Thursday, August 10, 2006

The first loss

Sunday we went to Wayne Skardtvedt's birthday party. He has sheep and is a good friends of Dad's. I grew up showing sheep with his kids. We had a good time and great food, but met a rude awakening at home. You see, while watching the news we discovered that a friend, Tiffany Becher had died in a car crash. Her SUV rolled at 4 a.m., and she was ejected into the road. "Oh, Tiffany," Dad said to himself, "what were you doing out at that hour?"

"It happens, Dad. I've been out tons at that hour."


"Well, not tons. But enough to happens." Although, when I think about it, I don't think I've ever been driving at that hour. In a cab or on a subway, yes, but not driving. Maybe she shouldn't have been driving. Maybe she was just too tired, which is dangerous. But as my dad said, "It doesn't really matter." What matters is that a kind, beautiful girl is gone. Girl. I keep thinking girl, but she was 30...a woman by any standards. I think she is the first person I've ever lost who was about my age...someone I grew up with. Her smile used to light up rooms.

The day before the service, I went to Nadine's house in Storm Lake (see photo of a goose-caused traffic jam at left). Nadine was one of my professors in college. She helped my with my poetry, and we discussed my educational and career options. It was helpful. She also cooked me amazing food (she's a gourmet). I spent the night in Storm Lake, and the next day we visited Nadine's 97-year-old mother, Miss Sarah. Miss Sarah tells the best stories about growing up as a moonshiner's daughter in the South. Then I left for the viewing in Fort Dodge. There was a knot in my stomach as I stood in the long line waiting to get in. I didn't know if my parents were inside. I didn't want to break down sobbing...I didn't feel I had the right.

It's sort of a theater thing. I was once in a scene where several people had to cry. One rehearsal, I started crying too hard, and my director reminded me that the person most directly effected by the tragedy should be the focus and react most strongly. I know emotions can't always follow logical rules like that, but I didn't want people stricken by tragedy to feel like they had to take care of me.

I managed to hold it together, though I got teary while talking to Tiff's dad. He held my hand, talking and smiling. He's usually the strong, silent type. He said more words to me then than he had in all the years I'd known him. And when Tiffany's brother, Travis, saw me, he was so surprised that he started laughing and gave me a big hug. I was glad I could make him happy, if only for a moment. That's about the most one can hope for at a time like that. Then my parents arrived and walked through the line. I was so glad they were there. Now whenever I get in the car, Mom tells me to drive carefully. There's a new nervous inflection, and I don't brush it off like I used to. I tell her, as sincerely as I can, that I will be careful.

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