Orphaned


Nobody could take away the pain. But I knew someday I could run to my father’s arms again.

It began as an ordinary day, for the most part. Dad, who was a professor at Texas Tech University, was coming home from California, where he had been for a conference. He called Mother to come and pick him up at the airport. So she loaded my two littlest brothers and me into the little Volkswagen and headed to the airport. It was about a half-hour drive, so it didn’t take us very long to get there.

Once we were there, Mother sent me in to find Daddy. She gave me specific instructions as to where my father would be. But being ten years old, my mind was on other things, and I didn’t listen very well. I went into the airport searching very diligently for the walking sidewalk my friend had told me was there. Of course I wanted to see my father, but how often do you get to ride a walking sidewalk? After about 15 minutes, I decided I had better find Daddy so Mother wouldn’t be angry; I abandoned the walking sidewalk. My memory did not come to my rescue, and I couldn’t remember where Mother had said to find Daddy. I looked and looked but all to no avail, no Daddy. I returned to the car to tell Mother of my bad fortune, which she was not very happy about. She gave me a quarter and told me to go call home to see if Daddy had gone home in a cab. I let the phone ring about three times, and then I spotted him. I ran to him calling, “Daddy-ye-ye-ye-ye-ye!” He picked me up and twirled me around. I told him about all the things that had gone on while he had been away. When we got to the car, we faced a not so happy mother, who had waited for an hour in the passenger loading zone and did not feel very well. Daddy was an even-tempered man, and as we drove home he tried to settle Mother down enough to talk. Meanwhile, I felt very responsible for starting the whole thing. I began to say something, but I never finished my sentence. I was interrupted by Mother’s scream, and I turned to see a car headed straight for ours.

I woke to find myself covered with blood, sitting in two or three inches of broken glass. David and Russell were trying to awaken my parents. I warned them not to shake them, as I was afraid they would be injured further. The scene was too much for me to handle and I passed out.

I don’t remember how I got out of the car. One side was smashed in, and the windows were too little for me to fit through. I sat in the middle of the street with my brothers standing by my side and what seemed like a hundred people gathered around me. People trying to stop the bleeding, people trying to calm us down, people taking pictures, and people just standing there watching us. All of this was very annoying to me. Where were my parents? Who was helping them?

Before long two ambulances arrived. I was put into the front seat, and the attendant tried to console me. That ride to the hospital was the longest ride I had ever made. When we finally got to the hospital, I had lost a great amount of blood and I passed out going through the emergency doors.

I was living a nightmare, and I couldn’t wake up. I kept wanting to shut off the T.V. or change the channel. I couldn’t make sense of the whole situation. I didn’t understand what was happening to me.

I lay in a bed for three days, quietly wondering if I was going to live. I constantly asked about my parents, but no one seemed to know how they were. I had several visitors, including my grandparents and my dad’s sister from California. I wondered why they had all come. How serious was the accident? Then I realized they had come for a reason. The reason wasn’t me but my parents. Finally, I pulled as much courage together as I could and asked about my parents one more time. This time, I got my answer.

My grandparents were in my room when I asked, and instead of the pause I usually received after the question, they began to cry. Slowly and carefully they told me that my parents were dead. They had been warned not to tell me because of my serious physical condition. Any word about the death might have had a great impact on me psychologically. I cried very quietly, for I think I had known long before it was verbalized.

I missed the funeral in Texas because my condition was too unstable for the doctor to allow my release. My grandmother and I flew to Utah for the final services and burial. The doctor had released me on condition I would be very careful in my activities. My relatives made sure I was very careful. I missed several outings and I felt very alone.

When things finally began to settle, we all had to take a step back and look at our lives. Five children without parents. We all wondered how we would survive the terrible ordeal. We had so many questions and so few answers. We were lost without our guides. Even our loving grandparents could not take away the pain. It was something we would have to deal with each in our own way.

As I look back, I realize my life has gone in stages: first of living without them, then of anger towards my Heavenly Father, then of accepting their death, then of coping by myself without looking continually to them. I look at it, not so much as a very tragic time in my life but as a learning time.

I have learned that I am loved by my Heavenly Father, for he has given me many blessings in my life. Even the death of my parents has been a blessing in a way. I had never realized how much I really loved them until they were gone. Now I try to be appreciative of the things I have instead of waiting until I don’t have them.

I live each day of my life wondering if I am good enough to be with them again. So I strive for excellence, as though it were possible. Then maybe someday I will be able to run to my dad calling, “Daddy-ye-ye-ye-ye!”

[photos] Photography by Grant Heaton