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Driver’s education, firearm safety, and behind the wheel are some examples of what young teenage kids dread to do as they are growing up. For me, that is an understatement. Though I knew these classes were important, I found it hard to concentrate, especially in driver's education. We would sit there for 3 hours each day learning what we would need to know while driving, which can be extremely boring when you could be out on the lake, having fun. The importance of this class never really set in, until about the 3rd day.
Another downside of taking driver's education was waking up early in the summer when all you want to do is sleep. I’m not a morning person, so hearing the sound of my alarm was never enjoyable. I woke up that day just like any other. My alarm went off and I lay in bed like I always do, to try to drag myself out of the deep sleep I had been just a few minutes before. I hear my phone start ringing. It’s my mom. I don’t even have to look at the phone to know that it’s her. She usually calls to make sure that my sister and I are up and moving.
I answer the phone, “Yeah mom, we’re up.”
She pauses before she answers, “Oh okay, that’s good. Where are you?” Her voice is cold.
“At home, what do you mean?” I reply, annoyed with the obvious question.
She’s quiet again and at this point I know there is something wrong, “It’s your grandpa Royce, he got into an accident. There was another driver who rear ended him while texting--he didn’t make it.”
“He didn’t make it.”
My head starts to spin as those words replay over and over. I don’t believe it. It feels like a bad dream that I will soon wake up from. When my mom’s voice snaps me back into reality, all I can feel is the wet tears that roll down my face one after another. I hear my mom’s voice but it isn’t clear anymore--the only sound I hear is from my own cries. And everything is dark.
I walk outside and get into the car; the sky is bright and the air feels warm. At this point, I’m angry. Angry with God for mocking me with this bright sky on a day that is so dark and grey. Angry with the man who took my grandpa’s life to send a text. Angry with God for letting it happen.
The car ride with my sister was filled with silence in the air, with an occasional sniffle or sob. I get to Northwoods bank where driver’s education is being held. I sit down and realize that out of all the days for this to happen, it had to happen on the day that we watch crashes and see pictures from accidents. I knew I wouldn’t last long, so it was such a relief to see my mom walk through those doors only minutes after I sat down, to take me home. It’s too bad that she couldn’t take away the reality that I was going to have to face sooner or later.
The next few days consisted of looking through pictures and arranging his funeral. I came along this picture of me sitting on my grandpa’s lap in his kitchen with a piece of half eaten licorice in my hand. As I examine this photo, I can almost smell my grandma’s cooking in the background. I can feel my grandpa rub his scratchy beard against my cheek as I squeal and to try to get away. It felt as if it were only yesterday that that picture was taken. I held the picture in my shaky hands; the realization that I’ll never get to hear his deep, raspy voice ever again starts to set in.
Texting and driving is something that I rarely use to think about. But now that I’ve seen what it can do to a family, I don’t take it lightly. No text is worth another person’s life, and that’s something I think about everytime I get into my car. The man that rear-ended my grandpa was only 19 years old with his whole life ahead of him. He was very fortunate to make it out of the crash without any injuries. He was a year older than I am today, and it makes me realize how something like this could happened to anyone, including me.
About 3 months after his death, I find my siblings and I kneeling at my grandpa's grave. I see bouquets of flowers all around his stone. The wind picks up and leaves start to fall from the trees. I watch as the colorful leaves fall to his gravestone, and from this moment on I know that he has been with me since the day he left this earth, watching down from heaven.