Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Close Call

 We eat a lot of pizza. Mostly I heat up a frozen Trader Joe’s one, sometimes I make one from scratch, but ordering one in is a treat for us. Last night the kids were so excited that we offered to pick up one, calling it “a real pizza.” Before my husband went to pick it up, he and my son were joking around about where the best pizza place was. He headed out to our downtown area and when my son saw my phone ringing with his dad’s name across the top he answered “What do ya want?” He is silly ninety percent of the time, so I smiled across the room and listened in, but my son’s face changed quickly. He went from smiling. to confused, to scared, and then quickly handed the phone over to me. I picked it up expecting to hear my husband’s voice but it wasn’t him.

“I am calling from your husband’s phone. Your husband has been in a car accident.” said the voice on the other end of the phone. I was still trying to familiarize myself with this voice. I wondered if it was a friend he had run into and my husband was laughing standing beside him? That isn’t really his sense of humor, so this must be someone who doesn’t know us that well. 

“Is this a joke?” I asked, hoping that it was.

The tone of his response made it clear that he wasn’t joking. I think he said something about wishing he didn’t have to make this call, but my head was spinning too fast to catch on to any of his words or to find any of my own. Eventually, I managed out an apology for thinking he was joking, but I was too afraid to ask the most important question, “Was my husband ok?” I needed him to just tell me. As if I said anything my words would actually have the power to change what had already happened. He told me that his car swerved over the sidewalk and into a wall. He told me my husband had a concussion. He told me that my husband was confused. Those three pieces of new information swam around in my head for a few seconds. My first thought was why would anyone drive into a wall? My husband wouldn’t do that. Then I worried that maybe his phone had rung, or worse he tried to text someone, but that didn’t seem like my husband either. I asked if he was bleeding or if any bones were broken. He told me my husband was sitting up with his legs crossed, confused but talking. His legs crossed. That sounded like my husband.

The man who called me said that my husband's phone seemed damaged and he couldn’t hear me that well. If I wasn’t convinced before that he had been talking about my husband I was certain now. He asked if he could call me back from his cell so he could hear me, and those few seconds waiting for this stranger, who was connected to my important person, felt like forever.  This time when the phone rang, it was a name I didn’t recognize, a person who I hadn’t talked to until a few minutes before, and yet someone I depended on deeply to tell me it was all going to be okay.  My thoughts began to clear enough for me to ask detailed questions. I needed to do something and suggested I come to the accident site, but the man said my husband was likely going to be taken to the hospital. He told me he would stay on the phone with me to keep me updated. He also sent me two photos to show me what the scene looked like. He confirmed that the ambulance would be taking him to a nearby hospital. I thanked him, got my kids in order so I could leave them for a bit, and head out to see my husband.

When I rushed through the doors of the ER of our closest hospital, It was more familiar than I wanted it to be. We had been here before. Just over three years ago my husband and I were hit by someone who ran a red light. We aren’t even done dealing with the mess from that accident and here we are again. In my effort to get to my husband as quickly and safely as possible, I completely forgot about Covid. There was no one allowed in the ER or anywhere in the hospital. My husband had been moved to a room and I was handed a piece of paper with a number to call for updates. I left the ER and sat down outside on the closest bench and cried. Since I couldn’t be beside him, I settled for as close as I was allowed. I texted my husband to tell him that I couldn’t get in, and when he responded to his texts I could tell something wasn’t right. He asked me where he was and then asked a few confusing questions like if the kids were in an accident or if someone was in trouble. My stomach dropped as I reread his questions. 

“I’m sorry, I don’t understand. I think you are confused.” I wrote. I waited a while longer outside, alone on the bench. I knew I shouldn’t drive until I calmed down. I knew it was common to be confused after a concussion but I didn’t know if that was all he had. I wanted to learn more, to talk to a doctor or just to be told he was going to be fine. . If I wasn’t going to go in to see him after a while I decided to go get the pizza he ordered. The kids would be happy to have it. By the time I parked my car, I saw more texts from my husband, this time all of them made sense. He told me the police came to let him know that the man who had hit his car was drunk, admitted guilt, and was arrested. He told me that the driver was so apologetic to him and kept saying he wouldn’t leave my husband’s side until he knew he was taken care of. He also said that the man who had called me was such a gentle, kind man who helped him out of the car when he was still unconscious and there when he came to wait for the police. Then my husband said I should go get that pizza. 

On my way back to the kids I drove to the site of the accident. There were huge skid marks, shattered pieces of plastic, shards of glass, and a piece of what was once our bumper. The tire tracks went right up on the sidewalk and threw the planter of dirt that had been behind the cement barrier that was shattered into crumbles. We don’t know exactly how the other car hit ours and from what direction since my husband blanked out for the entire accident, but we were told the whole thing was caught on video. I don’t care about the car. I'm not worried about the details of insurance, or lawyers. I don’t have it in me to be angry at the man who drank and caused the accident, but I wouldn’t go as far as my husband who feels bad for him. It is over now. What I do care about is that I almost lost my husband, again and I am so happy I didn’t.

When I drove from my house to the hospital I saw neighbors out walking their dogs and I was jealous of the simplicity of their evening. I thought about how long it has been since life has felt normal. Every time I reach for a piece of even a new normal, it slips from my fingertips. The next day my husband was home. He was checked and given the all-clear.

 He was told to expect his head to ache for a few days and maybe his body too. I woke him every few hours as instructed to make sure he was okay. When I brought my kids home from school, my son asked for help with his math homework. My husband jumped at the chance to sit with him, and as I watched them both I felt the words “Thank you!” flow over me. Things may not be normal for a while, but if the four of us are together, then we can wait as long as it takes.

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