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Wednesday, September 2, 2009

After Midnight

After midnight. It was not all peaches and cream. It was 12:04 a.m. I stopped at the red light. A firetruck and accompanying ambulance spun out of the firehouse with lights blazing and the siren already blowing. The light in front of the station had turned red and, dutifully, I stopped. I'd been at the hospital that evening with Deanna and her family. Waited with them through an interminable interval as an ambulance was requisitioned, tracked down, and finally sent to transport her to hospice. She was dying of bone cancer. Actually, it was melanoma metastisized to her brain and her bones. Gruesome. Excruciating. Depressing as all hell. Deanna was not old by any measure. And if you counted age in terms of liveliness and generosity, Deanna was easily in her prime. She'd got a hole-in-one on the golf course not long ago. She was a vital and loving mother to her five children. She was a delightful partner to Ron. And then she got cancer. And got it again. And again. And finally, this was going to be it. Traditional, experimental, every kind of treatment -- all failed. It was awful. Awfully sad. But the family had been given a good day of time together. Take-in Chinese food, an aroma that beat the hospital smells all to death. Laughter. And peace. They were done fighting. At their request, I hung around, in and out, getting other work done in the waiting room as I waited for the ambulance and Deanna's final trip as a living, breathing human. They'd asked for a blessing when that time came. It got very late. Very very late. It was almost 11 when I left Swedish Hospital. I needed to stop in at my office on the way home. I arrived at the church at 11:15 to find a meeting still going on. It was one of those kinds of meetings, not a useful, good-spirited gathering. I clearly interrupted discussion that did not welcome me. But I answered questions, chatted a bit, stopped in my office and headed for home. Exhausted. More emotionally and spiritually than physically. Diabolical, that's what I was thinking. Deliberate, willful meanness. I wasn't familiar with it. Why are people like that? 12:04. Red light. Sirens blaring. And, BOOM. CRASH. CRUNCH. (There's got to be a better way to write about a car crash.) The SUV going 45 mph behind me didn't stop at the red light. It stopped when it slammed into me. No braking. That's what the cops told us, later. The driver just plowed right into the back end of my beloved green minivan. My head bobbed back and forth several times, hitting the steering wheel. My torso slammed into the wheel and I ended up sort of skewed on the floor between the front seats. Everything hurt. Badly. Ironic. To have an accident directly in front of the fire station but no ambulance. The firefighters heard the crash and ran out, assessed me and dialed my cell phone to call my husband at home. Not the call he wanted to get. A dispatcher inside tracked down a neighboring emergency unit and I heard it coming a mile away. I was in shock. I couldn't move my torso. And I was completely spent. Whatever heroic resources I usually summoned in a crisis had been used up. I ended up on a backboard in the back end of an ambulance and then in the Emergency Room. It was the beginning of the end.


John said...

I'm so sorry! About it all, it sure seems our circle has collided with a lot of things of late. How are you?

Best, J

Jan Erickson said...

Yes, John, now I'm good. Okay. Most of the time. Still have junk from the concussions and the rest of the awfulness. It happened several years ago. This is part of the ongoing story that will weave its way back to Poland and to the present and to, well, the larger story of trauma. I really appreciate your concern. And thanks, as always, for reading! Jan