It’s Father’s Day and, like so many others are doing today, my thoughts go back to my dad and all he did to make me who I am through his life examples and wisdom.
But last night—and nearly 31 years after his death, my dad saved my life.
On my way home from a presentation some 80 miles away, I decided to take a different route—a two-lane road through the desert that I was sure would cut my driving time by 15 or 20 minutes. And it did… but it also taught me something special about my dad—and myself.
You see, when I was learning to drive some 46 years ago—in fact, even long before that—my dad would say to me: “Always expect the unexpected.” He explained how, while driving, he was constantly watching all the other drivers to anticipate their actions, and how he was always thinking about how he would react if another car did this or that. And, in all the years I rode with him, he always got me home safely.
Expect the unexpected.
Apparently I learned the lesson well, because this is something I’ve done my entire life behind the wheel of a car… one of the reasons, I suspect, that I have such a tough time carrying on a conversation while driving. But last night this lesson paid off big time.
As I headed home along this dark two-lane desert road, car headlights were occasionally coming toward me from the opposite direction and, as I always do, I keep watch on the distant center line as my way of making sure they’re in their proper lane. At the same time I’m constantly keeping an eye on both lanes and the shoulders of the road as possible escape routes in case of emergency.
It was about midway through my drive last night that I saw headlights coming in my direction about half a mile ahead, but they weren’t where I thought they should be. Did they appear this way because the car was coming around a curve? Quite possibly, but something just didn’t look right.
It wasn’t until these headlights were about 150 feet in front of me that I could see why. This car was barreling straight toward me in my lane!
Expect the unexpected.
Because I had been doing just that, I was able to react quickly. One option I knew I had was swerve to the left (into the empty oncoming lane) but, if I did that and he realized his mistake, he might cross back over. The other was that I could drive off the road onto the flat, sandy shoulder on the right and hope he wasn’t so bent on suicide that he'd follow me there. I instinctively chose the shoulder and within a split second—thankfully—he raced past me, completely oblivious to the fact that he was in the wrong lane and had nearly killed us both.
After a few choice words for the other driver (words, by the way, that were mild compared to what my dad might have expressed!), I continued on my journey. But once I got home safely, I realized something very important.
Though our loved ones may be gone from this physical realm they are never truly gone; they do, indeed, live on within those of us who remain. And last night was a perfect example of this; it was the part of me that is my father that saved my life because if I had not learned his lesson to “expect the unexpected,” I might not be here today to write these words.
For that—and for so much more—thank you, Dad. I owe you my life.