Publisher's Notebook: Parenting lasts a lifetime,
even if you aren't prepared
Tuesday, August 28, 2012 5:10 AM
No matter how old your children are, there will be times they remind you that being a parent never ends. Such was the case more than a week ago when my daughter was involved in a serious car accident.
A ringing phone awakened my wife from her sleep late Saturday night. She took the call and woke me with the message that our daughter needed us to pick her up. She was located at a remote location about four miles west of Spring Valley.
It was all very mysterious at the time and the message triggered our worst parental instincts, bringing back memories of our daughter's teen years more than a decade ago when she didn't always make the best decisions. We drove to the instructed location and saw several emergency vehicles, which triggered more fears that something terrible had happened to our daughter.
However, after a deputy explained the situation, Lisa came walking up to us. The reason she needed a ride is because her vehicle was on its side in a ditch with the front end crumpled in.
Although we were relieved that our daughter was OK, other information hit us hard, putting us in shock, when the deputy at the scene told us that the driver of the other vehicle had died. She was a mother of two, like our daughter, although none of the children from either family were involved.
Lisa was giving a friend, who was slightly injured in the accident, a ride from Spring Valley to a destination around Grand Meadow. She left Kwik Trip in Spring Valley and headed out on Tracy Road, which soon turned into a gravel township road. After stopping at the stop sign at the county road about two miles west of Kwik Trip, she soon crossed into Mower County. The second intersection where another gravel road crossed the gravel road she was traveling on is where the two vehicles met, one headed south and the other west, that dark night.
There were no signs warning of an upcoming intersection. There were no traffic control signs, such as a stop sign or yield sign, on any road at the intersection. Healthy, towering corn, planted right up to the ditches, rose above the sightline of vehicles on all four corners.
These are not well-traveled roads and the chances of two cars meeting at the exact same time are probably a million to one, yet it can, it did, happen and the consequences have a ripple effect on so many lives, including mine as a parent.
The shock is gone, but a flood of emotions continue to filter through my system. There is anger that uncontrolled intersections are still prevalent in certain areas of our state. There is grief for the family of the deceased and all the people connected that are also grieving. There is worry about how my daughter is handling the emotions as I feel despair and I wasn't even involved, except in my role as a parent.
And, then there are these other emotions, feelings of sadness, which don't have anything to do with a car accident, that I can't seem to shake. Perhaps, they relate to the realization that life is fragile - or maybe that the choices we make, even if they seem insignificant and don't have a right or wrong aspect to them, can tragically alter a life, or lives.
Maybe it's the rude awakening that we don't always have control over our own lives - a chance meeting at a blind intersection can supersede every carefully thought-out plan you formulate to map your destiny.
Perhaps, it is the realization that even when my children were young, I, as a parent, couldn't protect them from life's cruel twists of fate. Or that I, as a parent, don't always have words of wisdom on how to handle the devastation that may be just around the corner.
Not that Lisa would necessarily listen to my words anyway. In hindsight, I'm glad she didn't follow my advice to get something else besides the sport utility vehicle she purchased a couple years ago because it got such bad gas mileage. The deputy at the scene speculated that the reason Lisa was able to walk away from the accident is because she had a large Tahoe.
Parents still need to plug away, giving advice, though, even if there is a chance it won't register or we have doubts it is worthwhile.
As a lifelong parent who should have gained some wisdom over the years, it's obvious I don't have all - or, perhaps, even many of - the answers. Yet, we have to keep moving forward, even if the road through life is littered with perilous intersections, some of them unmarked or blind, that can cause major detours in our route.
It's not deep, and it won't bring back a life or change what has happened, but it's all I can offer as a father who is still, at times, struggling to make his way down the road of life.