My oldest daughter drives now. On the morning of her grandmother’s funeral, she had to take a math final at school. Leaving early for the final, she backed straight into my cousin’s rental car. A day can’t get much worse than a math test, a dead grandma, and a car wreck.
The first time I crashed a car, I was barely traveling. My parents had two pillars that were set off the front porch. I had pulled my dad’s Nissan Pulsar up the entryway in order to vacuum out the car. When all the mats were clean, I put the car in reverse in order to reach the hose to wash the exterior. This would have been an entirely forgettable activity except I failed to close the passenger side door. While backing up, the door hit the porch pillar, flew off its hinges, and flung itself into the front fender.
Hearing the bang, Mom stormed out of the house to find me pale and trembling, the Nissan’s door lying bent and cracked at the foot of the stoop.
“I’m so glad it was you who destroyed your father’s car and not me,” she said. “He’s going to kill you, you know.” And then she laughed, a loud cackling hoot that the neighbors could hear.
It began raining, and because my parents didn’t have a garage, Mom and I wrapped the automobile in garbage bags and duct tape. Eventually Dad came home to find his little red car bandaged up like an emergency room trauma victim.
He walked into the kitchen where I sat at the table with a box of Kleenex. He didn’t kill me. He didn’t even ask what happened. He stared past me out the kitchen window and whispered, “Shit!”