I heard the sickening scraping sound before I saw it. A piece of wood trim that had been firmly attached to the garage just moments before. I was only 16, my license shiny and new in my wallet. Still, I knew better, Dad. And I should be sorry for peeling out of the garage and ripping off a chunk of the wall. But I’m not.
Do you remember that day as clearly as I do? Mom was out of town, and you let me drive her car while she was gone. It was a big deal—the first time I got to drive myself to school instead of taking the bus. I was well aware that this was a privilege, and one that could be easily revoked. But I heard the school bus coming, and I knew that if I didn’t hurry, I’d be stuck behind the bus all the way there.
So with single-minded focus, I backed the car out of the driveway, eyes on the rearview mirror, scanning for the bus. That’s when I heard it. First the scraping, then the thunk. The wooden trim around the door was no match for the side of the car. But there was no time to assess the damage. I kept driving.
I should be sorry about the car, about the garage door you had to fix, about my lack of responsibility. But I’m not. Because that evening, when I told you what I’d done (which you’d already pieced together), you played for me notes of grace that have echoed in my ears ever since. You didn’t let me off the hook—as I recall, we spent the evening together with a hammer, a few nails, and a bucket of paint. And later that night, I had a confessional phone call to make to Mom.
But in that moment you showed me what forgiveness looks like: you loved me just the same in spite of what I’d done, and then you went to work doing the cleanup right alongside me.
I wasn’t sorry several months later, either, when I won the safe driver contest at that ceremony at the fancy hotel. Remember how I looked over at you, wide eyed, when they announced my name? I knew there was no way I deserved it. But you just winked at me, nudging me to go up and accept the award.
Can you believe it’s been almost exactly twenty years since the infamous garage door incident? If I’d backed out the way you taught me, I wouldn’t remember that moment all these years later. So no, I’m not sorry, because right then I knew that whenever I crashed again at some point in the future—whether behind the wheel of a car or otherwise—I could come to you with the broken pieces.
Some days when I’m back home visiting you and Mom, I walk past the same garage door, with the repainted trim, and I marvel that it’s intact again. To anyone else, it probably looks as if nothing ever happened. But I’ll never forget the ugly squeals and scrapes I heard that day, followed by the echoes of pounding grace.