In her fearless memoir, The Pink Steering Wheel Chronicles: A Love Story, author Laura Fahrenthold presents a moving portrait of marriage, motherhood and mourning as she captains a 1993 RV sprinkling her husband's ashes with their two young daughters and a stray dog in an epic quest for healing and understanding. Filled with insight and wit from a career in journalism, the story captures the family's adventures and misadventures, her deeply-layered love story, and her hilarious slice-of-life dispatches where the pink steering wheel becomes her spiritual GPS.
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|Product dimensions:||5.90(w) x 8.90(h) x 0.50(d)|
About the Author
Read an Excerpt
There are moments we all wish we could have over and over and over again—the moments before everything changes.
I was halfway to the driveway before turning back to kiss Mark goodbye one more time. He called that afternoon to say that he wasn’t feeling well and that he was coming home from work early.
“You sure I shouldn’t stay home? Maybe you have the flu,” I asked, noting the sweat on his pale forehead.
He gave me his sexy lopsided smile, the one that says, “I love you.” “I’m fine,” he insisted, kissing me back a little too passionately for someone with a clammy fever. “We’re going to eat a delicious steak dinner, right girls? And then leave for Thanksgiving tomorrow.”
“Right, Daddy,” echoed Nell and Susannah, happy to have their father all to themselves.
I still can’t believe I heard my cell phone ring that night. The restaurant music was really loud, and the place was packed. I can still remember the ringtone: “Piano Riff.”
Whenever I hear it now, it makes me want to run out of the room, screaming.
It was Mark. “Laura, help me! I’m throwing up!”
My first thought was that the steak and salad had disagreed with his already upset stomach. But then a surge of lumbering dread shot through me. Mark Pittman never panicked. Ever. As a newspaper reporter, he once rushed into a collapsed elementary school to help drag out kids’ bodies—some of them dead. Even then, he didn’t panic. When covering the September 11th terrorist attacks, he didn’t panic.When our newborn baby, Susannah, suddenly stopped breathing after delivery and was rushed off to the neonatal intensive care unit, he didn’t panic.
That night, there was something different in his voice. I knew it was an emergency.
The drive home felt like it took forever, even though I only had to blow through five red lights and two stop signs to get there. It was like a slow-motion nightmare where you’re running away from something, only your legs won’t carry you fast enough.
When I got in the house, Mark burst out of the bathroom, naked, eyes popping wildly as he struggled to compose his body and speech. He staggered, took a few steps, and then fell, gashing his chin on the hallway dresser. Pulling himself up, he collapsed again, this time cutting his forehead. His face bruised almost immediately.
At first, I thought he had been shot or stabbed. There was a lot of blood soaking the piles of clean laundry neatly laid out in preparation for our trip. Some dripped down the wall, puddling on the floor. That’s when I realized it was coming out of him, in surges of violent vomit.
For some dumb reason, my first thought was to get him a pair of underwear so that no one would see him naked.
Then came a brutal honking noise. It was coming from Mark, a deep expulsion of air from his lungs. In his hand was a washcloth soaked in blood.
He struggled back to his feet, staggering again and immediately falling face down back on the floor as he collapsed under his own weight. This time, he didn’t get up. He didn’t move at all.
Then his bladder emptied.
At that exact moment, everything stopped. The air shifted, became lighter. It was almost spotty, like the dots on an old black and white TV. I felt my body being lifted, floating up the attic stairs. I could see us down there, together on the floor, but I was up here, away from us. A gentle rush lifted me even higher, carrying me further away, to some place above. To a higher, sleepy peace. Nothing but blank space swallowing the room in silent calm.
Looking down, I could see myself pressed against him. But up here, I was weightless. Floating in space.
Then, whoosh. A noise that sounded like a vacuum cleaner sucked all the air from the room. I was spinning, whirling through muffled space. A hazy gray tunnel with tiny sparkly lights formed in front of me. It got bigger and bigger, gaining power and definition, almost like a tornado’s funnel, until it shot straight through the window into the night sky.
Its path was too mesmerizing, the spell too intense to notice that the window had blown wide open as the twinkling trail disintegrated into the star-filled sky. My separation from the tunnel was gentle yet abrupt as the force released me and floated me back down next to him. His body was there, lying still, but he was no longer in it. It was empty.
Mark was gone.
—Excerpt from Chapter 1 by Laura Fahrenthold