1. This is your view for the better part of what should have been Day One:
2. That evening you’re home again and what should have been Day Two, you have these posted on your fridge:
3. Your van is in an impound in Canada and looks like this:
Short story: we had an accident early Saturday morning outside London, Ontario on our way out east and spent the day in the E.R. Christopher and Lydia were bruised and shaken; Eden got stitches in her forehead and hand—it’s driving her crazy they didn’t tell her how many because it was A LOT—Paul’s left forearm is hamburger—it scraped along the high way when we were on our side before the van flipped over entirely and came to a stop—and his legs have some impressive cuts.
I have a sprained ankle, a torn up elbow and, according to the doctor, my days as a forehead model are over. Of course I have a couple natural remedies up my sleeve, so we’ll see about that.
The crash itself was so incredibly terrible and then we were all separated in the E.R. I’ve never had all my children in a medical emergency. Being in one of my own, and not able to be there for any of them was beyond horrible. But they were all amazing, as any of you who know them can imagine. Lydia was discharged first and she tracked down Eden, never leaving her side until Paul was discharged. Their nurses came to meet me to, in their words, “gush” about how wonderful they were.
Christopher lost his processor in the accident so he went quiet. When he saw the van at the impound he began to weep, “I just can’t believe we survived,” he said.
None of us could. Mainly we’re thankful. “I’m just so grateful,” Eden said to Paul as he tucked her in last night, “I’m just so glad we’re all here and alive.”
I’ll be honest, I also feel a little sheepish. I don’t want to be those people who run after chaos and though I know this was an accident, still. When the house was burning I thought, “You have GOT to be kidding me.” because we had already been through so much. Sitting by the side of the 402 with a pillow clasped to my forehead to staunch the blood I couldn’t believe we were in this jam, but I was in too much pain to analyze it.
Later, at the impound, as Paul and I quickly and easily sorted through what could be salvaged and what should be trashed because—you know—we’re experienced, I told him “We have GOT to stop doing this.” And he agreed, so there’s that.
Today was the tenth anniversary of my father’s death and in some ways I can’t believe it’s been that long. In others, I can’t believe I ever had him.
We measure his death by Eden’s life. She was five months old when my dad died. She rolled over for the very first time the day of his funeral. I remember so many frantic drives across the state when he was near death, with only Eden in her little car seat behind me.
I wish I still had my dad, but even more I wish my children had a grandfather here on earth.
Today I’m pulling out a post from 2005 when Eden aka The Bean aka Beanie (and too many more nicknames to list) was two and a half. I realize I run the risk of re-opening charges against me, but I think it’s worth it.
Yesterday Paul and I were painting the dining room ceiling and Beanie kept us company. She was being a kitten which involves lots of meowing, crawling and a good bit of licking or licking sounds. I looked over and she was on her side and her arms were circled in front of her. She had an earnest expression. I knew what was coming.
“I am the Mother kitten.”
“Oh really. What are your kittens’ names?”
“Uh…Kiko and Niko”
“Oh that’s nice, rather Japanese.”
I continued to paint and she continued to fawn on her imaginary offspring.
“Axcelly I had more kittens. I had five, but now I have two…You did it.”
“You did it.”
“What did I do?”
“You died them.”
“I did not!”
“No, I didn’t…kill them.”
“You did…kill them.”
“I would never kill your kittens!”
“You did it.”
Fortunately, we were distracted from this interminible argument. Now we all know I did not die those three imaginary kittens, but if you think the mere accusation isn’t hanging heavy on my conscience, you’re crazy.
I haven’t told you this: I almost certainly saw the arsonist that morning.
I qualify that because of my own sense of fair play. Our fire was not officially linked to the series of fires set in the summer and fall of 2010. Ours was the first and on a different side of town from the rest, but fit the m.o., exactly. I don’t know why ours was not tied to the others and haven’t had the energy to find out. I didn’t think it mattered as long as he was caught and convicted, but I found it did matter to me when he did not confess to ours.
I’m writing about it privately for now, but I’ll tell you this, he had already set our house on fire when he looked me right in the eye and asked a question. I was busy getting my children to safety and thought he was just a knucklehead, a random gawker. I was running from my burning house but couldn’t really believe it was on fire. I had no idea someone set it; I still can’t believe that.
After the bombings in Boston I read about Jeff Bauman, the young man who lost both his legs and is in the wheelchair in that infamous picture. When he woke up at the hospital he asked for a pen and paper and wrote, “Bag, saw the guy, looked right at me.” One of the backpacks had been dropped at his feet.
While still in the ICU, Bauman helped the FBI identify the suspects.
This week I have found myself thinking about him and wondering what must run through his mind, the image he remembers and how he must feel knowing this man looked right at him and still dropped the bag. It makes it so cold-blooded and strangely personal. I have been thinking about what we look at and do not realize we’re seeing.
I’ve also been thinking about Carlos Arrendondo, the man who helped save Jeff’s life. He’s the man in the cowboy hat in the the picture helping push the wheelchair and pinching shut the artery in Jeff’s right leg. He was in the bleachers near the finish line handing out flags and cheering on members of the National Guard and a suicide prevention group who were running in honor of his two deceased sons, one of whom died in Iraq in 2004. When the bomb went off he ran right towards it to help people and realized right away that Jeff needed him most.
This picture holds so much: violence, loss, terror, compassion, heroism, fearlessness and horror, and that’s only what’s visible.
Arrendondo visited Bauman in the hospital the other day and this is what he said, “The picture that you see, that’s what it is and that’s how it happened, you know, I was just trying to help him in every way I could, and thank God he gave me the opportunity to help this beautiful young man.”
For his part, Bauman has a great attitude and has told his family he’s going to walk again. I pray he will and that he never knows despair. This journey has just begun.
When something terrible happens there is that continuing sense of surreality, even if you have accepted what is and have mourned and healed. Time passes and this deep disbelief mingles with years of hard reality: the endless both and.
Each of us has our sorrows and losses, many of us carry memories of unutterable heartache. Jeff Bauman isn’t ready to walk just yet, his wounds need to heal. Too often we rush this and trauma, physical or mental, slows you down. When you are learning how to walk without legs, a good attitude isn’t everything, but it is so much.
I’ve been so ashamed by how long it has taken me to heal since the fire after starting so strong. It is what it is, though and today I can’t tell you what I should have/could have done differently. I’ll tell you though, Carlos Arrendondo’s behavior before and after the bombing pretty much personifies what I want to do going forward: while everything was peaceful he was handing out flags and cheering for others, but as soon as the bomb went off, he ran right for the wounded, found the person whose need was greatest, did what he could, and afterwards thanked God he had been able to help him.