, don’t drink and drive!