27 February 2012

car wreck

Another crazy thing that happened...

...in 1999.

I had already been living with my fiancé. A modular home, trailer, shared with two other guys--Joel, who was majoring in theology, and Nathan, who was never there. Yet another mess, arrangement, whatever, that my one-year-old daughter was being dragged through that year.

It was a nice place. Good space. Full kitchen, a few bathrooms. Definitely luxurious compared to most college student dwellings. But not a place into where I would be settling. No. I was there far more out of necessity than by choice. These roommates of my fiancé were even less thrilled than I was.

I had shacked up with these guys as a result of my own basement apartment flooding just weeks prior. The fiancé (Kyle) and his buddies were renting the modular home from a priest, whose ownership and arrangements of future habitation are still fuzzy in my mind because, well... we'll get to that in a minute.

All I remember is that this guy they were renting from was someone Joel knew through his ministry studies and that he had needed someone to rent the house from him until he could move in.

Anyway, I had come home for lunch one day late that summer from my degrading job as a telemarketer only to find my apartment about an inch under water. It had been raining hard that morning, and my best friend, who was sharing rent with me for the summer and working at the same place only two blocks down, was trying to get boxes and clothing off the floor just as I came through the door and rudely discovered the water under my foot, which sank into the carpet about an inch.

The living room, the baby's room, the laundry room, the kitchen, the whole floor. All of it. Under water.

I grabbed my piano books from under the couch, grabbed anything on the floor under the crib, and checked anywhere a surface could be touching the water and tried getting it all off off the floor. It was close enough to the start of the school year that Celia was able to move what she could up to residence at the university, while I stayed back to deal with the landlord.

Who was not very deal-with-able.

In the meantime, I packed baby and me a few bags and forced my way into the lives of two, very unsuspecting and rather objecting bachelors via Kyle's permission.

While that was going on, I tried to show my appreciation by cleaning their place in between shifts at work, and tried to keep the sheer stress of the situation from showing, mainly for my daughter and partly for myself.

Looking back on it now, it was mind-fucking-ly stressful. Worse is that this was the last in a whirlwind series of places or environments that I placed my child in trying to single-handedly provide for my baby. The kind of places to have crossed my daughter's eyes that year, while not the worst in the history of all momkind, used to be cause for incredible amounts of reflection-induced guilt. Especially on account that there were times in her life that I can't remember who was caring for her or whose care she was in, even today. I wasn't on drugs. I didn't even smoke then. I was just that incredibly prolific with sitters because I had to go with what I could afford.

Days passed. I had no idea what was going on in my apartment. I didn't know when I'd be going back. I used the forwarding feature on my phone to get my calls at Kyle's place. The weekend comes. I get a call from my brother.

He and his girlfriend were getting married on the fly, and could I come?

I turn him down, move Aurora away from the buttons on Kyle's boom box, and apologize profusely by saying that Kyle had to work on that Sunday; and there was no way we could get there for their ceremony in time on Monday. It is an eight-hour drive from the city I'm living in for school to home, where Erik is, and I have no vehicle. I'd sold my p.o.s. Ford that spring for cash to have a first-year birthday party for my baby girl.

Married? What?!

My poor brother. Did he learn nothing from watching his sister get knocked up? He hadn't even left for basic training and was about to engage in a lifelong commitment to his girlfriend so that she could be covered under his medical coverage. Or something akin to that.

He is understanding because it is, after all, a very last minute arrangement, and I call Kyle at work to share the shocking news.

"Well, why not?" he counters when I relay what I told Erik. "Let's do it. We can drive overnight tomorrow night."

A little surprised, I jump on board. It would be great to surprise my brother!

I get a bag ready, Kyle gets home Sunday night, we throw our few things in his hard top Geo Tracker, and go.

We get all the way to the gas/pizza joint--the halfway point between college town and home. We get gas, our personal pan pizzas, and some water bottles at about two-or-so in the morning, and get back on the road. Aurora gets fussy and wants out of her car seat. Against my better judgment, I unbuckle her. The poor thing's been in her car seat for four hours already. About ten minutes later, I trade spots with Kyle for the wheel, and rebuckle up a very feisty, pissy year-old in her car seat.

The next thing I remember I only recall from a handful of fuzzy memories. Stumbling into a hospital bathroom. Being at my grandpa's. Sitting on my dad's couch. My mom's being their with my other brother. A hotel room with Kyle.

Everything else I know is from the accounts of others, not my own.

Because, you see, just as we were about to make it, about half an hour outside of my hometown, I had fallen asleep at the wheel. To this day I don't remember even dozing off once at any other part of the trip before that.

And, as the Tracker veered off the road and smacked a reflector pole, I woke up, tried to correct the wheel and ultimately jerked and pulled the Tracker into a roll, three times, before it landed on its roof.

The only reason I know what I must have done is because Kyle said he was sleeping and woke up to me screaming, "oh shit!" and I know how women drive. And I'm a woman. And the police report described the tire tracks and location of the vehicle, upside down, in the median.

The EMT on his way to work that early morning was right behind us was also a source of learning what happened. He reported that he saw our tail lights go all "whirly... all over the road" as per the news article he was in because I had searched him out via the editor, and he had been "ratted out" by a friend, and followed up by a local reporter.

The EMT, Keith Gould, from Upton, Wyoming (oh yes, I hope anyone reads this knows who he his, where to find him, so they can know what a real hero looks like) was on his way to his job at the mine as an EMT and has been right behind us and saw the whole thing. He stopped, he took care of us, he got us an ambulance, got us sent to the hospital. According to Kyle, I said my daughter's name was Kyle Marie and was extremely combative in the ambulance.

The vehicle had rolled 3 times and in the process, bashed Kyle and I around so hard that his back muscles were all torn, his eyes blood shot and black, and my head hit the ground and broken glass like a ragdoll's. Not only did Kyle have to check my vitals while buckled upside down, but in less a flash later, his concern turned to Aurora.

She was not in her carseat.

He heard whimpering.

He unbuckled his massive 6'6'' frame, dropped to the roof and crawled out, and found Aurora walking around. In the median. In the span of time it took for our lives to change forever, Keith Gould was there, checking Kyle, checking Aurora, and I presume checking on me. I was out.

Aurora only had a small couple of scratches where we assume, to this day, the harness of the car seat had loosened.

I would want to add that there being anyone on a Wyoming highway at 6 in the morning is rare enough, but to have that 1% have been an EMT...

Within hours of being checked out at the hospital, Kyle and Aurora were released, while I stayed in ICU with a concussion.

Any of the piddling memories I have all fit into the encircling drama that ensued, as well as the recovering process of working through a massive fog.

When I was able to finally put it together, weeks after the accident, and I got pictures of the Tracker and of Erik's wedding in the mail, I stood in my doorway and cried so hard. I ran to my baby girl and hugged her. The horrible feeling of not even being able to protect her from myself is worse than a mother who messes up any other way...

I mentioned ensuing drama because, I will also tell you, my own parents couldn't get along during my extended stay...

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