He took his daughter on a driving lesson. He had been teaching her to drive over the course of many lessons and many months.
Learning to drive was a pinnacle value in their family, since her two older brothers were killed in a car accident when they were 17 and 15, years before she was even born.
She had never met her brothers, but they were alive in the dozens of pictures on the wall. She knew the story behind every photo; her brothers were distinguishable young men in her mind.
Before they got in the car, he asked her to list the nonnegotiable rules of driving:
Never, ever take your eyes off the road.
Never look at the passenger beside you, no matter what they have to say to you while you’re driving.
If anything obstructs your vision – rain, snow, or your own tears – pull over immediately.
They were driving into the city on a holiday weekend, in inclement weather on the busiest traffic day of the year. Before they got in the car together, he advised his daughter: may you never encounter a more difficult driving experience than today’s.
They began their drive, and she held her eyes firmly on the road ahead. In the passenger’s seat, her father began to tell her the story of the night her brothers had been killed, the story she had never heard.
He left out no details, and he gave his daughter a thorough account of the night that tore their family apart, the family she hadn’t ever known.
As he talked to her, she cried.
“I can’t see the road, Daddy,” she told him.
“Well. There’s no place to pull over is there?” her father asked her. “You’ll just have to keep going, won’t you?”
“I’m crying too much. I can’t see where I’m going, Daddy,” she told him again.
“But that’s the test. The test is, sometimes there’s no place to pull over – sometimes you can’t stop, and you have to find a way to keep going. You got it?”
* * *
I underlined these words. I draw a bracket around this paragraph. In the margin, I wrote, 2011.
Sometimes, you just have to find a way to keep going.
* * *
(Caveat: This excerpt is from A Widow for One Year. It is tremendously brilliant, but it might not be your style. And recommending a book to someone is a bit like inviting them into your thoughts, and sometimes – just sometimes – one should think twice and filter carefully. Suffice it to say: it’s a good book, I enjoyed it, and John Irving knows what he’s doing. But if you read it and you’re appalled, don’t say I didn’t tell you that would happen. But, my goodness. The man can write.)