Until about twenty minutes ago, I couldn’t look.
It’s been nearly a week since Sam’s accident down in New Orleans, and all of the images I had of the whole thing were concocted by neurons and transmitters and projected on the backs of my eyeballs via big time brain voodoo, using JoHn’s and Sam’s word as their catalysts.
Words like totaled.
All the airbags went off.
It was like he was cocooned.
Can’t believe he walked away.
When I first wrote about it, a few days ago, we were still stunned, and in the midst of what I’m now calling ‘the jumble’ – that swirling, sticky, mercurial ball of stuff we are confronted with after something stunning happens, requiring us to deal with logistics and details even though our brains want to make like a tortoise – pulling our heads and feet and tails in and hanging out by ourselves for a while, inside a safe shell.
The jumble is not linear, no matter how much we want it to be. There are phone calls, and waitings and googlings and processings and thinkings and advisings and worryings and ‘whoops, what ifs’ and ‘hey, what’s nexts’ and more…
Including listenings… and sittings with.
The jumble wHirled and swirled around us…. where and when was Sam being checked out by a doctor… did we know if the other people were okay… what about the insurance… were there witnesses… how was he getting to work without a car… what if the other person told a different story…
Why, if we were all so grateful, were we also sad… and scared.
It was that last one that prevented me from looking at the photos, I think. It wasn’t denial, I haven’t been in denial at all, really. I know he could have been lost. I wasn’t shying away from John’s or Sam’s or the Insurance Lady’s words telling me so. And I did have my own images, the ones my brain made for me.
And yet, picking up JoHn’s phone… tapping in the password and going to the series of texts from Sam to his Dad less than a week ago.
Remembering my past self, from my chair in the living room, telling JoHn to tell Sam to take pics of the scene if he could. I’m oddly clear, and apparently bossy, in a crisis.
When I got to Sam’s photos, my brain took a deep breath, and held it.
And in those suspended moments, my finger moved slowly. My eyes were careful, as if they knew not to reveal too much, too soon. They settled on each image as its individual whole, and then moved to the details.
Somewhere after the third or fourth image, I must have exhaled.
If Mac’s birth introduced fear’s truth to me… that it is not ultimately wrapped up in me losing my life, but living with the idea that my children could lose theirs… it was Sam who brought that idea home. Before he was ever born, I woke up one day to a belly far too still… and I knew. And then the doctors knew.
And then they told me they knew, and they were all so sorry.
And yet, he lived.
And, as we joked after his accident, he pulled that crap a few more times along the way to his now twenty-three years. He’s not the only kid who’s done that, of course. And we’ve actually held friends who have lost their children. I have only been close, and that has been enough.
I have known for so long, and learned so pointedly, that I could not – cannot – possibly prevent everything that might ever happen to them… not from something insidious that could attack them from inside their bodies, nor from anything nefarious that might be made manifest by the world at large.
It is a study in measurements, really.
It has been made clear to me that, at times, I will be but a hair’s width from terror.
The love… the joy the pride the wonder…the absolute awe of watching these humans make their way in the world…
Eventually and without fail… it comes together to kick that fear’s ass.
Thanks for readin’.
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