When I was younger I had a few strange episodes that the doctors called “Complex Partial Seizures”. They would cause me to black out for a few moments, and for a short while after waking up, things were kind of blurry. Immediately prior to the blackout, I would see a strange picture in my mind, or flash back quickly to something from my past. Falling down the stairs of a hotel I was staying in with my parents and brother is what allowed them to learn I had been having them; I hadn’t shared the information because I was approaching 16 and knew that they would (justifiably) never give a driver’s license to someone that randomly went to sleep for a minute.
I was made to wait another year and a few months, which meant that I would be a little over 17 when I got my license. I had had one or two more blackouts in the time since falling down the stairs, but didn’t tell anyone because I was restless and felt I simply had to move my life forward. I had already been traveling extensively for both music and BMX bike riding, but I wanted to be able to do so independently and was unwilling to wait any longer.
Next door to my parents’ house lived the Capanna’s- an older couple that were both very private and very nice- and their dog named Bear. Mr. Capanna would play with and walk and sit on the porch with that dog for what seemed like all day, every day. Bear was nice, but very protective- not only of the older couple, but of the kids in the neighboring houses and very much so of my brother and I, since we were the closest and would play with and bring him treats when given permission.
A short time after I had gotten my license I had a serious argument with my parents, likely over the fact that I was not yet graduated from high school, and was already planning on moving to the city. I had also come home with blood on me at some ridiculous hour of the night before, and had also recently left town for two days to watch hardcore out of state. I wasn’t your run-of-the-mill “bad kid”, but I was certainly a challenge.
I was stressed and angry, and in a hurry to leave. As I sat down in the car I remember feeling unspecifically “off”, but decided to go anyway and address it on the road. As soon as I started the car and began to move in reverse, I blacked out. Even though I was always given a tiny warning, it was seldom early enough to do anything about what came next, and the same was true here.
The car rolled backwards down the curved driveway and ended up in the lawn, and in the process, hit Bear. I hadn’t even seen him near the car, due to my haste and self-involvement, and he was likely walking towards it to say hello when I started backing up. I was dizzy from the blackout, but aware of what I had done. He wasn’t dead, but he wasn’t OK. It was obvious that he was not going to get up and walk it off, and for the first and only time in my entire life, I took the weak way out and drove off.
I couldn’t handle the idea of my carelessness ruining something that brought enjoyment to such nice people, or that I had hurt something that had done nothing but protect me. I also flashed back to a few-years-prior incident in which I was the bearer of similar bad news and it shook me for quite some time; In a moment of un-clarity, the emotional gravity of conveying the information managed to outweigh the right-minded notion to do so.
I went to a friend’s house and waited. He wasn’t home, but I had a key, so I just sat there sobbing. My parents knew where I was going, so I knew that shortly there would be a call telling me what had happened. When it came I lied to them and said that I had seen Bear as I was leaving the house but had no idea I had hit him. They told me Mr. Capanna had taken him to the vet, but that it didn’t look good. Bear died, and I believe that day when I was 17 was the last time I ever felt like a good person.
My parents didn’t push me on the particulars of the situation, though I partially wish they would have. I have always thought they had an inkling that I had blacked out, but just never mentioned it. After it was all over, I went and apologized to Mr. Capanna; He was very gracious in accepting it, but there was very little contact between us after. I did everything I could to help them whenever I was at my parent’s house- shovel, pick things up, etc., but no amount of trivial yard chores could ever un-do how I felt about what happened, and even more so the cowardly manner in which I handled it.
I’m sitting here crying a little bit as I re-visit this, and at this point it was a LONG time ago; I’ve had some pretty fucked up things happen that have played big parts in defining my character, but this may be the only one that I did completely to myself, and am 100% to blame for the outcome.
I’ve thought about this situation thoroughly and often… It serves as a reminder that there is never an excuse to be careless or selfish when such actions have even the slightest potential to damage someone else. I hurt that old man because I was so caught up in anger and haste that I was paying no attention to anything else.
This situation (and a few others in the same vein), is why my patience is virtually infinite with those close to me, but nearly non-existent with myself.