Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Six inches

I was in a car accident Friday.  A car full of teenagers barreled through a side street and crashed into my car two blocks from house.  Before the accident, I had already congratulated myself on being able to be in bed by 11:10, and likely asleep by 11:11.  Instead, a careless teenager smashed his car into mine, spinning my car around with such force that I felt my insides lurch and hunch over, like on a roll coaster but all the dips and spins happened at the same time.  My head was spinning and the side air bag went off, blasting me right and somehow I ended up on the opposite curb inhaling short panicked breathes as if in labor.  Apparently, in times of stress, I channel Lamaze breathing from the pre-birth class that my husband and I deemed "lame."

In my haze, I called the police quickly to report the accident because the crazy part of my brain that absorbed everything my father ever said ("People with seat covers on their toilets are rich and make more money then you'd think") remembered that I had to get the insurance information from the other vehicle and that the other vehicle would likely try to drive away.  So, it was imperative for me to prevent the other car from from driving away.  Never mind, that I had searing pain in my back and neck and that the other car was smashed in, a crime was afoot!  After my delirious phone call to the police, I hastily called J to report the accident, telling him "I'm fine," because, really what could he do and I really thought I was fine.

Then suddenly, there were fifteen different people on the scene: EMTs, firefighters, police officers.  Someone was stabilizing my neck and asking me questions.  Someone asked me my weight, and I lied.  Then I told the truth, and then I lied again, so I'm sure I sounded more crazy/delirious and I'm sure they tested my pupils again to double-check my weary brain.  The Jaws of Life cut me out of the car; I was strapped to a gurney and hustled into the ambulance and there were more questions about my weight.  The EMTs looked like they were twelve  years old and when I told them my older daughter was delivered vaginally, they blushed.  Obviously, I lied about my weight again because these boy EMTs would not understand what pregnancy did to the body until at least ten years down the line when they would experience it for themselves.  More questions, more checks, more prodding and then I was delivered to the trauma center  and told to await  x-rays.  Strapped to the gurney, I was stuck staring at the ceiling tiles with their faux-bright sheen, thinking about all the other people that get stuck in hospitals also staring at these sad, boring tiles.

I wait.  I know I'm lucky.  The police officer found me eventually and told me that if I had been six inches back (i.e. if I was taller and my seat was back more), the accident would have been catastrophic for me. I would be dead.

Now, obviously, I'm not dead.  My seat was not six inches back because I am short and I hug the steering wheel when I drive.  And yet, there it was, the police officer's words hung in the air.  Six inches separated me from probable death.  Six inches.  What is that?  The size of a pencil?  The difference between life and death for me was the size of a dollar bill.  That's it.  I have bruises and bumps and soreness, but I'm fine.  I'm alive.

Life is fragile.  We are here for a tiny slice of time, during which, anything can happen.  Someone asked me if my life flashed before my eyes.  It didn't.  I didn't see a dramatic movie reel, replaying my greatest hits.  What I saw in my mind's eye, was my family.  I saw Bean belting out "Let it Go" wearing a blanket for a cape.  I saw HT quietly nursing at by breast, asleep in the crook of my arm.  I saw J playing guitar for Bean's Rock & Roll Shower (copyright pending).  I saw my life.  It was not  a collection of moments, it was just my family.  They are my life and I'm beyond grateful that I get to live it with them.





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