To My Teen Daughter
To my teen daughter. Scarlet painted acrylics tap on the steering wheel and the rearview mirror reflects my pursed lips. You used to love when I’d get acrylic nails. Cat claws, you’d call them. Tap, tap, tap, my pointed red nails twiddle. I was late to pick up your brother from school which, of course, wasn’t something out of the ordinary. You had been used to it by now. I chuckle a bit–my red lipstick framing an uneasy smile as I glanced at the clock ticking away. “Might as well embrace it?” I don’t know how, Lynn, but it only takes few minutes for that assurance to slowly melt into anxiety. Tap, tap. My nails are dancing along the wheel with a little more urgency now. I get distracted, hurried? So, I go through the mental list that moms are notorious for making. Husband: Your father’s at work– I’ll call him in a bit.. Son: Michael’s at school–I’m on my way, baby boy. Daughter– you: I’ll pick you up at Grandma’s after I get Michael– Same as any other weekday… Check, check, check. Tap, tap, tap. RIIIIIING!! I’ve grown used to my phone jolting me out of my thoughts. Picking up the phone as I have a million times before, I keep the wheel steady with one hand– it always used to scare you when I did that. “Hello?” “Mooooom,” Michael’s voice complains calling from the front office of school “Where are you?” You used do this when you still went to that middle school. I never could seem to pick you two up on time. You both had grown tired of calling about it and I had grown tired of hearing about it. Still, I muster a chuckle, “Almost there, I’m down the street. Love you.” Already having the phone in my hand, I send a quick text. I can’t remember what the text was about or who I even sent it to, which further reinforces the fact that it could have waited. Tap, tap, tap, tap. With almost childish wonder, I revel in the sound of my nails clicking while I text. My attention is captivated by the little black box when I remember– I’m in a rush! I make a bold decision– a dangerous decision– one that scared the wits out of you, a decision I had made time and time before: I begin to pass the car in front of me. I passed cars practically every time I got behind the wheel; I was confident in the action. But the street was busy today, I was looking at my phone, and God had run out of patience. If I had looked up I would’ve seen that there was a car racing towards me on that side of the street. But I don’t look up. I type and I type and I type. My nail making contact with the glass is the last sound I hear before the honking of a horn, the scream–my scream– the abrupt calm. Tap. Inhale. The number one killer of teens. Exhale. 1.6 million crashes each year. Inhale. All because of a buzzing phone and a wandering mind. … You lost a mother that day, lost her to the little glass screen. You’re approaching the day you learn to drive– even from up here I can see the fear in your eyes ignite each time Dad mentions it. You’re afraid… you’re afraid because of me. You’ll be okay, but baby-girl, when you put your hands on the wheel, keep your mind on the road. Forever, Your mother, an angel, who couldn’t wait
From the perspective of my mother whom I lost to distracted driving this summer, this piece is a reflection of my fear and lack of closure when it comes to her death. It all happens so suddenly and you believe that these things could never happen to you– until they do. Put the phone, the bag of chips, the compact down. It isn’t worth a life. I know that’s what my mother would want me to remember and I’d like to share the fact with as many people as possible.