Fourth of July weekend it all came together. I finally had more than one day off. A three day weekend! I anxiously anticipated all I could get accomplished at the house. Friday after work our phone and internet were installed. Saturday we moved a few more things and as I cleaned and put things into their spots, my husband interrupted me every few minutes to help him. We finally called it a night and took the kids to go watch fireworks.
Sunday we awoke to the task of finishing the latest idea to fix the water that we had concocted. My husband sat in the well pit covered in water and mud, every few minutes hollering for my help. I bit back my groans as I attempted to get halfway through my own tasks before he would yell my name again. Finally, I threw in the towel and just succumbed to the fact that I was designated his helper for the day. Which wasn’t so bad, I desperately wanted the water fixed too and was actually excited to get laundry done, mop the floors, and do dishes as we had only been using water for absolute necessities for weeks.
Our children were being abnormally bratty that day. Whining, crying, fighting, and teasing each other. I’ll be honest, I don’t do whinny very well. So when our four year old daughter, who knows perfectly well how to talk in a reasonable tone of voice, came up to me whining for something as I’m halfway hanging into a well pit only to whine and cry louder when she was told she needed to wait, I blew. I yelled at her to just go to her room and go to bed! I immediately felt terrible, but there was little I could do about it as I hung there holding onto thirty feet of piping dangling into the ground.
Shortly later we were finally done fixing the water permanently. If we had the time we would have celebrated but we had to quickly get ready to pick up my mother in law and go visit her brother, a thing we did every few weekends. As we got ready I went in to talk to my daughter who I found fast asleep in her bed. So that explains the excessive whining, I thought to myself.
Usually, my mother in law, my husband, our four year old daughter, and myself always make the hour drive together to visit my husbands uncle who resides in an adult home. Usually my children don’t take naps. Usually they are overall well behaved. Usually I don’t blow up on them. Usually I would never allow them to sleep so late in the day. Usually I would bring our daughter wherever we went, even if it meant carrying her to the car. Usually I wouldn’t have shrugged my shoulders seeing that it was already three in the afternoon and asked our friend who was staying with our son if they’d watch our daughter too. But that day was not a usual day.
The expressway was busier that day than I had expected. The drive felt longer than it had in the past. In my head I thought of all I still wanted to get done at home. I moved into the left lane to pass a few cars, drifting back into the right lane as I passed them. Before long I was behind yet another slower moving line of cars. I moved into the left lane and began passing them. Truck pulling a camper. Truck pulling a boat. Car. Car. Truck. Van. The line of traffic seemed to get longer and longer as I debated where I wanted to pull back into the right lane at. I sped up some as I realized that it wouldn’t be too much longer before we came up on our exit. Suddenly at the corner of my hood I saw a glimpse of orange vehicle that was dangerously close to my own.
“Fuck!” I yelled, as I quickly moved our SUV as far to the left of the road as I could. The orange car had 3/4ths of our lane taken up. I slammed the gas pedal to the floor, desperately attempting to get past this orange blur of a vehicle before it connected with out own. BANG! I heard their vehicle slam into the side of ours sending us into a vicious high speed fishtail. I heard the sound of our tires screeching from one side of the expressway to the other. I saw no road. Had no thoughts. Only an intense amount of responsibility for those in the car with me and instinctive reflex. It was up to me to get us out of this.
It happened in the blink of an eye, yet took an eternity to end. The fastest slow motion I have ever and likely will ever experience. I felt the shift of weight in our SUV. I knew that we had drifted just a fraction of a hair too far. I knew that there was no getting out of this. I knew that we were about to roll. “Oh God!” I screamed as I threw my right arm over my forehead and tucked my left leg up to my chest. In that moment, I thought we were all dead. I thought that this was the moment that life as we knew it, would never again be the same.
I can still hear the metal crushing. The glass shattering. The deafening sound was all around me. I can still see the shattering glass around me. The SUV closing in on me. I watched, terrified, as we rolled, and rolled, and rolled. I thought it was never going to end. It was the fasted slow motion I have ever and likely will ever experience.
Finally, with a finally crunch we stopped. I opened my eyes in disbelief as glass and debris rained down on me. I was surrounded by SUV and ground. I was still alive. I was in shock that I was still alive. “Is everyone okay?” I quickly hollered before I had even had time to get my barrings. I heard their voices, my husbands and my mother in laws and knew they too were alive. Within a heartbeat there were people surrounding our vehicle. I heard a mans voice asking if we were okay. I unbuckled and began pushing myself free from our SUV. I heard my husband say that his seat belt was stuck. I heard the man say that he could cut him lose. “No, he’ll fall on me!” I exclaimed panicky. I was already claustrophobic and desperately trying to escape the terror of being in that truck. The man yelled to me to come out this way, it’s the only way out. I didn’t even know which way was up, nearly crying in desperation to just get out of that truck the man had to call to me and help pull me out of the passenger side window.
My feet touched the pavement and all in one moment I saw my husband and mother in law crawling out of the mangled back gate of the SUV and noticing all the other traffic that had been on that road with us. They were all stopped. A line so long I couldn’t even see the end. I started shaking and quickly went to the grass to throw up or pass out, whichever happened to come first. Fortunately, neither came and I caught my breathe in a moment only to quickly get up and visually see that my husband and mother in law were in fact okay. My husband was walking across the expressway, his shock and panic leaving him level headed enough to pick up our wallets and phones that were scattered about like litter across the freeway. I walked around our SUV and there in the grass was my mother in law, blood coursing down her face. My heart caught in my throat as I realized that we were far from out of the woods yet.
“I’m okay,” I insisted as I was asked again and again. And I was, I had just been in a roll over accident at nearly 80 miles per hour and was still alive, still talking, and walking, and breathing. I was fine. Help my mother in law, I thought. Just don’t let anything happen to my mother in law. Her chest hurt, it hurt terribly. A nurse who happened to be a few cars behind us tried to reassure it that it was probably just from her seat belt, only she hadn’t been wearing one. I feared it was the massive heart attack that her doctor said she was on the verge of having merely a week before. I feared that she was dying from the trauma of an accident, an accident that I had been the driver in. Though the accident was of no fault of my own, it was a loss I was not prepared to deal with, a guilt I was not prepared to bear.
“I’m okay” I said again and again. Just help her. I looked at my husband, silently pleading with him to stay by his mom, I could tell she was calmer with him there. Yet I also knew her condition was more than he was ready to witness as he kept shying further and further away. It seemed like an eternity, but finally an ambulance arrived.
“I’m okay, just take care of her. Let us ride with her.”Keep her son by her. Every bump and turn of the ambulance slammed me back into the rollover. Crunching metal. Shattering glass. It was all I could hear. All I could see. I felt faint. I felt nauseous. I felt terrified for my mother in law. We were all admitted into the hospital. Chest xrays done on my husband and I, xrays and ct scans done on my mother in law. Though I had a severe headache and was noticeably exhausted, I dismissed everything I was feeling as normal reactions of such an experience. I was given tyelonal, my husband anxiety meds.
My mother in law was the most banged up. She had a cut on her nose and forehead both severe enough they needed to be glued shut. Glued in an attempt to avoid noticeable scaring. The next day we were all feeling worse, as we had been told we probably would. My husband was the best off, only a few sore muscles in his arm where he had braced himself with the ‘oh shit bar’. Every muscle in my upper half was sore. I moved as gracefully as one would wearing a full body cast. And my head, oh man did my head ever hurt. I popped pain killers and spent the majority of the day sitting on the couch staring out the slider windows. My mother in law was the worst. The next day it brought her great difficulty to move at all. But we all pushed on, thankful that the aches and pains we were feeling was the worst we got out of it and celebrated our anniversary with a very quiet, sore day at home. Happy 4th of July….
I called and made a claim to my insurance agency. Finding out that because of our states no fault law, which means that it doesn’t matter at all that the accident was completely the other drivers fault, I had to hit up my own insurance. And that I happened to have coverage on absolutely everything but collision, that I was pretty much fucked. No car. No replacement car. No hope of even enough money to get a beater mobile to get me back and forth to work until I could afford something better.
I was bitter at the unfairness of it all, yet still deeply grateful that a lost car was all I had to be bitter about. The next day our muscles began to ease up some. I still felt sick, my head still hurt, I still felt trapped in a fog that I couldn’t escape. I still hadn’t slept or ate, at least not nearly as much as I needed to. But, we had to get any of the belongings that we could salvage from our SUV. We took the long way that day. The way that avoided the expressway. Seeing our car deepened the realization that we are simply blessed that we walked away relatively unharmed. We got what few things we could, and walked away from my beloved, but ruined, SUV for good.
The next few days I ended up having to call into work. As each day came to an end I prepared for work the next day, whether I felt better in the early evening or was simply in denial is lost to me. By the time 330am rolled around though, I knew I would not be able to function in order to do my job. I awoke in tears with severe headaches. Felt on the verge of throwing up constantly. Still could hardly eat, hardly sleep. Still trapped in a fog, hearing and seeing the rollover played on repeat in my head.
By the forth day since the accident, the third day of missing work, I knew that there had to be something else going on. Everyone else was seemingly okay. All my muscle aches had lessened to the point they were tolerable. Even my severe seat belt burn was tolerable. But my neck, and my head, and my ear seemed to hurt worse as the days passed. And the other symptoms that I was dismissing as trauma related were not easing up in the slightest. I was thankful to be alive. I WANTED to go back to work. I WANTED to just move on with our lives already. I had gotten through riding in a car again. I had gotten through driving a car again. Why couldn’t I just escape this fog already, stop being so damn irritable, start eating and sleeping. I just wanted to be normal again!
Day four I awoke with a headache so severe that I was crying in my sleep. I could hardly walk straight, think straight, and oh man did I ever want to just throw up already. By 2am I knew I needed to go back to the hospital, something was wrong. By 3am I called my mom and my ride to work. I left a message with my sister to call into work for me and headed back into ER. After hours of testing to rule out any immediately fatal things a diagnosis was quickly reached; concussion. The doctor prescribed a muscle relaxer for the stuck in a spasm neck muscle, anti-nausea medicine, pain killers, and ideally would like me to sit in a dark room and stare at a wall until all symptoms are gone.
I’m one of those people that can’t sit and watch a whole movie without thinking of the 29 things in my sight that could be done around the house. One of those people that even in my sleep, my brain is crazy busy dreaming, processing, imagining. Even limiting the use of my brain to as little activity as possible is extremely difficult for me, yet that is what I was told to do.
I sit here typing this, trying to ignore the nagging headache, the stiff neck. Hating myself for being so irritable with my kids. Going insane because nearly every little thing irritates me, I can’t get anything done around the house, and simply thinking makes my head hurt and gets my stomach turning.
The concussion will eventually clear. The insurance will eventually cover my lost wages. I will eventually have another vehicle (likely to always be a big sturdy SUV of course). All of my fears didn’t come true; my family is okay, I won’t lose my job, we still managed to get our house payment out.
The sounds of the crunching metal and shattering glass may never go away. The anxiety of buckling my children into a car may never disappear. The gratitude that a series of unusual incidents kept my children from being in the car that day may never subside. The amazement that we all walked away from that may never fade.
For days I anxiously tried to simply put this accident behind us. I wanted nothing more than to go on as though our lives had not changed in the slightest. We had lived. We had walked away unchanged. I was determined to fight through any fear I had and never allow this accident to alter my life.
But maybe, we’re not meant to forget. Maybe we’re not meant to be unchanged. We experienced a miracle first hand, and maybe, maybe that’s just something you are never meant to put behind you….
And yes, the water is still working perfectly and boy are we happy to be around to enjoy it! =)