Tuesday, November 22, 2011
The Call I Feared
Wednesday morning: I woke to my phone alarm, Mercy Me singing, “I Can Only Imagine.” The rain was hitting my bedroom window, just as it had done the day before. Uggghhh. Pouring rain and a 16 year old driver don’t mix well, especially when both of my children will be in the same car for the 15 minute drive to school in rush hour traffic … on an interstate. I stumbled to the bathroom and heard the radio DJ mention the numerous areas of standing water. Nice hydroplaning conditions.
My children’s father had driven them to school the day before because of the rain. I felt like the announcer was speaking TO me, so I decided to drive them on this day also. Needless to say, that went over like a led balloon to my driving, independent daughter. The idea escalated to an even more negative place in her mind as I made the next declaration …
Me: “I will drive you girls to school in your car because my windshield wipers are smearing.”
Kaysie (incredibly irritated): “We definitely need to take your car because it gets way better gas mileage.” (Her Pathfinder had a full tank and she didn’t want it all wasted on the numerous, unnecessary trips to school and back 2 times in one day.)
Me: “Nooo … we will take your Pathfinder.”
We all 3 got situated in the car and attitude filled the air.
Me: “Kaysie, what is wrong with you? Why are you acting like this?”
Kaysie: “Nothing. This is just a waste of gas and money, mom … and I have driven in the rain before.”
She simply did not understand. I sat for a moment in thought and then replied, “Okay. You drive.”
I typically do not back down, so their still stares mixed with a confused look were the responses I received.
I gave them both a kiss and told them I loved them, got out of the car and went into the house. They quietly relocated seats and Kaysie ran back in the house to put her contacts in.
Then, she couldn’t find her key.
I knew … I decided to give it a few more seconds. My response would be, “Looks like you are not meant to drive today. Ya’ll need to get in my car.”
Just before I spoke, she yelled, “Found it. Bye mom. Love you.”
“I love you too.”
In a little over 10 minutes, my phone rang. On the screen it said, “Kaysie.”
It was way too soon for her to call. I went into instant panic, and then calmed myself, thinking, she had her little sister call me to ask a question. She probably forgot something.
There was a lot of noise and sirens. The voice was unfamiliar. It was a woman, her voice made to be calm by an intentional effort, but I heard the emotion underneath. In the background were the sounds of my children hysterically screaming and crying.
“This is Janice. I have your girls, they are okay, but they have been in an accident on the interstate …”
I lost it, but only for one sentence and then I realized I sounded just like my panicked children. I calmed quickly. “WHERE?! WHERE ARE THEY? I will be there in a minute.”
Pajamas off, nearest jeans on, quick brushing of teeth, leave yesterdays makeup on, find keys, and get in car … turn radio off … there is enough noise in my brain.
They were several miles ahead, but the interstate was already backed up to my ramp at a standstill. I got in the emergency lane. Where is the stupid hazard lights button?! I felt everywhere … No luck. I prayed, “God, show me the button. I don’t see it.” There it was; big and in the center of the dash.
I called Kaysie’s phone as I drove and she answered. I could barely make out any of her words. I asked if she was hurt and understood, “No.” I asked if Karly was hurt and she cried, “Yeesss … her eye …”
I passed the still cars; some honking, some trying to block me. I wanted to flip them off, but was too convicted. They had no way to know there were 2 scared children in the accident that was causing their delay, or that I was the mother of those children. And besides, my kids were alive. I recall suppressing my bird flipping urge solely out of respect for God. I didn’t have the nerve to behave that way.
It took an eternity to arrive, yet I did not cry on the way. My eyes occasionally filled with tears, but for the most part I was frozen inside. Finally, the lights of the police, fire and ambulance vehicles came into sight. Then, there was my daughter’s car … crashed into the concrete wall, facing oncoming traffic in the opposite lane (the fast lane and she only drives in the slow one) airbags were deployed. I got out, looking everywhere for my girls …
“They are right here ma’am.”
In the back seat of a white car belonging to the voice on the phone, I saw my children. Their heads pressed to the seats, bodies shaking. My oldest could hardly breathe, “MAMA! Mama, I’m so sorry Mama!”
I was calm, somehow. There was a lot of peace and overwhelming gratitude within me as I held them. My only words were to heaven. “Thank You God. Thank You Jesus.”
Both girls clung to me as though they could not get close enough. Holding my children at that moment felt exactly the same in my soul as it had almost 17 and 13 years ago when they were first handed to me after their deliveries. In fact, everything was the same … They were both screaming and crying then and now!
The next 2 days were spent at doctor appointments tending to an eye injury to the youngest and whiplash for Kaysie. I enjoyed the privilege of driving to those appointments.
My 16 year old went from wanting to drive everywhere to never wanting to drive again, especially not in the rain. No matter my fears or feelings, I will be the one to walk her through getting back on that horse. We cannot live and be controlled by fear and what-if thinking. The beauty of this accident is that I no longer have to have any talks with either of my children anymore about my driving fears. Now they understand why I have behaved like an overprotective, worried lunatic. They have both said over and over, “I cannot believe how fast that happened.”
Kaysie’s mind has replayed the incident over and over. She feels the car moving as it hydroplaned and she had no control. She hears her own screams and her sister’s. She looks as they are spinning to see if there is another vehicle about to hit them as they hit the concrete barrier head on. The air bags exploded and released a suffocating gas, she remembers the terrible smell and cannot shake the trapped feeling because they couldn’t breathe and the doors wouldn’t open. She often looked at her sister and cried, “I’m so sorry Karly! Mom, it should be me who looks like that. Not her. It is my fault. Did you see all those people who were late because of me? That lady kept us in her car and I made her late too. Mom, I don’t understand where the cars went. Both lanes were full of cars. How did I slide, spin, go into the other lane and there were no cars? I can’t believe a car didn’t hit us because there was so much traffic.”
I said, “Its called, God, Jesus, The Holy Spirit and Divine Intervention, baby.”
My instinctive intuition told me I needed to drive, 3 times, actually. I knew it when I woke, heard the radio and when she lost her key. It is odd to me how I have not beaten myself up about that, because I DID have a strong gut feeling, and I did not follow it. There is no doubt that if the outcome had been more severe or fatal for anyone, my kids or another person, I would most likely never forgive myself. However, in this fortunate case, only good life lessons were learned for all. The kind I could never verbally teach or be taught. The little, insignificant things suddenly do not matter.
The night before the accident we were all 3 going to run an errand. My 12 year old was clearly trying to make a statement and came out in a mismatched outfit that didn’t need to be worn in public. She had on Sperry shoes, no socks, dark blue high-water sweat pants and a hot pink striped button up sweater. I made her go back into her room and try again. She got angry, I heard her shoe as she either threw or kicked it … and in short, we ended up not even going because of the drama related to what she was wearing.
On the day of the wreck, we came home to change clothes. My youngest daughter asked if she could wear that outfit. I said, “You wear whatever you want, it doesn’t matter at all to me what you are wearing.”
For whatever reason, she opted out of the drama-stirring outfit and came out of her room wearing an un-eye-catching, matched pair of comfortable pants and shirt. I suppose her day shed some different lighting on things too.
My girls hugged and talked more on that day than they have their entire lives. It was heartwarming.
However, today things are back to normal. They are throwing little verbal slurs at one another. I asked them to hug each other like they did Wednesday. They did, but they continued the sarcastic stabs in a fake, nice tone as they were giving stiff hugs. In my head, I thanked God that we were all 3 simply standing in the hall trying to resolve meaningless issues …
Posted by Kasi M. Bryon at 10:01 AM