Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Life is a Train Wreck

I hit a train broadside on the way to an Amway meeting. I saw the train, I hit the brakes, but it was too late. I remember the sound of the whistle, the feeling of flying through the air, and then nothing. And then I was conscious.

Before the ambulance arrived a black lady crawled into the back seat, leaned over the seat and talked to me and prayed for me. I don’t know where she came from, but she stayed right with me until I was in the ambulance. I never found out who she was. I have sometimes wondered if she was an angel.

The list of injuries included broken arm, broken ankle, broken ribs, cuts and bruises and a bruised kidney. After I was sewn and splinted up and in my hospital room I had the usual stream of visitors: family, neighbors and curiosity seekers.

One visitor was the woman who’d recruited me into the “Amway family.” When I told her I was not going to sell their products anymore she left and I never saw her again. Today I do not remember her name. Another visitor told me they’d gone to look at my car and saw a piece of my flesh on the seat, and another asked if my baby had been with me. I supposed they all meant well. Maybe their mamas never taught them how to be tactful.

Mama was there every day, looking so worried that it scared me. I know now it is just impossible for mamas to hide their love and worry for their children. By the second week I was getting very depressed at not seeing my children. In those days children under the age of twelve were not allowed in the hospital. So, their daddy began to bring them around to my window so they could say, “Hi, Mama.” I only got more depressed to see them and not be able to touch them. Finally the hospital relented and allowed a real visit from my little girls in my room. I think back and wonder if the visit may have frightened them, seeing me all bandaged up with casts on my arm and leg.

After two weeks I was released to go home. I was excused from appearing in court for my “willfully and unlawfully failing to yield the right away to a train” ticket since I couldn’t climb the courthouse steps with my leg in a cast. Upon the advise of a lawyer I pleaded guilty. I eventually got my ankle and elbow flexible again. Months later I picked a tiny piece of glass out of my knee. It took a while to work its way to the surface. There was no physical therapy back then. Things got back to normal just by using my body. I guess folks are in more of a hurry these days.

What still remains to this day, after forty some years, is that I am still startled when I am driving and anything approaches unexpectedly from the right, and train whistles still make the pit of my stomach clench into a knot.

Even though the wreck seldom crosses my mind anymore, I recognize it as a turning point in how I viewed life. Things CAN happen to me. With that knowledge filed away neatly in the recesses of my mind, I wasn’t as surprised as I could have been when one Thursday in 1991 my husband took me to buy groceries, have tags put on my horse trailer and caught up the bills. He helped me put away the groceries — then announced he was leaving, and he did.

Neither was I surprised when a series of other unfortunate events took place later in my life including finding myself a single mom for sixteen years as I raised my grand daughter. My father’s cancer and death, my ailing sister’s death, and finally my mother’s ordeal with cancer and her death were all painful events, but not surprising. More recently, when someone broke into my house and took the few things I had worth pawning, it just reinforced what I have known since the train wreck; stuff happens. I expect life’s unexpected events, and so far have survived. I ran into the side of a train and I am here to tell the tale.