In which i discuss the accident
I’m 51 years old. I think I’ve mentioned that before but never mind repeating it because, well very frankly, I look damn good for my age. But I’m not here to discuss my extraordinary anti-aging ability. I’m here to discuss moments and events that stick with you throughout your life.
I’m not sure whether it’s because I’m losing my mind, or because I take Prozac, or whether I’m just an idiot, but I have so many hazy memories, it’s unbelievable. Of course, I remember things that I did when my kids were young and things that they said, but many events seem to be surrounded by a fog. However, there are some moments that will stick FOREVER in my mind with a clarity that is unsurpassed and I’m going to discuss one right now. You’re not interested? Tough.
I grew up in Greensboro, North Carolina and my early childhood was spent in the 1960’s. This was a time of innocence and fun; before the Vietnam War, before the fear and after that Cold War period of paranoia. Kids spent their days running around with their friends, riding their bikes and playing in the woods. In fact, we had a huge gong hanging on our front porch and we could roam the neighborhood until we heard the gong. At that point, we had to head home as it was certainly a summons from my parents. Homework was almost non-existent and weekends were for fun. I have two brothers, one older named Brad and one younger named Bruce. We were all spaced approximately two years apart; family planning at its best.
When I was 7, my older brother Brad spent a beautiful day in March playing outside with his friend Steve. They were playing with those little green army soldiers…you know…the kind that they had in Toy Story except they didn’t actually talk and move on their own. How did I know all this? I spent the afternoon spying on them. I’ll never forget it because this day was the single-most memorable day of my entire life. More memorable than giving birth to three children; more memorable than my marriage, this day changed the course of my life forever. So at any rate, I was spying and they were playing and it was just a typical day.
Later that afternoon, Brad rode off on his bike to get some gas for our grill. This was back in the days of charcoal grills and gas was a necessary component of grilling and there was a gas station right outside our neighborhood. It was no big deal because we rode our bikes everywhere so off Brad went…except…he didn’t come back.
It’s ironic that all the memories I have of this time period are so incredibly slanted towards a 7 year-olds perspective. Remember, this was before cell phones, even before most families had two cars. Sometime later, a neighbor came running down to our house to inform my parents that “their son had been hit by a car." The rest is a blur. My parents took off and left me and my 5 year old brother alone with the words “grandma and grandpa will be here soon." My grandparents didn’t live far away, maybe a mile or so, but we had NEVER been left home alone before. It was just weird.
What do I remember about that night? My grandparents took us out for an ice cream cone; I had lime sherbet which was my favorite flavor at the time. Then they gathered our stuff and took us over to my aunt’s house. We loved my aunt’s house and spent a lot of time over there. They lived less than a mile away too and Bruce and I were best friends with my cousins, so this was a TREAT. The next day was Sunday and we didn’t have to go to Sunday school! This was the BEST SUNDAY EVER since we all hated going to Sunday school and instead, we got to spend the day playing outside in a huge sand pile that was at the lot next door because they were building a house and mixing cement. The entire situation was just getting better and better to me.
I was 7, my cousin was 6 and both my brother and other cousin were 5 and LIFE WAS AMAZING. We had all been told that Brad had an “accident” but we had no clue what that actually meant. I mean, who doesn’t have accidents? I had already had stitches a few times so the word accident didn’t seem to be a particularly big deal to me. On Monday, I went to school and it was bizarre. It was like I was a “rock star," so many people asking about my brother and yet, I had no answers. I hadn’t seen either him or my parents for a few days. To say the situation was surreal would be an understatement. I was in second grade and my teacher was Ms. Tepper. She offered to have me spend the night at her apartment with her and her roommate to help my parents out. I’m sure they thought I would love it but honestly, I thought I was being punished. After all, my little brother didn’t get kicked out so why did I? I vividly remember that she made me take a bath before bedtime and I never took baths before bedtime. I loved Ms. Tepper as a teacher but I’ve always wondered how this strange evening came to be. To this day, I think about what a weird and uncomfortable night it was.
Brad was in the hospital for 19 days. I didn’t know that but when I sent him this post to read for accuracy, he sent back some facts to accompany it. Both my parents are deceased so obviously, there are huge holes in my knowledge of all the details. Back in those days, kids under 12 weren’t allowed in hospitals, but somehow, at some point, my cousin Robin and I were allowed to go visit Brad. I will NEVER forget that day. We walked into the room and there was my beautiful big brother with half his head wrapped up in bandages. The car had hit him in the head. He was, and is, blind in one eye. His nose was destroyed and he has no sense of smell. He was completely disfigured. The mere fact that he lived is because he got hit across the street from a nurse who happened to run out there immediately and basically, keep him from completely going into shock and dying.
For me, seeing him like that was the greatest shock of my life, and that's saying a lot. What do I remember?
I remember trying to talk to Brad as if nothing had happened.
I remember chanting to myself “Don’t cry Lynn, Don’t cry Lynn” like a litany.
I remember he had a little stuffed dog that the entire class at his school had signed.
Mostly I remember it as the day the world ended ... and then began again.
It was the day I stopped crying and I’ve virtually never cried since. When I was younger I didn’t cry through movies, no matter how sad. Repression became a sign of strength to me. Showing emotion was taboo as well. The tougher things were, the more determined I was to handle it on my own. I never wanted to be a burden.
The dynamic of my household was changed forever. If you ask Bruce and me, we would tell you that Brad was ALWAYS in the hospital. He had so many near death situations where his brain would swell and my parents rushed him to the hospital. He had numerous surgeries at Duke Hospital and would be gone for what seemed like weeks at a time. Bruce and I are extremely close, but he's less close with Brad, because it always seemed like he was angry and I had to step in between my brothers.
I once asked my mother how much they were gone and she replied “not nearly as much as you think." I suppose to a little kid, even being gone a few times a year for a week seemed like a lot. When Brad emailed me back he told me that he had 19 major operations and was actually in the hospital for about a week each time. This was all within 7 years, so that’s a lot of hospital time. Brad has had to deal with a lot. I’m not going to go into the dynamic of how this changed his life because that would take forever and it’s probably not my place to say. I merely wanted to reflect on some of the ways it changed mine.
I don’t cry …
I’m incredibly strong…
I’m extremely competent in medical crises…
I’m always aware of the hidden, submerged damage in people…
I tend to use adversity as a learning tool…
I cut through the bullshit…
I’m comfortable in hospitals…
It’s difficult to rattle me…
I tend to look within a person rather than on the surface…
So, there you are. I’m not sure why I wanted to share this with you today but after being active on the internet and reading so many people’s stories, I just wanted to give you a little insight into my life…
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