I remember the strangest things about yesterday. The temperature inside the car when we decide to go get tea and the way the sun hit my daughter’s platinum blonde hair. She looked like a doll in a dreamy, ethereal way that could easily break, with porcelain skin that was almost translucent. It was 109, and the heat seemed to have a life force of its own. I think it took me a little bit by surprise that I didn’t melt in the sunshine.
Instead of suffering the melting heat like all Texans, we drove through the bank to get money instead of going inside. The girl at the drive-thru looked familiar. I commented that I think she was named Meagan. My daughter wasn’t interested but wanted to hear about the meteor that a coworker of her dad had found – but since NASA denied the claims, it became more intriguing. It was the uneducated consensus that it was a coverup. It was probably a piece of the space shuttle that exploded in the 1980s since it was found in Fairfield, Tx. This was exciting for the armchair astrophysics department in our small part of the world. Which was unsubstantiated scientific research that consisted of “Flat Earther’s “, other planetary inhabitants that mimicked humans and people that held the government responsible for all of the above.
We talked about driving and how to avoid an accident by watching others to avoid an accident. At the four-way stop on the square. I paused for a second, even though none was in sight and there was no one to run the flashing red light. I paused because I always do. I was as cautious driving like any other day. A lady honked at, me because I paused too long to avoid a truck driving too fast.
Later that day, after we left the grocery store, we are happy and almost home . Then , out of nowhere, a lady ran a stop sign while I was on a roundabout. I heard my daughter screaming she appeared out of nowhere. I hit my brake and prayed for God to help us . Because there it was, unavoidable and ominous, staring me in the face. Another vehicle. The one person I have always strived to protect was in the passenger’s seat.
“You make driving look so easy mom. “
I reply that it is easy, you just watch out for others who aren’t paying attention. And never take your eyes off the road, one moment may be all it takes to avoid a tragedy.”
Why didn’t I see the car speeding through the stop sign and barreling towards us? Why do I only remember my daughter’s screams and none of the other things we talked about? How did I think to turn the steering wheel in the direction of the oncoming car to avoid it hitting my daughter’s side of the cart? Did I do that? Or did I just pray that it would hit me and not her? How did I remain unhurt? How did we both?
Why did I think I could have avoided this by being better than human?
I had no moment of clarity, levity or even terror. I had no time. I opened my eyes to see smoke and airbags deployed like huge shapeless masses. I felt relief – until I remember I wasn’t alone. I screamed for my child and she crying, answered me,
“Are you hurt? Get out of the car”
I fumbled for the door and couldn’t stop shaking.
I’m a nurse. I can handle stress. Life and death. Code blue, I can bring you back to life. So why was I crying like a baby? Sitting in the back of an ambulance crying hysterically unable to sign my name? I couldn’t think what to do .
I can be the first on site in an accident and be calm as I help get you to safety. I am in my element when saving your life.
You can trust me, please let me help you. You’re ok, please don’t worry. “
As I sit in the smoking car with my daughter, trembling hands and shaky voice ,I am not calm.
I start crying when people are asking how we are.
Who am I? What happened to the girl who could handle it? Where is she? She needs to get herself together. She is capable and needs to stop acting like a blubbering crybaby.
I am ashamed of the most human part of my reaction and a few times I apologize for being upset. I don’t have to apologize for crying but I do it anyway and the EMTs, police, and firefighters are silent. They are not the same as the people who have stopped to help. They are doing the job of the first responders. I realize that I’m the same as them in a crisis. I don’t show emotion either but I hope I have kind eyes.
The first thing I did not want was to be seen as a casualty. I realize that they didn’t either. They told me as much in their eyes.
I forced myself to drive two days later. I think it was a tribute to my guardian angel who I think is my grandfather, who taught me how to drive. Or maybe my grandmother. Or maybe my aunt. Maybe it was the Volvo I was driving. But I’m not going to lie, I think I’m blessed. Thank you, God. You are always there.
I drive defensively everyday .
But sometimes, you need divine intervention.