Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Swear I've Done One of Nearly Everything

The Field Trip
When I was fifteen, I was in a school band. We had a field trip to play music to another school, but our school did not have a bus. A caravan was organized, with band members who had cars ferrying those who didn't. We played marches and band arrangements of popular tunes. During the concert, my back, which had been giving me trouble, started to get worse. After the concert, I asked my band leader if I could call home sick. He agreed.

On the way home, my driver cranked up his radio to "O Black Water' by the Doobie Brothers, a song I had never heard before and still like. We parked in the back of the school, in a drive perhaps forty feet long and ending in a loading dock. I got out of the car. Another caravan driver turned left and gunned his engine, speeding along the drive. He hit me with his bumper and I was flung under the car. I watched the right rear wheel go over my leg and the face of one horrified passenger as he watched me slide under, in my slick-soled, black and shiny, band shoes.

The car was a rental car. The student driver had wrecked his own car the previous week, but his parents did not want him to be without transportation. Maybe it was the commitment to the caravan gig, I don't know.

When the wheel passed over, I was amazed to see, that unlike Olive Oyl in Popeye cartoons, that my leg was not flat. (!) No, but I had a compound fracture, and blood was spurting from a broken artery.

Lying on the ground, it seemed like I saw a hell of a lot of black ankles. Then my fellow band students went away, and I got the parade of teachers, coming to see me on the ground one-by-one. I resented this only from the teachers I had no relationship with, but I was friendly with all of them. I could see the light in their faces, too, and I saw it dim when they lied to me. At that moment, I saw everything and knew everything. The messy parts of life and its ambivalence had disappeared. I believe shock is a spiritual as well as physical condition.

I got first aid, ambulance care, surgery. The nurse kept turning my head away from the injury and I wouldn't let her. Finally the doctor told her to stop. I am a person who likes to see. And I saw, like I had never seen before. I was able to tap that and see better forever afterward. But not always, of course.

The world dropped around me again. It took me a year and one more surgery before I could walk. My big toe on that foot won't bend, which means it can't grip a shoe when I walk. It means I have to take care of that foot a little more carefully and that I will never train for the Boston Marathon. It also meant I got some slack at home and school, which I really needed. I have to say the incident, between what I learned about truth and how it got me slack, was an overall positive one.

The accident happened in February. Years afterward, in January or February, I would have terrible dreams of driving and having blood splash all over a windshield, or running over an infant who had crawled into my lane from the side of the road. That horror lived on.

At the time, everyone marveled at my positive attitude. They had no idea how much weight was off my back.

The Real Crime
My father is a high-functioning alcoholic, and a mean drunk. No one knows this about him except the people who live with him. The backaches I had were part of the stress from trying to take the hits for everyone else in the family. I moved from the object of hostility to the object of compassion--still not a person, you understand--but suddenly out of target range. I was assailed by neither the strong tyrant nor the weak tyrants who counted on me to be their advocate. I was able to excel in school, doing it at my own speed and on my own time, uninterrupted by drunken insults and arguments.

The day this happened, my father went to my younger sister and told her he needed her savings account to pay for my hospital bill. He also took my savings account. The hospital bill was paid by the driver's insurance. He does not remember doing this, although, I think he could remember it if he chose to. I had a job starting at age fourteen, and all of that savings was gone. None of my father's luxuries were curtailed.

This is the big reason I do not partake of suburban life, or daily drinking, or certain kinds of hypocrisy (other kinds of hypocrisy are okay and even necessary in life). It is also a big reason why college took me forever--not the disappearing savings account, but the drinking that made savings and order unattainable. The accident cleared things up by showing me a higher order and setting the world briefly aside. My father made the devastation in my world. When the cast came off, I became fair game again. He is the most sociable host on earth.


Unknown said...

So much to address in this post and I'm sure I'm going to miss the point, but hey, whats new?

Nice trauma. The Paramedic in me ate that shit up.
I've had my share of stitches because I play hard, always have. Prolly the closest I've come to seeing the diety of your choice is when I rolled off the highway across the access road thru the barrier and into the C-17 Canal. Unconcious and submurged. Not good. Thank goodness for good samaritans.

And wtf? I have no idea of how to respond about that piece of shit father of yours. I dont have a reference point other than to say I'm sorry you lived through that.

Thank goodness you turned out normal.

peace girl.

Ann T. said...

Dear peedee,
The paramedic was great. What I knew about that field at the time was from Emergency! I remember asking him how true to life it was. He said "pretty close" which was not completely encouraging, but my band teacher latched right onto it. Civilized conversation, right? What a relief!

But in the hospital, when they were taking x-rays, I said, where's the black tray? I meant the glass box that held the film for the x-ray, but the ER nurse said, "another person who's watched too much Emergency! ha ha ha." I was roused by this crass misunderstanding when she pulled out a black tray to stick under my tibia and point it out to her. "that black tray!" LOL!

However, I have never been jammed across a highway and submerged in a canal. One thing about being in the wider world is that you learn everybody has crap happen to them.

About my dad: I think this is one reason I have looked for blogs from first responders, they see and know many of the secrets in a well-appointed living room. Somehow they are still holding onto the decent side of life. That gives me strength, to know these things are possible, and that some prefaces to stories do not have to be stated. I'm lucky in my companions.

Thanks for writing, xoxo
Ann T.