Sandy's smile: a look at drunk driving, through the eyes of a child

>> Thursday, April 8, 2010

My mother’s face looked strange to me. Her normally flawless skin was blotchy, her hazel eyes now rimed in red. Had she been crying? That too was strange. To my 7 year old self my mom was ageless…strong…safe. But now…now she looked almost weak…older…and it scared the hell out of me.

She had called us to the front porch, needed to talk to us, needed to tell us something. Something. She drew a deep breath blew it out, then another. A chill ran down my back, was it the October air or something?

I stood…waited… fidgeted in my boots and scratched at an old scab on my arm, watching with intent as it bled. Not wanting to look at my mom…weak…older.

“What Mom!” My brother shouts impatient, wanting to get back to his Big-wheel and our leaf pile. He’s stomping up and down the paint chipped porch steps that my mom sat on. Mom sat there…just sat there, a blue bandana holding back her blond curly hair…the same golden hair that sat atop my brother Shawn’s head.

Mom looked up and met my own hazel eyes…opened her mouth to speak then closed it in what could only be an attempt to stop her chin from quivering and swallow the pain lumped up in her throat… She dropped her head looking at her hands and the mass of used tissues balled up with-in them.

I looked at my own hands, picking at a hang nail, blood drying on my finger, the blood turning from red to brown blending in with the dirt. I can’t look at her…my heart pounds.

Shawn stumbles on the last step, trips up on a small pumpkin that had appeared on our door step, he and the pumpkin go sprawling onto the cold concrete. In one sweeping move, the kind only mothers can do, mom scoops him up and plops his 5 year old butt on the step next to her. “Didn’t hurt,” Shawn declares eyeing the tipped gored.

The distraction seems to give her the strength, the resolve to speak. Again she looks at me, standing in front of her, in my grubby jeans and floral sweat shirt.

“Last night your Aunt Sandy was in an accident,” she says. This time I don’t look away…can’t, but mom seems to be looking though me at some point behind me. To steel herself? Holding on?

My 7 year old brain sees Sandy falling down the dark basement stairs or flying over the handle bars of a bike, visions taken from my own fears. I see Sandy in the hospital with her arm in a cast…I’m thinking of what I will write on her cast, “You’re my favorite aunt, get well soon, I love you.”

Mom’s head has drops back to her chest…older…holding on… deep breath.

“A very bad car accident, Sandy was hurt very bad and didn’t make it…she’s gone,” her voice cracks on the word gone.

“Gone where?” Shawn asks, picking green paint chips off the step. “To the doctors?”

“No honey,” Mom says putting her arm around him, releasing a mangled tissue that drops to her feet. “She has gone to heaven, Sandy was in the back seat when the car hit a tree and she died.”

Unaware that I’ve stuck the lock of hair I’d been twirling with my finger into my mouth and was now twirling it around my tong. Sandy always told me I’d choke on a hair ball someday. I looked around for a car crashed into a tree, I saw none…fear…holding on. I look to the sky for heaven, I saw nothing. Gone.

“Sandy died? What’s that mom?” Shawn asked kicking at the pumpkin and turning to mom.

I can’t do this anymore; I can’t look at mom red eyed and weak. My mind is flashing shots of Sandy’s bright smiling face, her shiny, dark, all-the-way-down-her-back hair. Hear her voice calling to me, “Come give me a kiss lue-la-bell!”

My chest tightens, my eyes start to sting…my brain freezes on an image of Sandy again in hospital bed, no longer in a cast but coved head to toe in a white sheet. I shake off the image balling my hands into fists.

“You don’t know what dead is!” I scream down at my clueless freckled face brother. “God you are so dumb! Every. One. Knows. What DEAD IS!”

“Michelle!” My mother scolds “don’t be mean, he just doesn’t understand, come sit down.”

My body takes over…running…up the stairs past my grieving mother…holding on… over the wood porch, the screen door slamming behind me as I race down the hall to my room. Gone.

I land face first into my pillow. I should be crying, but I am not, I should be crying, but I can’t. I just see her face…always smiling, always…always happy to see me. I see the brown paper bag she hands me at my last birthday, a rumpled brown paper bag…her bigger then life smile…a brown paper bag with my birthday gift inside. An etch-a-sketch. I don’t remember any other gifts from my 7th birthday, but I’ll never forget that brown paper bag…that etch-a-sketch…and that smile.

I was too young they said. Too young for Sandy’s funeral service…too young to say goodbye.

“Bunny, you’re my favorite Auntie now,” I informed my Aunt Bunny shortly after that day…the day I was too young for. “But when you die… Auntie Jerri will be my favorite Aunt.”

“Oh, great,” she laughs tossing her cigarette butt into the grass and rubbing her smoky hand in my hair. “Lucky me.”

I guess I just didn’t understand either.


MommyLovesStilettos April 8, 2010 at 11:01 AM  

Oh my goodness. Wow. *BIG HUGS*

Bethany April 8, 2010 at 2:46 PM  

It's so sad when a child has to try to process such a grown up thing....

Bossy Betty April 8, 2010 at 4:22 PM  

Such a moving most and written so effectively. Wow.

MelissaAggie98 April 9, 2010 at 12:27 AM  

You've got a really great blog here!

Happy FF! I'm your newest follower! If you can, please follow me too at

Have a great day!

A Mom After God's Own Heart April 9, 2010 at 7:27 AM  

Wow, this was a very moving post!

I am a new follower and will be coming here regularly.

Heavenly Savings April 9, 2010 at 7:45 AM  

WoW! It is amazing how the decisions we make as well as the decisions others make effect our lives forever!

I found you through FF and I’m another new follower! Feel free to check out my blog as well!
Happy Friday Follow! Hope to Blog with you again soon!

Marilyn (A Lot of Loves) April 9, 2010 at 8:35 AM  

What a sad, but really well-written, story.

Marlene April 9, 2010 at 9:46 AM  

Wow. That was heart-wrenching, but told so beautifully.

Following you from Friday follow. Thanks for visiting my blog, too.

Meyser April 9, 2010 at 12:42 PM  

New follower. What an honest, touching, heartbreaking post..

Jasmine April 9, 2010 at 8:14 PM  

New follower. I could see you vividly as a child. Your accurate details are amazing. The scab - the hang nail, the weak mother - all of it.

Thank you for sharing.

God bless you.

Halley April 9, 2010 at 10:01 PM  

Hi Michelle- Thanks for stopping by my blog. Following you back~~Hope you have a great weekend.


Semi-Slacker Mom April 10, 2010 at 8:40 AM  

Wow! That was a very moving post. And so well written! I'm a new FF follower.

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