Sunday, December 11, 2011

R.I.P. Nelson Ray Bridges II

So today is December 11. For those of you who are unfamiliar with that date, 2 years ago on this date, my dad was killed by a drunk driver in downtown Amarillo. He died shortly after 9 pm after being worked on by several doctors and nurses for 4 hours. I can easily say that was the worst day of my life.

I still remember every detail about that day. I remember exactly what I was wearing and what I looked like. I still remember the weather that day. I still remember every moment from the hospital that night and from church shortly before that incident went down. I still remember waking up at 11:43 in the morning to a text from my dad that asked me if I wanted to go down to the shop and fool around with cars. I replied with a "Nah. Thanks anyways." but changed my mind several minutes later to "Yeah. Let me take a shower real quick." and he invited me to lunch at the Golden Corral. I hate that place. But I had no idea that would be the last lunch I'd ever have with my dad. After lunch with my dad and uncle Chris whose birthday was that very day, we headed out to the shop. We walked out of the restaurant and my dad cracked a joke about how I parked right out front of the restaurant and he parked "over in the next zip code." This was a classic Nelson moment. He could make anyone laugh and if you didn't laugh at one of his jokes, you didn't have a heartbeat.

I remember us all driving to the shop and going inside to work on some cars. I stayed there for a couple hours and left shortly after 4 to go home and get something to eat before heading to church for the Christmas drama practice. I had no idea that would be the last time I ever told my dad that I loved him and that the "bye" would be so literal.

At 5-ish, Andrew had gotten a text from a friend telling us that dad had been in a wreck and was at the hospital. I didn't have my phone on me so I went up to where I had left it and looked.. Yep. A text from Mark telling me the same thing. Andrew and I left and drove to BSA, worrying about what could have happened. All we knew was that my dad had been in a wreck with another truck. Details were very vague at this time until we got to the hospital and walked in to see mom and Kellye sitting at the reception desk trying to find out where dad was. He was upstairs but he wasn't in good shape. Every time the doctor came back to share with us what was going on, the news were progressively getting worse and worse. Broken right knee, pelvis, injuries to the side of the chest and arm, and trauma to the side of the face and head. Internal bleeding. They were giving him bag after bag after bag of blood and were desperately trying to help him breathe. He was still alive but unconscious. Eventually, he died.

What had happened was my dad was walking toward the shop off the street and was standing in front of his truck when William hit the backside of my dad's truck doing twice the speed limit at 70. My dad was only standing near the corner of the truck so the impact knocked him out of the way while William's truck pushed my dad's truck into the back of yet another car on the next block, bending the '72 GMC in half. The front of the bed was pushed well into the cab where the driver's side door would not open. The bed had been smashed in to where the sides bowed out.

William was only sentenced to 15 years and will most likely be out earlier. This was William's 5th DUI. The Monday of the same week he hit my father, William had been arrested for his 4th DUI and bail bonded out of jail on the Thursday before that fateful Friday. It took 5 DUIs and taking my dad's life before the City of Amarillo said they would reevaluate their justice system and after giving William such a small sentence in those circumstances, I'm still not happy with how William's trial went. I never will be. Before you ask, yes, I've forgiven him and moved on. That doesn't mean I have to go fishing with the man or become his buddy. I've forgiven him but for his safety and well-being, he better not come anywhere near to me. I don't care if anyone thinks that's wrong. Get over it. I never want to see that man again. I refuse to. It still is difficult for me to even want to stay here after what happened that night. It still is after how people expect me to live to their expectations and standards. It seems as if they still haven't realized that their expectations and opinions do not define me. I'm me. That's all there is to it. It's funny how true this quote is:

"To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment!"
-Ralph Waldo Emerson

However, there are a few things in Amarillo that I love which keeps me sane. I love going to school and volunteering at Vermillion. Those places make me want to improve myself and make me discipline myself. I also love working on my hot rod projects at home as that's what my dad and I loved to do. We would work for hours and hours on the most small of projects. I still have the '48 Chevrolet truck that my dad and I started when I was in high school that will get finished eventually. My garage is my escape from reality.

But in the end, my dad's gone. He's been gone two years today. If you were to ask me if life's any easier, I wouldn't be able to give you an answer to that question. I still struggle with the concept of not having a dad to come home to. It really sucks knowing how quickly it went from being able to say "I have a dad" to "I had a dad." I regret not being a better son. I regret not spending as much time with him as I could have. I regret leaving him that day to go to drama practice. If I hadn't gone, then I would have been with him and maybe I would have saw that drunk barreling down Fillmore street and told him to get out of the way. Maybe he would somehow be still alive had I not left but I'll never know. We never will. There were so many things that could have happened to change the circumstances of that day but in the end, my dad got killed. It's not easy accepting that fact but it happened. I don't want a pity party. I don't want people telling me they're sorry.

This happened. This is a major part of me whether I like it or not. I just think people should know this is a major part of me. There are so many people in Amarillo that I could easily live without and my dad wasn't one of them. He was one of the few that kept me sane. He was one of the few that made me want to better myself. He's one of the few examples that taught me to be myself without regard to what other people think and without having to answer to anyone.

I miss that guy more than you will ever imagine.

R.I.P. Nelson Ray Bridges II

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