Friday, December 10, 2010

December 10, 1985

On December 10, 1985 I was hanging out in the living room of the Zeta Tau Alpha house at Central Missouri State University.  It was finals week, everyone was finishing up and heading home.  There was a major snow storm going on, and we were all just sort of hunkered down and studying.

Then the phone rang.

One of my sisters called me to the phone.  My mom was on the line.  My father and brother had been in a serious car accident and they did not expect my father to live.  Come home now. 

I was five hours away, and did not have a car at college.  As a zombie, I told everyone what was going on.  The Zetas jumped into action.  Several girls started packing my bags (I overheard one say to be sure and send home things for the whole Christmas break, including something nice for a funeral.).  Others got on the phone with the buses and trains, to see what was moving.  Another helpful soul handed me my smokes (I was a chain smoker for many years) and another handed me a Seven and Seven.  That was how I coped with things then.

My aunt got me a plane ticket.  One of my sisters called her boyfriend and another of his friends who were stationed at Whiteman Air Force Base.  They came and picked us up and drove us through the storm to the Kansas City airport.  I remember exactly what I was wearing - skinny, ankle-length jeans, white Keds (no socks), a ZTA t shirt and my brand new, sapphire blue coat that my father had bought for me a few weeks before.

Mom had just kept telling me my brother was fine, but went into great detail about my dad.  I came all the way home that night thinking that my brother was dead and that no one would tell me.  He actually was fine, physically, though.

I could never have recognized my dad.  He had a severe head injury.  He was driving his Corvette (Daddy always had a Corvette) along the Outer Road in Arnold, by Fox Chase Apartments.  That is where my mom lived.  He had just picked up my brother and was on his way home.

An oncoming car decided to pass the car in front of him, came into Dad's lane and hit him.  Daddy tried to get out the way, and his side of the car apparently took the full brunt of the impact.  My brother said that he closed his eyes at the impact and when he opened them the whole front of the 'Vette was gone.  I never saw the car, but friends went to the impound and saw it, and said they could not believe anyone came out alive.

Daddy ended up in a permanent vegetative state for the next 7 1/2 years, until he died on July 24, 1993.

He was 42 years old at the time of the accident.  It is so hard to believe that I am older than he was then.  He was so young.

The story I tell is that I dropped out of college and came home to take care of him.  That is patently false.  What really happened is that I completely fell apart.  I had no coping mechanism whatsoever.  I had long since abandoned the God of my childhood.  I had placed my faith at an early age in a short prayer and walk up an aisle, and that action did not save me.  Nor did it sustain me.  I was already a mess at the age of 20 - drinking, smoking, and the lifestyle that went with it.  I also was filled with a rage at the young man who had hit my father.  I knew his name and where he lived, and entertained fantasies of knocking on the door and letting him know just what he had done. 

It didn't get better.  I believe I had a death wish, as I continually put myself into situations with dangerous people.  I didn't care.  My image of God was wrapped up in my image of my father, and that was gone, and so was any vestige of God. 

And then it got worse.

I meant for this to be a memorial to my Dad, but I cannot tell any story any more without including my testimony, as it is the greatest story of my life - the story of how Christ gave His grace to a despairing, desolate sinner and saved her. 

In June of 1993 I could not live one more second feeling the way I felt.  The shame, the guilt, the loneliness, the despair was too much.  But, being a coward, I could not actually do myself in.  I remember that Monday morning (though I don't recall the exact date) of being face down on the floor of my bedroom and crying and sobbing to God to PLEASE do SOMETHING and I can't go one.

And He did.  He saved me.  I heard Him.  He said to get up.  He told me to get help.  He even told me where. 

And I did.  And my life changed instantly and dramatically in that one second when God reached down and plucked me off the path to Hell.  I even managed to forgive the man who hit him.

On July 24, 1993 my daddy passed away, at the age of 49, of complications from pneumonia. 

The funeral was actually anti-climactic, after the events of December of 1985.  He is buried in Jefferson Barracks. Brother Richard Adams did the funeral service.  Daddy's hunting buddies were all there, and were his pallbearers.  Over the years I have heard stories about his friends, who came and sat at that nursing home with him for years.  When I was not faithful, when I could not force myself to do the small things I should have done, those men sat by his bedside.  I thank God for them - Denny T., Dan K., Bob McK., Dave H., John Z. and others.  For his sister Terry, who made sure everyone knew EXACTLY who they were caring for.  For those who carried the load that I could not.  For Ken R., who took care of all the legal and financial aspects of our lives, and who saved my life more times than he can ever know.

And now, the pictures of Daddy:

Me and Daddy, March 1970.  He was 26 and I was 4.  This is our house on Frisco Street.

Da Nang, 1968

Probably around 1977 or 78, at our house in Arnold.  Daddy was always on a softball team.  I spent a whole lot of my childhood in ballparks.
Daddy and Dave H., after a successful hunt, probably not long before the accident.

This is one of my favorite pictures of him - it really captures his spirit.  This was just a few years before his accident.

I wish I had some pictures of him holding his four grandsons.  I am prone to get very blue this time of year, as all the memories - and all my regrets - come flooding back.  I try to cherish and enjoy the memories I have of him, and know that I am forgiven for how I failed him.  I miss him every single day.  He was a larger-than-life character, the sort of person whose presence filled the room.  He has left a void in a lot of lives.

Jim Politte
January 29, 1944 - July 24, 1993


  1. Thank you for sharing that.

    I loved seeing his pictures - so full of life and joy.

    I'm so very sorry for your loss!!!

    But so very glad that you were found!

  2. I enjoyed reading this, read it twice now. It seems to share some of the same "feelings" that I have had. I too, felt that my life changed, with a phone call. One minute I was on my way up 270 with my hubby, on our way to a meeting with some friends. Then my cell phone rang, and it was my daddy. He was telling me that he was at St. Anthony's Hospital, and they had told him he has Leukemia and were about to transfer him up to St. Louis University Hospital tonight. as it was before that call ceased to exist, and set me on a different path.

  3. Thanks for sharing Paula. You have reminded me once again how very great God is. I praise Him for His Faithfulness in your life.

  4. It's not that I haven't read it. I just have no words. I love you my dear friend and God is an awesome God who saves wretched sinners like us! Love YOU!


I love-love-love comments! If anything I've said touches you or makes you think in any way, please let me know. I check for comments frequently through the day.