Where did they go?
What I tell you I can only tell from my point of view, a 4-year old's point of view. It's a unique story that has given me the philosophy that life is too short and you only get one chance to live today so live with no regrets.
It begins on a stretch of highway between Tahlequah and Muskogee, Oklahoma one late October evening in 1984. I grew up as the youngest with my half-brother and two half-sisters in a small trailer about 4 miles west of Tahlequah. (Sean age 15, Christie age 13 and Angela age 10.) We were all very close children and I was happy that they included me in everything. As far as we were concerned and raised we were not half anything but plain brothers and sisters.
It was business as usual this evening as my mother fixed dinner while my brother and sisters went to pick up cans. You see, we were a poor family and several times a week my siblings would walk up and down the highway picking up cans for spare cash. Just as usual my father asked if I wanted to "go get the kids?". I eagerly followed him out the door and jumped in the passenger seat of his old beat up green ford truck as he started the truck.
We drove down about a mile and pulled up next to the kids. Angela came to the truck door and rubbed the top of my head. Dad asked them to get started heading back because it was getting late and supper was almost ready. She responded with an "Ok" looked at me and said "see you at home." We drove back to the house and went inside.
My mother, who was finished with dinner and waiting on everyone, was sitting on the couch watching my parents? favorite show "Trapper John M.D." My dad sat down beside her and I crawled into my mothers? lap and peered out the bay window behind her. I had a view of the highway and could now see my brother and sisters only a hundred yards or so from the driveway. The next few moments stay burned in my memory forever.
In a flurry of images, conversations, sounds and lights I can remember only these few, distinct, yet surprisingly clear memories. I remember hearing a thud followed by my parents rushing out the front door and stopping in horror by what they see. I remember our neighbor rushing to take me from my mothers? arms while my mother asked her to keep me back, a task in which she failed.
I then recall a flood of emergency lights swarming in chaos as people everywhere rush to perform tasks I didn't understand. I still to this day see two, blood soaked, sheets laying roadside only to find out years later what I was looking at. I can still see and hear my mother sitting in the ditch on the side of the road, her face buried in her hands, crying hysterically while my father tries with no chance at success to calm her.
I was only four and lacked the understanding behind these memories for years to come. I later found out that the two sheets I saw roadside was Sean and Angela; Christie was dragged by the driver for several more miles underneath the car before being pulled over by a state trooper. I also found out that the driver still had a valid license that night despite the FIVE prior D.U.I.'s on his record.
My mind was too young to block out the images that my mother to this day can't remember. I was just old enough that the memories are very clear and vivid. I carried a hate with me for years that I had what most people grew up with; brothers and sisters, and because of one man's poor decision went from the youngest of four children to an only child in one night. The effects of that night would ripple throughout my life forever.
My parents became overly protective and for good reason. I didn't have many friends as a result. I became angry at everyone, particularly other children with siblings. In an attempt to fit in I bottled all the emotions from their deaths away and never spoke of it with anyone. Putting up the fake defenses was the worst thing I could have done.
With no outlet to release my dammed up emotions I turned to drugs and alcohol. I mistakenly found comfort in their fake and temporary release of all the emotional pain I felt. What started out as a few beers a night turned quickly into a fifth a night a quarter ounce of weed a night or any other drug I could get my hands on. I didn't seem to care anymore. I remember many nights where I would smoke an untold amount of weed, snort so much meth until my nose hurt only to start smoking it, taking 3-4 ecstasy all while drinking at least a fifth of whiskey or more and drinking beer in only one night.
I began using my closest friends and family members. I remember I even stole a check from my own mother to pay my cell phone bill so I wouldn't lose my supplier. I started to get into trouble with police on a weekly basis. It wasn?t until my girlfriend told me that she was pregnant with my child that I started to realize what I had become.
By the time our daughter was born she was living with her mother and I was living a short walking distance away. We had broken up but were trying to work things out. I soon realized that I had not become the father that I wanted to be. I called up my ex and told her that I had to get things straight in my life before I could be a father and until then I would not presence myself a bad influence on our daughter.
A few months passed and things changed; the door to my ex had been closed for good by this point. I had not quit the drugs or alcohol as I wanted. I then met a woman who for all intents and purposes saved me. I fell in love with her and for her love I quit cold turkey on drugs and although it took awhile longer and understanding the alcohol.
A few years have passed and the woman who saved me is now my wife. We have two beautiful children (Brendan Zander 4 and Hailey Aurora 18months) who give me delight every time they try to do as daddy does whether it?s play a guitar or fix the car. I am trying to restore the relationship with my daughter with little luck thus far.
The point to this story is drunk driving can destroy more then just the life of the person killed or the parents. It can wreck families for decades. It can destroy a child?s life before it really starts. Although my story ends happy it could have very easily ended for worse and I have a feeling that somewhere out there is the story untold of a child less fortunate then myself. My parents assumed that since I did not talk about it that I didn?t remember much. It took 20 years of hardships before they discovered even the youngest of lives can be effected.
I apologize for the long story but I too found therapy in it. If you or someone you know has been hurt by drunk driving then please share with them my story. Although I didn?t want to finish with one of the unhelpful cliches that everyone always seems to use, I do agree that there is a purpose in everything and nothing is completely random.