I’m pretty sure I’ll never forget the 1.5-mile drive home from the hospital, my knuckles white, the SUV crawling at a speed just a touch faster than idling.
After all, if I took one corner too fast, rolled over the edge of even the tiniest pothole, irreparable damage could be done to my most precious cargo: my then 3-day-old twin girls.
What’s changed in the past nearly four years? I spend more time asking them to keep it down in the car than I do worrying about their safety. I’ll even go out to dinner with the family, have a beer or two and drive home.
How did I go from so protective to so lax?
It’s been just about a week since I sat down with Russell Runge, a 72-year-old Genoa man who bared his soul to me, told me all about his drinking and driving, how he was trying to work up the nerve to veer into a semitrailer and kill himself.
The Daily Chronicle’s former photo editor, Danielle Guerra, has since reached out to tell me what it was like shooting the photos of the wreck, how she thought no one could have possibly survived that crash, given the state of Runge’s Prius.
The combination of the brutal details, Runge’s honesty, it’s a cocktail that’s awakened me and inspired me to take charge of my recklessness and institute a zero-tolerance policy in the Heimerman vehicles.
I’ve got a lot of reasons, my passengers – my wife and girls – chief among them. Then there’s the thousands of other motorists who’ve done nothing wrong, and can tragically be taken away because of someone else’s selfish choice to drink and drive.
I think I’ll get selfish, maybe even vain, in another sense. I’m tired of carrying around this 10-pound spare tire. The wife and I are through Week 8 of marathon training, and if I want to set a personal record this October, it’s time to mind the details.
Look, I’m not giving up beer altogether. I’m not a Puritan. It has its place – such as on an end table while I watch my beloved Brewers continue their nosedive. On the backyard patio table, for sips in between soccer matches with my little future Mia Hamms.
Every parent is confident their kids are going to do great things, right?
Well, this one is ready to step up his game and make sure he’s around to see them.
• Christopher Heimerman is the news editor at the Daily Chronicle. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.