The Worst Day of my life.. Without Question.

With two divorces under my belt and a third one imminent I get through each day as if walking through a muddy swampland. Heavy and burdensome, like each step gathers another pound of mud. The sticky kind that clings to the ground in an attempt to halt your progress. Life with #3 is unpredictable. Trying to move past her affairs is becoming increasingly difficult. My feelings are that the guilt of the affairs and reality of where she was in life caused her to hide in the bottom of a bottle. This became a daily routine. It didn’t matter when I came home there was always a small bottle somewhere. I knew all of her hiding places but never told her. I just used the count of empties as a gauge to how the night was going to play out. When I would come home from work I would pause at the front door and listen. Taking a deep breath I would silently extend my hand toward the door to try to obtain some sort of sixth sense of what lies in store. If the music was blaring I knew I was in for it. If the TV and the music were on and the front door was wide open, well then she was already “napping”. (and to be honest I was relieved) We tried to work past, through and around our issues. We got to a point where we were complacent. Almost submitting to the routine we had carved out. Not good…not bad… just… I don’t know… there. Nothing but apathy for each other. There were times I had wished she would have another affair so she wouldn’t continue to notice how there was no intimacy in our marriage.

We still had a family. Collectively there were seven children, six boys and one little girl. Gavin, Garrett, Griffin and Grady were mine and B, A and T were hers. Regardless of blood lines, I loved them all very much. We had been together for about 3 1/2 years. T, the little girl was only 5 at this time and was as if she was my own. Her dad was in picture and had a great relationship with his kids. Her kids were with us a majority of the time and it just came to a point where they were calling me Dad, not instead of, but in addition to. My boys were with their mom a majority of the time and I didn’t want them at my house anymore than they had to be. The fighting, the animosity and the utter disdain that emanated from the home was unhealthy for anybody, but with the boys already having gone through divorces, I just wanted this one to be as easy as possible. Don’t get me wrong, I always left an ounce of hope for a last second miracle. I believed if we were going to make it that the hand of God himself would have to intervene. He would be able to erase the pains of the past and remake us in a way that could transform everything. Like just about every single Football season. The stinking Chargers, 4th Qtr… less than a minute on the clock and down by 13. Not a great chance but nobody could say it was impossible they could pull it off. Unlikely, yes.. Impossible, no. Bottom line I was waiting to see what was going to happen. I had made it this far, what was a few more years… Or months.

It was the night before Easter, Saturday April 11th. We had some people over to the house. My kids were at their moms and hers were at her sisters. It was about 11:30pm when everyone finally left and we needed to go get the kids. I didn’t want to go. I was tired, I had been working during the day and just wanted to go to bed. I grabbed a couple of diet cokes and drove from Alpine to Santee to pick up my 3 step kids. I loaded them in the back seat of the Ford Explorer Sport Trac and we headed back to Alpine. It was pushing midnight. We were on highway 8 East, just a couple of miles from our freeway exit, Tavern Rd. It was a quiet and clear night with no other cars on the road. The kids were chilly so I had put the heater on. The kids were sound asleep and I had talk radio on. I never listened to talk radio. I remember listening to it while in the car with my dad on the way home from Padre games. I approached the Dunbar exit where I had a fleeting thought of getting off of the exit and taking the back way home. The second I dismissed the thought of exiting the freeway is when my eyes began to close. Not the slowly getting sleepier, need to shake my face and put on the AC kind. It was the kind where I stopped seeing as they were shutting.

There was this loud rumble! The side strip on the freeway! I remember opening my eyes and seeing that we were headed for a 10′ drop down to the westbound freeway. We had one tire on the dirt and I turned the steering wheel to the right in order to get us back on the road. Then feeling like that may have been too much I turned left. The next hour of my life is like a slide show. In an attempt to keep the truck on the road I again turned the wheel to the right. The tires groaned, as if letting me know they were doing everything they could to keep this truck from crashing.

I remember the moment. I held the wheel firm as I felt the truck began to lean. I knew there was nothing else I could do and the truck was going to roll. Now I was a spectator simply watching the horizon spin in front of me. The driver’s side hit first. That moment is a snapshot that has been embedded into my very being. I remember the feeling of being upside down and hearing the sound of breaking glass and scraping metal. There was a timeless silence that occurred between each of the flips. As many as 7 times there was screeching metal and breaking glass followed by silence. I opened my eyes. The truck had come to a stop and was upright. There was a thick cloud of dust. I had to get the kids out! I immediately began spitting glass out of my mouth and pushing the broken windshield out of my way as I climbed out the window. There was fear and confusion in A and B’s eyes. I pulled A out of his window. I saw the flashing lights of a Border Patrol agent that pulled over. I set A in his truck and ran back to the ditch where the truck laid. I tried to pry the roof off of B’s head. He was trapped between it and the seat. Several people were now there and forced me away from the roof explaining that I could do more harm than good. I climbed back inside to get my baby girl. I hadn’t heard anything from her. I grabbed a clean towel and tried to wipe the thick maroon blood off of T’s face and out of her eyes. I can still hear the sweet echo of her voice as she said, “I’m o-tay daddy, I’m o-tay.” (I knew she wasn’t)

The Truck

I was in my hospital bed when I got the phone call. “Are you ok?” #3 asked.
“Yes, where are the kids, how are they?” I begged.

“We are at Childrens Hospital, B has a broken leg and some compressed disc’s….” Then following a tearful pause, “and Thanks by the way…. Tay will never walk again.”

I can replay that moment as if it happened yesterday. I fight all year to stuff away the tragedy in the safe corner of my soul and wait for the anniversary where is when I allow it to begin to resurface. I think about T and her family and how they cannot hide from the reality of the accident like I can. T still can’t walk. I pray that one day she will. When I allow myself to get to a quiet spot, and allow myself to think of the accident, it breaks my heart all over again. The exact moment I submitted to unconsciousness and the exact moment I realized there was nothing I could do to stop the truck from rolling. The exact moment that I saw the grim reality that we were all faced with, and the exact moment I learned that Ta would never walk again…… because of a moment.

Taylor, March 07

I have an intimate compassion for the suffering, and a love for the unloved. How much of this evolved because of the accident? I don’t know. But I would trade away all I’ve learned and have seen for her to walk again. My prayer is that she will find good in the heap of bad that envelopes her every breath. I choose to use the loss and pain that I now understand as a conduit to allow me to relate to others when they need it most.
If this is the first post you have read you may want to go back to the first post and get caught up…. (There’s only a few… You’ll be fine).
Wife #1-

Start at the beginning of my Story..

The Beginning

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8 thoughts on “The Worst Day of my life.. Without Question.

  1. Erik Knowles says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this. Thank you so much.

  2. Jim King says:

    Thanks for sharing Josh. Looking forward to the rest of the story.

  3. stacy norris says:

    Im sorry you live with that in your heart….i burried my first son ,joshua, i have had 2, josh died when he was 19 days old from crib death…thought i was never going to recover…i did but as you can imagine i was never the same…my son cam…hes 23 great kid…he was born with a rare bone disease…..thats what i meant when i posted….life lessons …being great..both my kids have made me the strong person that i am…..had i not had these lessons…i just wouldnt be the “real ” person that i am…..what ever life throws……i already know ” i got this ” and you do too 🙂

  4. Anne Brand says:

    Coming from someone who has a five-year-old blondie named Taylor sleeping in the next room, this story gave me chills. I can’t imagine what you went through on that horrible night, and what you’re still going through to this day. Prayers heading your way, that every day gets a little easier, and that you’ll find it in your heart to forgive yourself.

  5. Jason Steingraber says:

    Josh- man, I clicked on your blog link as mere curiosity of what you blog about. I read your last entry first. Saying I was hooked isn’t accurate and doesn’t give the appropriate value to what you shared. It’s your life, not a made for TV movie. I was more curious because there was an obvious back story. I have to say, being the father of 2 daughters, the crash and accident scene was heart wrenching to read. I pray the pain of that day decreases as each one passes and that God’s plan is for Taylor to have a full and vibrant life.
    You’re clearly not done yet buddy. You have much more to give. You have a God to serve children to love and people’s lives to touch.
    Your honesty is brutal. The lessons are real. Thanks for sharing
    -Jason

  6. Cy Locke says:

    There is always hope. A friend of mine just started walking (with a cane for now) after a boat crash 7 years ago.

  7. Donielle Schwabe says:

    ….WeKnowItHurts

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