Why does T.J.'s Dad cry in "Whale Talk"?In Chapter 9

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dymatsuoka eNotes educator| Certified Educator

T.J.'s Dad is haunted by an incident that occurred "thirty years ago", when, through his negligence, a baby was killed by the truck he was driving.  Although most of the time he is all right, "sometimes it hits (him) like it was yesterday".  The baby had crawled under T.J.'s Dad's truck when it was parked, and T.J.'s Dad had not thought to look under the truck before he took off.  Although the accident was completely unintentional, T.J.'s Dad continues to berate himself for not having been more cautious, and that is why he is crying when T.J. finds him in Chapter 9.

In the time immediately after the accident, T.J.'s Dad "told (himself) (he) was a worthless scumbag, that no trucker fails to look under his truck before he takes off...(and) there was no difference between negligence and an intentional act".  Nowadays, he is "a little kinder to (himself)  most of the time", but some days, it all comes back to him.  On his darker days, T.J.'s Dad takes comfort in watching videos about whales, because whales communicate with complete honesty about their feelings and the way things are.  He envies whales because "if you're a whale, you know exactly what it is to be you", in contrast to himself, who "had reached adulthood without even knowing what it is to be human" (Chapter 10).