Tuesday morning I got up early and exercised before hopping in the shower. After a quick shower, I finished getting ready (changing what pants I was wearing twice) and packed my lunch. I filled up a sippy cup that I knew Taelin would want once I woke her up and sat next to her bed like I do every work morning as she wakes up, talking to her about the day and what she hoped she got to do at school.
I finally coaxed her out of bed and helped her get dressed. We brushed her teeth and combed her hair. She decided at the last second that she didn’t want ponytails and only wanted clips which was fine by me since they didn’t take as long and I had a staff meeting first thing at work. I packed up her bag for school with her sheet and blanket for nap time, threw my phone and wallet into my bag and got into the car. Taelin insisted (again) to climb into the car herself and get herself into her car seat. That has been happening more lately because she is getting so independent and she usually doesn’t bang her head or leg when she gets into my itty-bitty car.
We got buckled in and started off to our familiar route to her school. We were on time, even a little ahead of schedule, as we turned the corner and headed up the hill. I stopped at the stop sign at the top of the hill and turned left, heading down the road towards another hill. As I came up the road I noticed that there wasn’t a car at the stop sign at the side street I was approaching. And then, all of the sudden…even faster than all of the sudden if there is such a thing…I saw a kid in the middle of the road jumping off his skateboard. I slammed on my brakes as he landed with the top half of his body on top of the hood of my car. He rolled/bounced like a rag doll across the hood off onto the other side of the road and down into the ditch filled with blackberries bushes. It happened within 2 seconds and I doubt the image will ever leave my head.
I don’t remember throwing my car into park or even what I said. I grabbed my phone out of my bag that had fallen to the floor and jumped out of my car to find him twisted up, alert and screaming in pain. I don’t remember dialing or even what I said to the 911 operator. The boy somehow was present enough to call his dad who came running down the street not a minute later. He kept saying he was fine and he need to get up and all I remember saying is, “Don’t move. You can’t move. Wait until they get here.”
The police showed up…then the fire truck…and then the ambulance…and then more police. I got my car out of the middle of the road and just stood there as everyone tried to get him up and out safely. He was crying and kept saying he was sorry and that it was all his fault. He said he needed to get up because he had lacrosse later. I answered whatever questions I was asked by the multiple police officers and then finally called Joe to come and get Taelin. She had missed the whole thing and was wondering why we weren’t going to school. I will be forever grateful that she missed it.
I was crying and beyond shaken up and then I saw the dad walking over to me. I braced myself for what I imagined was going to be the most angry parent I had ever come into contact with. I braced myself to just take it. It wasn’t my fault, the police later came to the same conclusion, but somehow it didn’t matter at the time. His son was hurt, really hurt, and I couldn’t imagine how he was feeling. And then…there was no yelling. He came over and asked me if I was okay. He told me that it was just an accident, that they happen and that he just the other day ran into someone coming out of parking lot. He gave me his business card and told me to call later if I wanted an update on how his son was doing. He walked back over to watch the paramedics help his son.
At some point, his mom showed up. “Ok, here it comes,” I thought to myself. I wasn’t sobbing uncontrollable, but I was crying. She came over and without saying anything hugged me first and then said, “It’s okay. It isn’t your fault. It is not your fault.” What? Seriously? She then told me how she once hit a bicyclist and knows exactly how I was feeling. What? Really? She walked away and they got into the ambulance and off they went.
I finished talking to the officers and the one that was doing the paperwork said that I was not at fault but that I did need to file a report with the DMV. I headed home and then to work, pretty much in a daze. Later in the day I called and left a message with the boy’s dad which was returned by what I found out later was his step-mom. She updated me throughout the day about his surgery (he had a broken femur) and then again apologized and reminded me that it wasn’t my fault.
It wasn’t my fault; I know that…but I feel horrible. Absolutely horrible. What if I had just done one thing differently yesterday morning? What if I hadn’t changed my pants or what if Taelin had wanted pigtails? What if I had decided to shave my legs in the shower or talked to Taelin and little more or less as she was waking up? What if I had been driving a bigger car? What if? What if? What if? I can’t turn my brain off. I clearly didn’t wake up Tuesday morning intending for this to happen. But I still feel horrible.
There are a lot of things that are just shocking about this whole thing. He is going to be ok. He actually called me tonight to apologize for running into me. He sounded so tired. He is home with four screws in his leg and his step-mom says he will probably be back to school on Monday which seems incredible. He said he was sorry my car got damaged and that I got drug into the whole thing. I kept apologizing back. It isn’t like he left his house in the morning intending to run into my car. It wasn’t my fault but I am still so sorry it happened. What a hard lesson. What a painful lesson.
And my lesson? While I am sure that there are many things that I can’t even imagine yet, one lesson I am astounded by is the lesson in incredible grace. Every time I retell the story (out loud or in my head) or talk to his step-mom, I am blown away and the calmness and grace that his parents have had. It has to be a complete day from hell. A parent’s worst nightmare. I can’t really describe it…I am just in awe because it seems so far from what I would (and did) expect.
I have been completely consumed by the feelings these last two days. Guilt, fear, worry, anxiety…more guilt. I have been all over the place and while I feel better today than I did yesterday, I think it will be awhile before I even out. I keep replaying it over and over in my mind, wondering if there was something different I could have done…not that it matters. I get caught up in the “what if’s?” and get sick to my stomach. I am feeling everything so much more right now because of this…lots of things that have nothing to do with the accident. And at the same time, things that would have seemed like a big deal are so not a big deal to me. It is going to take some time as the feelings come and go. I am easily irritated, overly sensitive and have little patience for pettiness…not exactly a flattering description, I know, but it is an honest one.
I am trying to understand how to navigate all of these feelings and remember that while there isn’t anything I can do to change what has happened, I can choose what to do with each feeling as it comes. I am sure I will continue to think, talk and write about this accident. I don’t know how much will be done here versus with good friends or even just in my head. I can only hope that this young boy and his family can ride through all the emotions they are bound to be feeling too. It is just all a little overwhelming.
If you made it all the way to the end here with me, thank you.