So if we can narrow the odds, see what’s coming around the corner, or simply more clearly feel like we know what’s right in front if us, we can at least begin to prepare. Even when there’s limited time, we crave room to anticipate, “be ready”, or just breathe. If it’s disturbing, frightening, or threatening we might make use of the time to evade it. Or sometimes it’s all we can do to brace ourselves and respond as our hearts and instincts guide us.
It’s the ones that give us no warning that seem to linger after. The awful sense of getting “blind-sided” — where something comes at us “out of nowhere.” They can make our ceaseless intellects spin, over and over wondering how and why and what if?
I was enjoying myself at a small family gathering at a state park last weekend where we rented several cabins. It was a “make lemonade” get together after an unseeable, twice-COVID-postponed niece’s wedding. We were in a rustic setting, fun times, hiking, fireside visiting, happy with lousy phone service and spotty internet access.
Suddenly a call arrived from my former spouse, but without voice nor message; and immediately I sensed something was up. Luckily a second call soon after happened to get through, a few sentences revealing basics: our son had been in a bad car wreck, he’d called her, and was banged up, but thankfully seemed ok. “He was alone, another car had caused it, all involved not seriously hurt; his car may be totaled.” Within seconds one is swept onto a ride on one of those dreaded roller coasters, careening from great concern to relief within a couple sentences, tinged with slight uncertainty about many unfilled-in details.
We were several hours away, fortunately his stalwart partner was willing and able to be at his side, and get him home, and then she assumed the responsibility of concussion watch duty through the night and following day, clearly she’s another gift. We’re all extremely grateful he’s since passed the time of critical concern and is sore but well.
We spoke the morning after the wreck. I learned he was driving at night on a two lane 50 mph WV mountain road approaching someone in the opposite lane. They were sensibly waiting for him to pass so they could turn left. Another car beyond the one waiting chose to pass the stopped vehicle, apparently completely not seeing my son’s car, essentially creating a head-on collision scenario. Fortunately my son was paying attention, his quick reflexes responded ideally, and mostly the vehicles’ driver’s side front corners absorbed the brunt of the momentum. Several folks on the scene were very helpful and offered aid and phones. My usually unflappable son was understandably pretty rattled. I heard these details the following morning from him. As is our ritual. I told him I loved him and he told me the same. After we got off the phone, I realized I was rattled and found myself wiping tears as the enormity of the barely skirted danger became clear.
This great gift (of no severe injuries to anyone involved) that we all received, dominated my thoughts on the journey home. Mingled in were reflections about other unexpected jolts and losses and gifts of the last few years as I drove back to Roanoke. When I returned home in late afternoon, I felt a need to get onto the river. The water would be chilly as the days are no longer terribly warm and there was a slight breeze, but it didn’t matter. The sun was out and the sky was a brilliant. Early in the float, the great blue and I crossed paths. My fingers numbed a bit as I backstroked in the cold water much of the way to avoid the shadows and keep in the sun. I consciously soaked up every ray with deep breaths.
And I took in the always comforting scenes: the vividly blue sky; amber and rust leaves adrift in the rippling, cold, extraordinarily clear water; the mirrored reflections of foliage beginning to change color. The low angle of the late day sun in October lit the river in a theatrical spotlight fashion. I saw a flock of robins, another of waxwings, and watched a solitary spider float beside me for a bit, magically suspended atop the water. I noticed waterbugs were still out, scooting along on the river’s surface. But they were not spread across its expanse as usual. Rather, their shining forms were conspicuously congregating — only dancing their water strides within the patches where the sunshine was striking the water. Seems even they seek a comfort in light.
A post note: For decades I’ve hugged those I love, and am in the habit of expressing so verbally and in writing to all I care about it. While I prefer not to tell others how to act, I do hope all who read this find some way to let those they care about know their feelings whenever they can. We simply never know when that opportunity will no longer be available.