When I was home for Christmas, I found a photo of my mom from 1972. While she looks terrible in the photo, it’s one of my favorites.
My parents were dating and Dad was driving regularly to Pekin, IL from his hometown of Maroa, which was about an hour away. He was visiting that Easter, and after church, my grandparents took my parents for ice cream.
But tragedy struck. What they learned later was that a woman had received a prank phone call. The caller said her brother was in the hospital. Distraught, she rushed over there. Somehow, she pulled out in front of another car that had to swerve to avoid her. Instead, she hit my grandparents’ car. She was killed immediately. My grandparents almost didn’t make it. Mom was in the hospital for weeks. And Dad? He walked away with glass in his head and probably lots of bruises. Mom reminded me today that he was out of work for two weeks.
At some point, Dad came to visit Mom in the hospital. She laughs about it to this day as she tells the story, and when I look at the picture I can’t help but think about it.
“What would you say if I asked you to marry me?” Dad asked, her hair full of dried ice cream and that bruise on her eye.
And what does she say now that it’s been 45 years? “Well, obviously I said yes. But I think it was because I was so doped up on medication, otherwise I probably never would have gotten married.”
It seems fitting today. My brothers and I are only here because of a horrible tragedy. And obviously, I was meant to live a life filled with dark comedy. And what a time to have found that photo — just before a terrible accident of our own.
I also wrote a piece of fiction based on this story. If I work up the guts, I’ll share it one of these days.