Yes, my dad was a good man. Yes, I loved and respected him. Yes, I didn’t want to disappoint him. Yes, I lied to him without thinking twice when I felt I needed to. Well… I thought twice when the second thought was to come up with a better lie.
I don’t think I’m alone in this.
What may not be so universal… is how, my father actually ended up supporting my lie when I crashed my Malibu into a parked car belonging to a nun at the Catholic church across the street from our church while trying to impress two girls I was taking to a hayride.
I didn’t learn the part about my dad’s lie until many years later. He was so embarrassed… but since no one was hurt, I can laugh about it now.
It was a clear Sunday afternoon in mid October, 1975. Dad had asked if I’d help drive my fellow parishioners from Gloria Dei Lutheran to a church sponsored hay ride event. I had no desire to participate in any church event ever since confirmation, but when Dad said there would be girls there, I cleaned out the old station wagon and made my way to church.
I can’t remember now who’s farm it was being held at but I never made it there so… and as you might have already guessed from the opening sentence of this story, I never made it more than a few feet from the church parking lot so… the church, and the whole hayride event thing really doesn’t matter.
Because I crashed.
I wasn’t looking where I was going, I was looking at the two girls I had in the back seat.
“You girls like to hear some music?”
I didn’t wait for those two poor scared girls to answer (they might have been fourteen or fifteen) I reached back and turned on the shitty old tape deck I had placed between them on the seat, gunned the motor, slapped the “three on the tree” shifter of my old rattle trap into first gear (trying so hard to look cool) and released the clutch while simultaneously letting the slightly bent steering wheel slip and spin from my grip.
I was letting it fly. And because my old car had manual steering (rather than power steering) the front end lurched and flew forward, and to the left. Too far to the left. I panicked and desperately grabbed for the wheel to stop it from spinning.
If you too have ever been in a fairly forceful front end collision, you will know what I mean when I say I will never forget that image of the hood of my car crumpling up like that. I couldn’t see what I was hitting. All I could see was the the hood. It looked like it was made of tin foil or something. Or even paper. I can’t remember the sound, but it was so very strange how it happened so fast yet… it felt like everything was moving in slow motion.
My world then changed completely. It was a blur. All sound seemed muffled. The girls were completely out of my mind. I have no memory of injury (I really don’t think there was any) or emergency vehicles. The only thing I can think of as to what happened next was…
My dad was there. He was asking me what happened and how it was that I lost control of the car. I said I didn’t know, that it felt like something had broken in the front end. Like it was something in the steering mechanism. That was a lie of course but somehow it was decided (and I was told) that the sway bar had broken. That it broke just as I had let out the clutch and that was why the car lurched to the side and jerked the wheel from my grip.
Yea… that was it.
The lie sounded so good, and was so very convenient for me, I think I even came to believe it after a while. After all, I wasn’t being challenged. If the sway bar had not broke, someone would have said so. I would have been in deep shit. Why the hell would they believe such an easily disproved, stupid lie if it weren’t true?
I eventually came to believe that the force of the impact had broken the sway bar in a stroke of sheer dumb luck. I believed that untruth as I held fast to my main lie. Covering up my stupid, teenage ego-driven, show-off move that could have easily gotten someone killed.
Fortunately, all I ended up killing was my old Malibu. The body anyway. I was actually able to get nearly two hundred bucks for the 327 chevy motor Keith and I had rebuilt earlier that summer.
Also, I couldn’t drive for six months after that because my license was suspended. So I had to ride the stupid fucking bus!
I found out the truth and the whole truth (well… most of it anyway) many years later. Dad told me that no, the sway bar never broke, but he had pretended that it had. He pretended that I was telling the truth even though he knew I was lying.
With more than a little embarrassment, my father then admitted to me that he had failed to renew the insurance on my Malibu. Because of this, the nun who owned the car I’d hit, had to be dealt with privately. My father was a deacon at Gloria Dei Lutheran. I imagine there was some sort of deal worked out with St. Pious Catholic Church across the street. A deal to reimburse the nun and keep quiet what needed to be kept quiet. I have no idea, and Dad never got into that part. He never told me how much lying he had to do to make things right in his part of our world.
Heh… what a world.