November 29, 2014
I don’t know your name, but you killed my father on June 9, 1973, in Stockton, California. My father was 32 years old then; I was 10. If he had lived, he would have been 74 on November 29th.
Me, the year my father was killed.
I am a 51-year-old woman now; my father has not been with me for most of my life, and yet I still feel his presence; I still miss him. When I was 10, and he was killed, I hated you. In fact, I hated you for many, many years.
Somehow I got it in my head that you were a drunk driver and killed him while driving drunk. Perhaps someone told me that, or maybe it’s just what a child creates to make sense of a senseless world. Admittedly, that story helped me for a while. It gave me a place to focus my pain, anger, and loss. If I hated you, for taking my dad away, I didn’t have to look at so many other pieces. We all need something to hold onto, when we’re drowning.
However, many years later my aunt, dad’s sister, told me that you were in fact a good man — young like my father, and that you felt terrible about your part in his death. She told me that she thought you had even come to my father’s memorial service. It was news that challenged me on so many levels; it’s information I’ve chewed on for several years since.
I remember the day my father was buried, so well. I remember the funeral home — filled with people, suffocatingly hot in the Stockton heat. I remember that our family sat separately, in an area apart from the other mourners. I was restless, listening to people get up to speak, listening to prayers — to a God I hated. I remember my father, in the casket… It was one of the worst days of my life. If you were sitting there too, I can’t help but wonder what that day felt like for you.
My dad, six months before he died.
My father was a very young man when he died. He was the father of three children; I am the oldest. My brother was eight, and my little sister was almost five. We have all grown up without our father, and that hole has impacted each of us very differently — but make no mistake, we each have a hole.
If I met you now, what would I do, what would I say to you?
I would say this: I’m so sorry for your loss.
I know that you were just driving that day; you had no idea that your car and my father’s motorcycle would collide. I can only imagine the pain you’ve felt over the years, having experienced such a trauma. I would tell you that I grew up to be a successful and happy woman. I have three beautiful children and I’ve been married for 28 years, to a very good man.