Tom’s father, Pete -- “Papa” to our kids -- was killed in a single-car accident in November, 2001.
Pete (“Papa”), his grandson and namesake, Peter, and his son, Tom (1987)
The car was a Toyota Avalon, a 2000 or 2001 model, driven on a clear day and on an open road by Tom’s mother as they headed from San Marcos, California to their desert house in Scottsdale, Arizona. No one knows exactly what happened, but we do know that Pete and Rose were driving in the left lane when something (what?) caused Rose to lose control and the car flipped multiple times before coming to a stop at the side of the road. Pete, who had been napping in the passenger seat (and was, of course, wearing a seat belt)died on the scene of head injuries. Rose was airlifted to San Diego, where she remained in the hospital for a few days.
For the past nine years, Rose has talked about a “racing engine,” remembering that even after the car came to a stop, the engine remained revving. I’d assumed that she was confused and that the traumatic circumstances (she was told at the scene by a paramedic that her husband was dead) had impacted her memory.
In light of the Toyota recall, I’m not sure Rose was remembering things wrong at all. Could it be that, on this open road in clear weather, the accelerator did stick? Could it be that her memory is correct and that this accident that killed our beloved father and Papa could have been avoided?
Papa and Elisabeth, 1985
Every time I think about it, I feel socked in the gut and helpless. I am an action-oriented project manager, but this petrifies and paralyzes me – and I can only imagine how it makes Tom and his mother and siblings feel!
Tom and his parents, 2000
Papa was a quiet and gentle soul, someone who loved deeply and appreciated life fully. We miss him tremendously -- even now, nine years after his death. We can never bring him back, but perhaps some closure can be brought to his still guilt-ridden and still distraught widow who continues to blame herself for Papa’s death.
Papa surrounded by his loving family, 1999