Sunday, October 5, 2014

Another Page Turns on the Calendar

     October is a month full of activities.  Many of us are excited about the Fall Season and the holidays to follow.   Lots of gatherings, eating and drinking.  The last full week of October is celebrated as the Red Ribbon Week. The preceding and following weekends may also be included as celebration dates as well. During this period, students all over the country pledge to live a drug-free and alcohol-free life.   As long as I can handle it, I will write each week about details regarding my collision and recovery to help celebrate this month and support this movement.

     I want no one to make any mistake about this.  I am not against drinking alcohol or the excessive consumption of it.  That is a personal decision of the consumer.   I will never lecture or stand and preach about it.   I do not want another person to take my life or the lives of my family and friends into their own hands by then driving after that excessive consumption. 

     I choose large moments in my recovery to write about.  Again for my own healing and also to let you know about so many of those small stages that you would never think about, that are so substantial to those of us who are dealing with it.  I choose to speak about the day I read the accident report.  This is a public document, anyone can view it via the internet.  I am the only one who can divulge the emotion of reading about your own tragedy on a piece of paper.  

     This hour that I spent pouring over it, again and again, unsure of what I wanted to believe, piecing together facts that I could not elicit on my own, had more of an effect than I had anticipated.  Coming across it innocently as I was rifling through our "accident" folder looking for my surgeons phone number, I slowly removed it.  Nine months into recovery, I read through the entire document.

     I view in writing that indeed four vehicles were involved, not
just the two of us.  A section at the bottom of the page shows the damage to our car I was driving that cold evening.  One section is not circled.   The trunk lid.  The only part of our car that did not receive damage that night.  Timidly, I turn the page.   A full size pick up truck hit us.  Okay.   I view the other drivers names that were involved.  I wonder about them.  How are they doing?  How did they react?   Did they have passengers as well?   Our children's names are printed in black and white as victims.  My chest immediately tightens at the bold type.  Listing their names, address, birth dates, sex, numbers that indicate their seat in what became our cocoon.  More numbers that illustrate if their air bag deployed, if they were ejected or transported elsewhere.   Their ages, ten and twelve, hit my conscious along with their faces and I consider how terribly young they are to have survived an adversity of such magnitude.  Will they understand how close we were to becoming extinct?  Will they view life differently as they mature due to their unfortunate circumstances?  

     Statements.   Driver and witness statements.  Mine?   I could
actually give a statement?  Did I give the details while still trapped in the car, in the hospital, ambulance?   What did I say? 
      "We were headed east into Cuba.  I told the girls he was on the wrong side of the highway."  What woman says they were headed east and why did I assume it was a man?  
     While both accounts are correct, it baffles me how our minds work.  The other drivers both stating the same as I, that the pickup was driving in the wrong lane.  Witnesses accounting for a high rate of speed (excess 80 mph) as the pickup passed them around corners and up hills.  
     I picture this through their eyes, driving in the dark on that December eve, viewing it from their perspective, outside of my own car, as if as a spectator.  Piecing it together, for there are so many holes in my memory.  Trying to make sense of it.  "He tapped his brakes."  "He fishtailed." "As I came over the hill, lights were everywhere."  "Parts were falling from the air when I drove up."  My chest aches, it has become rigid. 

   (Olivia's seat)
  The girls statements came as a surprise.  I didn't realize they would take a minors statement.  "I saw sparks fly, and I saw the other car hit the truck and trailer in front of us.  I heard Carey scream, "Oh my God."  I gasp.  There is no room in my chest for the air has frozen in my lungs, like blocks of ice, unyielding, unwilling to allow breath.  I do not remember the trailer, but yes, I remember, "Oh my God" distinctly.  In my mind, I screamed it so loud the residents of Cuba could hear it. 
      "We were driving and all of the sudden my Mom yelled and all the lights went out." I was thrown right back in that car, feeling everything as if it had just happened seconds before.  Numbness and a dream-like effect had started to replace the rawness over the past nine months. 
      This moment, these words, tore at the thick scab I had grown over my hysterical wounds.  Sobs rose up and out of my body before I could call them to a halt.  Like a kitchen faucet had been turned on, the warm tears cascaded down my face as my chest caved.  It is always the girls pain that gets me.  I can handle my own pain, but not theirs.  
                                                                                  (my seat)
     Soothing myself, there is one last paragraph.  The assessment of what occurred.  Many, many times, I questioned myself, "Had I done anything to help avoid the collision, to save our children?"   Surely I would have done anything, right?   If anything, this report awarded me the confirmation that, indeed, I did try to help us.

  " Driver 2 took evasive action to the right, running off the right side of the road, in an attempt to avoid Vehicle 1. Vehicle 2 traveled off the south side of  Route ZZ and struck a tree before coming to a rest in the south ditch, facing west."  It may have been instinct to jerk to the right, but I am so ever grateful that I did.  This is why, even though hit head on, the impact was on my side of the car only. 
             Demolishing the front of the car and spinning the truck into my door.  Sparing our child in the front seat from the head on and our child in the left passenger back seat from a second impact.  This is one worry I may finally relinquish.  Relief, knowing I did all that I could.   I understood that the car had stopped facing the opposite direction we were traveling, I recall nothing about hitting a tree.

     Returning from work that evening, my husband sat with me as I purged the details of my impassioned afternoon.  Sobbing again over the pain of reliving the details.  Once finished, he looked at me apologetically and sympathetically, while holding my hands and stated softly,
 "Carey........ that is the third time you have read that crash report."  I sat in silence, gaping at him.  Completely astonished.  "What?"  "You mean, we have done this before?" I asked in awe.  A simple nod, yes. 
      I  have poured over these details, reliving this, feeling my children's pain three times?  Did I react this way on each occasion?  Did my heart clench this intensely each time I read their words?  How many more memories have I lost?  I am dazed.  I feel a sense of betrayal from my own mind.

     Stopping, I proclaim that it is possible that my mind was doing me a favor.  It is conceivable that my psyche only recognizes  this nine months later because this is when I can handle it best.  Well maybe my subconscious is smarter than I give it credit for.  My vision becomes more clear as I raise my confused stare to my husband.
       "You sat quietly, and patiently listened to me mourn over the same details three times and you let me finish?"  A small smirk.  "It's what you needed." he whispers.  My chest relaxes.  Air flows freely into my lungs, heaviness leaves my body as if it's fog being burned off from the morning sun.   This time my tears are for the man God sent to me, who has been unwavering in his support of my many and long recoveries.     

     As another season passes and I turn the page to another month, I accept that not knowing everything may not be as great of an annoyance as I previously thought. 

What we need to know about the past is that no matter what has happened, it has all worked together to bring us to this very juncture and guide us into the unpredictable future.




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