Bam! Smoke filled the air as I drifted straight into a full, lush tree in my yard. This go cart my step dad Ryan built was treasured among my three siblings and I. Ryan always pointed his rough, oil-covered, mechanic finger at us and said, “You be careful on that thing! You could kill yourself if you go to fast!” He was a hard working man, with a soft voice and a contagious laugh, so taking him seriously while he reprimanded us was difficult. It was the start of summer, and we had ourselves an incredible new toy. My oldest brother Ayden was the teacher because he was convinced he was the best driver to ever exist. Being the youngest sister, I listened to every word he said. Addison, the oldest sister, paid no mind to Ayden or the go cart, but Avery was obsessed with the thing. Considering he is the dare devil of the family, he hopped right into the go cart and took off without warning.
While the boys rode into every summer sunset, I was timid. I didn’t want to crash. Ryan, being the patient man he was, sat me down and taught me how to carefully drive. It became our favorite part of the day. Ryan and I would bring out a sandwich and a soda, sit down and talk, and then get to driving. I was only 10 years old, so needless to say Ryan had a dozen or more mini heart attacks while teaching me to drive. I was content learning with my step dad, spending every afternoon together, until I wasn’t. Watching my brothers speed all over the yard without me made me crave that adrenaline rush. I started talking to Avery and sighed, “man, I wish I could do that.”
He replied to that with, “Well, why can’t you?” Young children mindless behaviors that will inevitably lead to an almost explosive end to summer.
The day came where Avery and I decided to test the limits and go against everything Ryan had told us, “Go slow and stay in control” went out the window when I pressed the gas and all hell broke loose. The moment I had been waiting for, wind against my face and giggles with my brother as we raced across the yard. The experience was everything I had wished for until I came upon the tree. I was going way too fast to slow down in time and without the skills required to swerve beside the tree, I drifted directly into, of course, the biggest tree on our property. The go cart started smoking profusely and Ryan came out saying what he always said, “you went too fast! You could have killed yourself!” Avery got out and was devastated over the loss of his favorite toy. I sobbed into Ryan’s arms and apologized profusely while he held me and told me that it would all be okay.
I look back at this memorable moment in my childhood and all I can really feel is the warmth of Ryan’s hug when I crashed. Even in the midst of chaos, after I ruined my siblings’ summer fun, he hugged me. This memory reminds me over and over again that objects are never worth more than safety. Continually reminding me of a pure love, one like Ryan’s for me. As the remnants of the story reside in my head including the smoke coming from the go cart and the angry looks from my brothers, the prominent part of this memory is the way Ryan handled it with grace. A man who spent his time working to provide for us daily and who took all four of us in with no questions asked wasn’t even angry at me. As a child when you do something wrong the first thing you think of is how your parents are going to kill you whether it’s an accurate thought or not. My 10 year old self was filled with relief once I realized he would wipe my eyes when I cried and teach me when I asked. A love I hadn’t been shown before. To most this story would seem over the top. The crash was not really that horrific and I didn’t have an epitome at the age of 10, but looking back on the events now I am having an epitome. Stories are so much more than stories when they become last moments you can remember.
In the end, we all lived and left the scene of the crash without a scratch. Although I can not say the same about the go cart. A scary day became a most memorable one for me. It’s funny to tell the story at family gatherings and get a good laugh in, but in my heart that crash holds a special place. Ryan continued this fatherly love for not only me, but all my siblings for years to come. He became the dad we wanted so desperately, and the best friend we had always dreamed of having. In the best times he was there, in the worst times he was there, and even in the boring mediocre times he was always there. We tend to take the time we have with family for granted, never thinking about the possibility of death, to put it simply. Ryan had always told us when we rode on the go cart, “ Don’t go too fast!” and that’s exactly what we did that day and in life also. Before I knew it this day was a memory I held in my heart while we honored him at the church. Not the first time I’d had to wear all black and say my goodbyes, but definitely one of the hardest. Ryan was the father of the year for our young family, but he was human and susceptible to all the bad in the world. I chose to forgive him for the drugs and the leaving, because even though he wasn’t perfect he held me when no one else cared enough to. Live life slowly and take it all in because when you go too fast it always ends in abrupt disaster. In loving memory of Ryan Walsh, my step-dad, then end.
Call If you or anyone else needs help. https://www.therecoveryvillage.com/drug-addiction/drug-abuse-hotline/