Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Give it a year to...

I'm in a slump. My vertigo returned last week. The house is a perpetual disaster. I'm exhausted, and I've been wanting to tackle a subject that's hard enough to write about and makes me vulnerable.

The anniversary of our car accident had been in my thoughts even before it arrived Saturday, sitting on my consciousness, playing with threads of memory and skeins of emotions - difficult to untangle into words. Some might scoff at my use of the term "anniversary", but I'm reminded of those events most days and especially these. I'm reminded when I sit at a red light behind the ghost of a hulking black motorcycle, when I see a white and gray Kia van like our old one at a medical building, when I see someone drive recklessly or feel I've made a mistake and been unsafe myself.

It's a very selfish topic, but I trust my dad when he told me, Sometimes you have to write for you and not care about anybody else.

For a long time before that late September day, I had felt that I was extremely blessed and sheltered, that I had no conception of the sadness, trauma, distress others go through routinely in life. I didn't ask God for our experience, but when it happened, it simply felt like my turn for some adversity and challenge. There was no, Why me? That's folly to some, and I'm explaining it poorly, but it felt like something God could and did use to instruct me. And still the trauma has never seemed as if it could compare with what others live through on a weekly, monthly, daily basis, but it helped me learn compassion, empathy in a radical way for people I would not normally meet at church or a sports practice or within a mom's group.

It taught me about the human kaleidoscope of circumstances, especially while in the county hospital with rotating roommates, across the hall from a room with a sentry to guard the prisoner of the county jail who reclined in its bed, his ankles secured to it by chains.

Nevertheless, I did act like a baby when I got home from the hospital. I felt, particularly, that my husband couldn't comprehend the minefield of my emotions and recollections. The day after I returned home was my birthday. While we were eating an apple pie our friend Vivien had brought me at the hospital (with paper plates and plastic forks, God bless her), Daniel slid off his seat and got his leg momentarily caught between the chair and a bench. He started crying, fearful more than anything. Ella became frightened, and I quickly descended into hysterics. Ella and Daniel, still fragile as well, joined me immediately.

"He's fine," Matthew said, holding our little son and staring in disbelief at my sobs and convulsions.

It was the sound of Daniel crying, that's what Matthew didn't understand. I heard again the sound of his and Ella's terrified cries after the accident, and it made me come apart. Matthew was angry that I upset the children. I tried to explain why I was falling apart, that I had control over nothing. I failed.

I didn't respond to my children in the first several dazed moments after the wreck, you see. I don't ever remember asking if they were okay. They were crying, and Ella was screaming for me to respond, to tell her if I had something stuck in me. I finally forced myself to speak and raise my right hand, but my voice was so faint, they couldn't hear me well....or maybe I sounded so strange, it was no comfort. Later, I tortured myself with what if - what if they had been hurt, too? Would I have forced myself to move, to climb to them regardless of pain? I comforted myself that I knew they were okay by their strong voices, by the point of impact, but it wasn't surprising that I had nightmares for a long time after, bad, bad dreams in which I failed to keep my children safe in one way or another.

I know this is part of the reason why I'm so grateful to the firemen, my friends, and my husband for taking such complete, beautiful care of my children for me.

It was because of Ella and Daniel being in the van with me, unharmed physically by events but very frightened, that my family and friends were baffled by my sadness over the death of the motorcyclist who hit us. But I found the way in which he died horrific, and I was distraught that I was part of the circumstances.

I wanted him to have a second chance, a wake-up call. I knew a tiny bit about his situation - that he hit the rear of a truck two intersections before he hit me, that he fled that scene, that he had suspicious substances on his bike. My dad told me simply that I could not know how many second chances he'd been given. A friend told me that I couldn't know; perhaps God used me to keep him from hurting someone else, that sometimes God chooses us for these experiences. But I cannot discern between time and chance and will and meaning.

But still I was sad. I struggled right into this past summer when I had a breakdown at my sister's house in which I yelled at my husband to pray for those he loves, and I confessed that it bothered me, scared me that I didn't know where this man's soul was who died in our accident.

My sis Vinca calmed me down, talked to me and held me as I sobbed.

At 2 am as I finally got ready for bed and looked sheepishly at my swollen, weary face in the mirror, I felt God's displeasure just as clearly as I felt his approbation months earlier in the hospital when I had no anger against the motorcyclist. This time, though, I knew I had to lay my emotions to rest. It was God telling me, It's none of your business where this man's soul is. It's My business. Let it go. Now.

And apologize to your husband.

And I have, really - apologized and let it go. I'm still sad for a man I know nothing about, but who I will always feel connected to because of the events of a late September day. So I pray for his wife, and I pray for one of my hospital roommates, and I pray that God will shine his light on the path of the doctors and nurses who treated me those five days.

And I hold and rock my littlest ones when something reminds them of our accident, and I pray that God will guide me to be the best mother that I can be and a very safe driver, and I take a deep breath nearly every day and let it go.


  1. Replies
    1. I wanted to write it - even if it did give me trouble and make me nervous about sharing it.


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