Guest Writer: The following essay was written by my son, Jacob, for a college English class.
I’m sitting in the passenger seat of my dad’s white Ford Taurus as he is dragged away by the police. My little brother whimpers in the back seat. We both wait, scared and lonely. What is going to happen to my brother and me? I try to stay strong and not shed tears in front of my brother who looks to me for answers, but I am only thirteen years old. I feel strangled by the moment. I take shallow breaths. Everything has come to an abrupt halt like the car after the accident.
It started out as a relaxing Saturday afternoon in the spring as my dad, brother and I headed home from our soccer game. My brother and I had been waiting for this weekend for a long time because my mom and sisters were out of town for my sister’s basketball tournament and it would be just the guys at the house.
As we drove we talked about the game and what exciting things we were going to do this weekend. Then a group of four motorcyclists approached and circled the car. They slowed down and weaved in front of the car as my dad screamed in anger at them. Then one of the motorcyclists behind the car drove onto the shoulder and swerved in front of the car. My dad was livid at this point and he pushed the car around the motorcyclist. Suddenly the motorcyclist slammed on his breaks. His bike plummeted toward our car. My dad veered to the left, but it was too late. My dad’s right mirror hit the handle bars of the motorcyclist’s bike and caused him to lose control. I watched as the biker wobbled and worked to gain control. His bike scraped down the side of the car. Then he finally lost control and he tumbled off and slid down the highway. When my dad finally pulled over he jumped out of the car and ran toward the group of motorcyclists that followed us. They began to scream at each other but my dad wouldn’t let them close to our car in fear that they would do something to us. We later learned that they all were carrying licensed fire arms. When my dad got back to the car he didn’t say a word. It was silent until the Highway Patrol arrived. The officer came over to the car and asked to speak with my dad. As my dad got out I noticed him shoving a bottle under his seat. My brother and I watched intently through the back window as they talked outside the car. In a brisk movement the officer spun my dad around and shoved him against the trunk of the car. The whole car jolted and we heard the officer grunt, “You have the right to remain silent….”
The next 45 minutes was filled with racing memories of many questions. I was paralyzed with fear until I saw the family of one of my teammates pull onto the shoulder of the highway behind us. As the officer ushered us out of the car and told us to grab the things we needed, we saw the long dark gray scrape down the side of the car from the handle bars, but all I could think was how much I hated him. I felt more anger then but I kept silent. We grabbed our things and the officer walked us to the passenger side of his patrol car where my dad was sitting in handcuffs, sobbing and apologizing. At this point the tears poured down my cheeks as I said to my dad, “It’s fine.” Seeing my dad cry was the hardest part of the whole day. It felt like everything went dark and I was by myself with no one to help me. I felt alone.
I kept quiet for the next 24 hours while I stayed the night with my teammate and his family. My teammate, a close friend to this day, tried hard to cheer me up by letting me win in video games. His mom cooked us whatever we wanted. The next day my dad’s brother and his best friend picked us up from my teammate’s house and took us home. I felt a little bit better once I saw them but both of them were strangely silent. I could tell they were angry but I couldn’t figure out why. I felt like I had done something wrong.
When we got home they told us to play some videos games and that they were going to get my dad out of jail. I remember they moved the couches for us so we would be right in front of the T.V. and turned on Halo 2.
We lost track of time while playing the video game but after a while we heard the car door slam outside. My dad came running through the doorway with tears running down his face. He hugged both of us around the neck, while we continued to play the video game so we wouldn’t have to look him in the eyes. He sobbed, “I’m sorry,” over and over again. He ended up making us turn off the video game so he could sit down and talk to us. He started out by apologizing but all we said was, “It’s fine.” He shook his head and said, “No it isn’t.” He was very angry with himself for letting us down and embarrassing us. He thought we were angry with him at the time but we both were just happy he was home. He kept trying to see how we were feeling but we didn’t want to talk, we just wanted to be with him.
I saw my dad at his lowest but I also saw him get back up and better himself because of it. Since that terrible weekend he has been sober five and a half years. In that time he has become a better man and more important a better father.
Watching my dad pick himself back up made me think about how I needed to do the same. I did it by not feeling sorry for myself and taking one of the biggest lessons from the situation and using it–forgiveness. I had to learn how to forgive many people–like my dad, the officer and the motorcyclists. Forgiving the officer and motorcyclists wasn’t necessarily for them but for me. I had to let go of the anger because it wasn’t doing me any good. The hardest part about forgiving my dad was acknowledging how angry I was at him and sorting through it so I could understand it and move on. Working through this anger helped strengthen my relationship with my dad.
That day on the highway scared the hell out of me. Enough that I swore I would never drink alcohol. I haven’t touched liquor or drugs since that day — but not because I’m scared.
It’s knowledge, not fear anymore. I know that I want an education. I want to play college soccer. I want a career. Someday I want a family. I learned from my dad that these opportunities are more enduring than the risky pleasures of drugs and alcohol.
I would never wish for something like this to happen to anyone. And I sure wouldn’t want go to through it again. But I’m grateful for the lessons I have learned from this experience and the man I am for coming through it.