There’s a reason I won’t leave the house when the roads are icy. Actually there are two.
One is a bus.
The other a tractor-trailer.
These events are separated in time, but not in meaning or in lessons learned, both major components to what it is that makes me all the more weary, and oh so careful, not to go anywhere when the roads turn to ice.
Fourteen years ago:
Most abnormal days start off normally, a typical day, without much variation from routine. There was the usual morning rush, the buckling in while warming up the car, the normal early morning banter; all the regular stuff we were accustomed to on our drive to work. Not my work, it was my husband’s. I was a stay at home mom and had gotten used to driving my husband to work every morning and picking him up at the end of every day, with my daughter buckled into the back seat coming along for the ride, just so I could have the car during the day and not be home-bound.
I know it sounds clichéd but this sequence of events feels and seems like only yesterday to me. Every time I look at my teenage daughter, I am amazed at how the years have passed and how, with the passing of time, the memories still continue to stay etched clearly into the recesses of my mind.
Bits and pieces of the memories from that morning sporadically float up into the stream of my consciousness from time to time when least expected:
The fireman, first to arrive on the scene as they usually are, using his huge metal cutters to cut off the driver’s side door and pull me out of the wreckage with my right leg still wedged under the ignition key.
The ambulance paramedic who didn’t stop talking to me on our short ten minute drive to the hospital that seemed like an eternity, all the while telling me about his once upon a time girlfriend named Devora, trying to keep me awake and alert; the voices in the background drifting in and out, directing the ambulance driver to the nearest trauma hospital.
My daughter was with me in the ambulance, completely unscathed, buckled into her safety infant chair. The chair had been transferred from the back seat of the wreckage that I had been driving, where she had been fast asleep when we made impact. She was now asleep again and I was watching her as I lay there, amazed at the ease with which she was able to transition between awake and asleep and back to asleep again.
My daughter, now awake, crying while I lay there unresponsive on the emergency room gurney unable to be a mommy for her through my pain.
The surgeon arriving with remnants of his lunch still visible on his unkempt tie.
Wasn’t it only twenty minutes earlier that I had driven away, yelling out the window, “Goodbye honey, have a great day!”, that I had started my trek home on semi auto-pilot, thinking about everything and nothing in particular, random thoughts that would eventually became inconsequential as the sun hit my windshield at the wrong angle leaving me with zero visibility through my already snowy and ice covered windshield?
Why was that bus blocking the highway?
Twelve years ago:
I felt uneasy about my decision to go to my second cousin’s wedding in Michigan, leaving my husband at home with a cast on his leg, still recovering from a slip-and-fall accident he had a few weeks earlier on one of our typical icy, Canadian winter’s nights.
But he told me to go if I wanted to and that he would be fine. He had help. He would be fine.
I debated and finally decided to drive to Detroit for the wedding, carpooling with some family members noting to myself reassuringly that the weather was quite clear. No big deal.
I tried to convince myself that I was doing the right thing, after all, I had been playing nursemaid for the past few weeks and having this chance to participate in a family occasion would be a welcome change of scenery for me. I promised my husband that I would rush back the next morning right after the wedding.
But the morning after the wedding brought with it a huge blanket of snow that covered the entire city of Detroit and together with the snow came the critical debate about what to do next. I did indeed have a lift back home which I fully intended to take. I just couldn’t think rationally about staying away another night, my thoughts overwhelmed with worry and guilt about my husband being at home alone. I just wanted to get back already.
We set out on the road right after breakfast with me sitting in the back seat next to my son who was buckled into his infant seat, the two of us touching hands and smiling at each other as we began our journey. To distract my attention as we navigated the slippery roads, I started to mentally note the road markers by the side of the road, there to let you know when you would be reaching the U.S.-Canada border.
I felt the car slipping before I actually saw it happen and I could tell that the driver also knew that we were about to slide right under the huge wheels of the enormous tractor trailer in the right lane next to us. The driver responded impulsively by yanking the steering wheel in the opposite direction of the truck causing our car to be momentarily saved; pulled away from the imminent danger of being crushed by the massive truck beside us and pulled towards the other perilous obstacle of the oncoming traffic.
The car skidding out of control, slid into the ditch between both lanes of this four lane highway (thank you ditch) while the snow cushioned the car (thank you snow) as we flipped over once, (thank you seat-belts) twice, and three times and finally landed on the roof of the car with the front end buried deep inside the snow bank.
Hanging from the roof, we opened our seat-belts and turned ourselves over, scooting out through the only window that had access to daylight and fresh air and wasn’t buried in the snow.
Let me just say that I cannot imagine that even an astronauts first steps on the moon were anywhere near as climactic and emotional as those first steps we took in the icy snow that day.
The simplicity of my intended destination clouded the judgment of the complexity of the journey to get there. I know today that the whole does not equal the sum of the parts. What may be a 10 minute drive in the summer is a suicide run in icy weather.
So before any of you go out and face the weather conditions today, let me just share some of my “I believe” statements with you:
I believe in seatbelts and their power to save lives.
I believe in going places, without fear, and experiencing life.
I believe in making the most of my time in this world.
I believe that when the roads are icy I am not interested in playing God so if you don’t mind, I prefer to stay home.