NEW PORT RICHEY — She has a terrible headache that won't go away and her stomach hurts. She thinks it's because her dad is dead.
"I'm not feeling good at all," Brittany Micklo said Friday as she sat in the back seat of her grandmother's car on their way to Largo, to where her father's body was. Brittany made a necklace of beads for him and she wanted him to have it. It's green and blue with hearts. He would have liked it. Tom Micklo always made a fuss over the necklaces his daughter made for him. Brittany, who is 19 now, has made him hundreds since she was little, since she nearly died herself.
In 1998 when Brittany was 6, she was hit by a car in front of Fox Hollow Elementary School, where she was in the first grade. She bounced on the street and landed in a patch of grass. Brittany had severe head trauma and was in a coma for a month. She recuperated in a rehabilitation center for several months after that, relearning how to walk and talk and brush her teeth. Brittany would sit out in front of the facility with her grandmother and wait for her dad to visit.
"Daddy's coming! Daddy's coming!" she would chant.
She lit up for him in a way she didn't for anyone else. Brittany mostly recovered physically; she's blind in one eye and weak on her left side. Her mind remained like a child's. Brittany, who lives with her grandmother in New Port Richey, graduated from high school at this time last year. Her dad was so proud of her.
She understands death, she says. She knows what happened to him.
At 7:30 p.m. Tuesday Tom Micklo and his 10-year-old son, Tommy, were about to load Micklo's motorcycle on a trailer when, his son says, Micklo decided to take it for a spin on Trouble Creek Road. Micklo loved speed.
"Slow down!" Tommy Jr. shouted at his dad.
Micklo hit a curve wrong, lost control and flew in the air. His head hit a concrete curb. His son saw all of this. Tommy called his dad's girlfriend, who then called Micklo's mother.
Brittany and her grandmother arrived just as the helicopter airlifted Micklo to Bayfront Medical Center, the same place Brittany was flown.
"They told everybody I was going to die when I got helicoptered," she said to her grandmother. "Daddy's not going to die. I didn't die.
"Daddy's not going to die."
When they got to the hospital in St. Petersburg, an hour's drive south of the crash site, doctors said there was no hope. He was so badly hurt his body couldn't be stabilized enough to even harvest his organs for donation.
The family turned off life support the next day, Wednesday.
"His body is just a shell," his estranged wife Cindy Micklo told his four children, Brittany, Danielle, 18, Valarie, 15, and Tommy. "His spirit is gone. That is not your dad. Your dad is not that."
Brittany squeezed her grandmother's hand. Micklo's time of death was 12:56 p.m.
Brittany doesn't have the social filter adults have. She often says what she is feeling and thinking.
She is angry.
"I'm mad that he left me here alone," she said at her grandmother's house Thursday night, the day after he died.
"I've punched the walls.
"I've stamped my feet.
"I've screamed until the neighbors could hear me.
"I've slammed doors."
She remembered that he loved Reese's peanut butter cups and Pepsi. Her favorite memory was when he took her fishing and her brother Tommy and her dad's girlfriend got bored and left but her dad stayed with her until she was done. He took a picture of her with the fish she caught and that made her happy.
He made a great breakfast.
"Omelettes with peppers and mushrooms!" she said. "Every Sunday."
She remembered that he loved the smell of coffee, especially French vanilla, but hated the taste. He couldn't stand the smell of popcorn but would eat it at the movies. He liked action films with cars and guns. He worked construction and told his family if he ever died, he wanted his ashes spread on the sites of some of his jobs. He felt most at home on his excavator and his motorcycles. He knew he lived hard.
"He died doing something he loved," Brittany said.
Thursday night she had what she called a nightmare. She went to heaven and her dad was there.
"Brittany, you know I didn't leave you on purpose," he told her.
"I know," she said.
Then she woke up. She was not comforted. She misses him. She got out of bed and stamped her feet and screamed, "Daddy, why did you get on that bike?"
She knows one day she will feel better.
She thinks it's going to take a long time.
Erin Sullivan can be reached at [email protected] or (727) 869-6229.