Monday, September 26, 2011

Split Seconds Count

So I haven't slept much these past few nights. Keep replaying the early evening of Friday, September 23rd over and over in my head. I was on my way home from a day out with my daughter and her two friends. We'd stopped at the grocery store. I was following a path I follow several times a week - nothing out of the norm. Until a silver SUV came rushing at me from the lane to my left. And everything

from the first time I met Lucy's friend Lauren at a pre-school play group

she still has that same pretty, baby-faced expression at age 13

to the time I realized her friend Sabrina was the daughter of my high school friend Tina

and if you think Tina's gorgeous you have to see this exotic beauty of a baby she had

to the time I laid a little baby Lucy down on a blue towel and realized her eyes reflected color

I started calling her 'Blue' after that, even though her eyes are green most of the time

to the dreams I have for all three of these babies

maybe they'll be roommates in college, maybe they'll be in each other's weddings, maybe they'll visit me in their 30s and give me hugs and treat me like family because we've known each other so long and I wonder if everyone else dreams about other people's children the way I do

all of that and I think every memory or wish I've ever had came screaming into my head all at once. That and the notion that I had zero time to decide how to keep all of us, and whoever was in that SUV, safe.

As I've replayed the flash of those few seconds over and over and over I'm exhausted by the sheer number of thoughts that raced into and out of my consciousness in such a short time. I remember clearly measuring whether I had enough time and space to turn the car into a driveway on my right. I remember deciding it was too dangerous to risk driving across the sidewalk on the off chance someone might be walking by - I had no time to avert my eyes to look. I remember trying to calculate whether it was better to get hit or possibly hit a light pole if I couldn't stop in time. I remember sensing that Lucy was lifting off of her front passenger seat and containing the panic that the babies in the backseat might be lifting too and I couldn't reach them. I remember wondering whether I've done enough good in my life to balance out whatever bad thing was coming my way. And I remember thinking - however irrationally - as I plunged my foot into the brake with all my might that if that fire hydrant didn't stop me dead center it might crush Lucy's feet and she wouldn't be able to dance at her prom.

The hydrant did stop us and all the babies, bumped and shaken, walked away just fine. The young girl - maybe 16 or 17 years old - who'd been driving the SUV was fine too. Now the dull of insurance forms and liability claims plays in parallel to my going through the motions of regular life, interrupted by brief bouts of uncontrollable tears or moments of total numb. I feel I'm actually getting worse, not better, as the days pass. I'm trying every bit I can to be 'normal' while I feel anything but. (No wisecracks please; I still have my sense of humor, however beaten.)

If I regret a million things, and I do, among them it's that I didn't tell Sabrina and Lauren that I love them, adore them, dream for them - even in the tightest of time spaces - I didn't clutch them and apologize fiercely for scaring them or putting them in danger, even though I know it really wasn't my fault. The truth is, that's what's keeping me awake. For all my worrying and fussing and attempts to protect, there I was at the heart of a dangerous situation with these babies in my hands and I had no way to keep them from it. I could only neutralize the danger, as best I could, and hope for the best. And pray for the best. And really, really, know that we weren't in my hands, but in God's.

Knowing that you believe in God and having your beliefs tested are two very different things, in case you didn't know.

Earlier in our day, a woman in the mall parking lot had called my attention - pointing at me and at her eye - indicating I should watch where I was going. I was watching, but she kept doing it even though I acknowledged her, and after she kept at it, I gave her a few choice words to let her know I'd seen her. Nonetheless, for the rest of the day I was somehow heightened in my awareness.

Split seconds I shared with that woman and her admonition. Split seconds I had to veer to the right, slam on the brakes, center the car and call to God to help me save those babies. And man, do those split seconds count.

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