On the heels of my previous “my life is so busy” post.
Friday afternoon 4:30pm:
Graham had been home from school for about half an hour. His first grade class had a potluck that night and I was racing to finish the salad that I was assigned to bring. He asked me a million questions, I suggested he play downstairs. I tried to pick up the mess in the house and asked him to put on his shoes and jacket. It was one of those days when a simple request required multiple asks and a lot of patience. By the time we got in the car to pick up his brother at preschool, I was at the end of my rope. “Graham, you are almost seven years old, I should not have to ask you so many times for your help. I promise I will do less yelling if you do better listening, all right?” Of course, he said yes. He always says yes.
Down our hill we went. We stopped at our major intersection. There are always a lot of cars at that time of day yet it seemed that there were even more than usual. The clock was ticking. I was still tempering my annoyance at the time it took to get out of the house and mentally steeling myself for the night ahead with Randy out of town. So much traffic…oh here is a break…time to turn and
CRASH. In that moment when your life is suddenly out of your control, I turned into oncoming traffic and head-on into a silver car on a rainy day that I did not see. A sliver of a split second where I realized that my breaks were useless and then poof! airbag. smoke. pain. graham’s cries. panic about picking spencer up. pain in my hands. guilt. fear. being that person blocking a busy road with an accident. apologizing. what if. crying. nose bleeding. consoling. accepting help from strangers. looking a person you just hit head-on in the eye and mouthing “i’m sorry”. All of it was awful.
When that kind woman (Brooke – wherever you are, thank you) came to my open window and asked if I was all right, I knew my nose was bleeding and my hands hurt and my poor Graham was terrified by the smoke coming from the airbag, all I could say was that I had another child to pick up and I needed to get there. Slowly the pieces fell into place. The car was un-driveable. I had to wait for the cops to write up a report and a fire engine to come with firefighters to check out my hands, and a tow truck to take my poor battered car away. Brooke suggested, gently, that I call the school and arrange for someone to pick him up. I looked at my phone. I scrolled to “p” – sure the number was under “preschool”, right? My addled brain could not make sense of how and who to call. I could sense Graham’s rising panic in the back seat and so I did what moms do. I held it together. I spoke calmly to him, told him he was about to meet real live police officers and fire fighters. I searched for the number of the preschool and gave permission for my dear friend Deb (thank you Deb!) to pick up Spencer, then I started to process what had happened and how the next few hours were going to go.
At the end of it all, we are all right. The poor woman I hit, with two boys in the back, is fine. My car was towed to a body shop where they will fix the crunched front fender and hood. Randy is flying home a day early from his high school reunion. We are car-less at the moment until he arrives, but we live in the middle of the city and have plenty of things we can walk to.
Prior to the crash, I wasn’t texting, looking at my phone, talking on my phone, or even listening to music. I was just hurrying. My brain already four things ahead of where I actually was. If this is not a slap in the face, I don’t know what is. Time to SLOW. DOWN. We are fortunate. My hands ache but there is nothing broken, just some abrasions and some jamming from the air bag. My nose bleed was because of impact, not a broken nose. I have no bruising, cuts on my face, or whiplash and actually, the semi-permanent crick in my neck seems to be gone. Much more importantly, my beautiful brave son is completely safe and unharmed. Graham can be timid. He is afraid of loud noises and things that are unfamiliar. He likes to stick to routine. You would think that a car accident, one that sets off the air bag with a loud BANG!, and blood coming out of his mom’s nose and hands, and the stress of wondering how we were going to pick up his brother, and police cars and fire trucks – you just might think that all that would send my little man over the edge. Not to mention that we would not be making it to his potluck. But after a quick cry and a few requests to get out of the car, he calmed down. He smiled at the police officer, he accepted the sticker the firefighters gave him with delight. He came to understand we weren’t going to make the potluck and moved on.
Once home, the boys both set out to draw me pictures because my hands hurt. I couldn’t hold them close enough. I read them countless stories. I called Randy four times. I replayed that moment of impact hundreds of times asking “what if” until my head hurt. Universe, I am listening. I really am.