Six years ago, on Sunday, March 3rd, my dad died in a truck, on the side of the Muskogee Turnpike. I think I probably talk about this too much. Maybe to the point of driving people crazy. I've got a lot to talk about today, so bear with me.
I was living in Russellville then. Working at Tech. I had a piece of junk car that always had problems... I'm so thankful for that car.
It happened that the week before the accident, my car would not go in reverse. So, I called and told my mom and dad (the condition of my car was one of the only things my dad knew to talk to me about). He wanted to come get it and take a look. So, on Monday he and my mom drove to Russellville to pick it up. I showed them around my dorm apartment, then drove to the parking lot where my car was stranded. The plan was for my mom to drive it home, and he would follow behind in his truck. So, he drove me back to my dorm, dropped me off, said "love you sis," and they drove home.
It turned out the car had serious problems, so on Wednesday, my friend Cindi drove me to Kerry's house in Charleston to meet dad and get mom's car to drive until it was fixed . It was the last time I ever saw or talked to him. I was so mad about that stupid car, but had it not been for the trouble, I wouldn't have seen him twice that week. Perspective.
Mom was planning to go to Tulsa that weekend to see my nephews. Since I had her car, dad decided to go with her. I took mom's car to Harrison to see Chris for the weekend. It snowed on Friday night and Saturday, but had warmed up on Sunday and the roads seemed ok. Chris and I went on a walk around his neighborhood that afternoon, and were about to go to his friends house to visit. When we came in the door from walking, I noticed that I had several missed calls from my sister, Melissa. I listened to the message and she was screaming for me to call her. I called back immediately and knew instantly that something was terribly wrong. She said that mom and dad had been in a bad accident. She thought mom was critical, but they wouldn't tell her anything about dad. She was on her way to the hospital in Muskogee. She was distraught.. yelling at me to come to the hospital in Muskogee but to be careful because the roads were bad. I screamed and fell to my knees in the living room of Chris' apartment.
The hours and days that followed are a blur.
Just hours before the accident, mom and dad left Tulsa - they stopped at Garden Ridge on the way out of town to pick up flowers for the cemetery in Waldron, then headed towards home. When they got just past the 2nd toll booth on the Muskogee Turnpike, a truck driving towards Tulsa hit a patch of ice and crossed the median, hitting their full-size Dodge pick-up head-on. Mom was reading a book, and remembers that he said "watch out" and threw his arm across her. Both dad and the man and woman in the truck that hit them died instantly.
After I got the call, I couldn't think of how to get to Muskogee from Harrison. Chris and I just drove. I prayed out loud, not knowing what was going on, but praying that God would save them. Just as we got to Dover, Kerry called so Chris pulled over at a gas station. She told me that they were all in Muskogee, and that mom was conscious and it looked like she was going to be ok. They had all been in to see her and she recognized them. She said they were moving her to Fort Smith. Relief. I could breathe again. "How's dad" was my next question... her answer changed my life forever. She said "he's gone" and I can remember saying "no he's not"...I screamed and yelled - almost out of control. Kerry told me later on that having to tell me over the phone, while all of them were together at the hospital, was one of the most difficult things she's ever had to do. Though I don't remember a lot after that, I know I asked "what are we going to do?" over and over and over. I don't even know that I recognized that Chris was in the car with me - that drive from Dover to Fort Smith was the longest drive of my life.
When we got to the emergency room, there was already an elderly couple from my mom and dad's church waiting. No one from my family was there yet. Chris and I sat by ourselves waiting for the ambulance to get there with mom. Not long after, my grandma, Aunt Carolyn, Uncle Doyle and Aunt Dan got there. I hugged and hugged them. It felt good to have someone who was hurting with me there. Tricia came in not long after -- even more relief (at this point Chris and I had only been dating for two months, and he had met my parents only once).
Because of mom's condition, they had to wait for a paramedic (rather than an EMT) before they could transport her. We sat in the ER waiting room for about three hours before they arrived with her. While we waited, family and friends started showing up in droves. It was unbelievable. Melissa rode in the ambulance, and the moment they drove up I saw the brokenness in her face. I stood at the door and waited for them to bring her in. Had I not known it was her, I wouldn't have recognized her. She was bruised and swollen. They rushed her past me into surgery. The Dr. came out shortly after and advised that she would not have surgery. There were no internal injuries (though the news report said she had "internal trunk injuries.") She was hurt badly, but she was gong to be ok. I believe it was a miracle.
The doctor said that she wanted to see me and my aunt (she had seen the others in Muskogee), so we walked into the recovery room. I put my face up against hers and she said "I'm sorry about your daddy." We both cried.
We waited until Thursday to have his memorial service, so that she was well enough to go. Melissa, Tricia, Kerry and I had to go to the funeral home to make the arrangements (my mom's sister and two of my dad's brother's went with us). I'll never forget walking in that room with all of the caskets to pick the one they would put him in. It was terrible. The whole process is just terrible.
On the day of the funeral, they brought mom to the church in a non-emergency ambulance. She was in a lot of pain - more than I can imagine both emotionally and physically. Her bones were broken, and her heart was broken. She was bruised and battered in every sense of the words. Because she had to get back to the hospital, she wasn't able to go to the graveside service in Waldron. We did it without her -- which isn't something we were accustomed to. (If you know her, you know she's the boss of our family). :) It was all very surreal. and I felt like I was floating above myself the entire day. He would never have believed the number of people who came to his service to celebrate his life and support us. People are good.
Now, six years later, I'm still sad that this happened. I still miss him. I still wish he was here to play with Carlee and Eli. I still wish they could experience what a great grandad he was. That he could take them for horseback rides and drive them up and down the road on his tractor. That they could ride around on his back in the living room and he would buck them off like a bull. I wish I could see his big hands, that I could hear him say "awe bull," and "how's your car, sis?" At the same time, I'm so thankful our mom's life was spared. That she's here to love and support our kids. And, I'm thankful that this is not our home.