Sunday, February 14, 2010

In A Heartbeat

How life can change at a moment’s notice. And how, if we listen to our inner voice, we can be part of the change.

This all started last week as I contemplated an upcoming trip to St. George Island to spend a few days with my sister and cousins at the beach over Valentine’s Week and Week-end. I had already told them that I’d be there, but as the day for my departure got nearer, I began getting inner messages that I shouldn’t drive down there alone. I asked Phil if he’d like to go with me, but due to his work schedule, he told me that he just couldn’t get away. My plan was to drive down on Thursday and to come home yesterday, in time to be home for Valentine’s Day. That was all my unemployment budget would allow me to spend. My feelings of apprehension grew daily, and I finally emailed my sister and cousin that I’d be unable to make the trip. I used the excuse of Phil’s truck breaking down and our need to put any extra dollars into the purchase of a replacement truck for him. But my main reason was this voice inside of me that kept saying “Don’t go.” I began getting depressed over the entire thing, feeling sorry for myself for not having enough expendable cash to make a short trip to the coast, but this was only a side effect of what I was mentally going through.

On the morning that I would have gotten into my little Honda and headed South, I woke up with a horrific stomach ache. I didn’t feel like eating – my appetite was gone – and I was running a slight fever. I wasn’t sure if the cause was something I had eaten the day before or an intestinal bug of some kind. I stayed in bed most of the day, and by nighttime, I was beginning to feel a little better. Must be a bug, I told myself. On Friday, I was still feeling a little puny, but the pains and bloating were gradually going away and my fever was gone. I was sure it must have been a virus of some sort, and I was very thankful that I was at home and not at a beach house in Florida.

Then it snowed. As I watched the snow falling all afternoon and into the evening, I was even more sure that I had made the right decision to stay home. The lovely 4 inches of snow made travel hazardous here, and I felt that the same was true across Georgia. The thought of driving home from Florida on Saturday morning only strengthened my assurance that my decision to stay home had been the right one.

Saturday dawned to an absolutely gorgeous snowy day. Feeling almost back to normal by this time, Diamond and I ventured out to take photos and test the roads for going for a walk. We found the roads to be very icy and dangerous, even for walking, and decided to wait until afternoon to go for our daily two miles. As the day progressed the sunshine began melting the snow, and by 2:00, we felt confident that it was now safe to take our walk.

We headed up Roy Malcom Road, noting that the road was still very icy in the shady spots and on the hills. At a couple of spots, the walking was treacherous, and we moved over onto the shoulder to walk through the snow. A few minutes after we made our turn and were heading back home, the only car we had seen so far passed us on its way to the Social Circle by-pass. I watched as the car went past, mentally noting that it wasn’t speeding, and waving as I always do to the people in the car. A moment later, I watched as the little car hit one of the icy spots, swerved, spun, and then hit a tree. I was stunned, not believing what I had just witnessed. The road was too icy for Diamond and me to run to the accident scene safely, but we stepped up our pace, and within a minute or two were at the accident scene. Three young people had gotten out of the car and were helping the fourth out of the car, laying him down onto the slushy grass on the side of the road. I would have shouted for them to leave him in the car, but I couldn’t get there in time to stop them. All three were visibly shaken up, but not seriously injured. The young man on the ground, on the other hand, was obviously in pain, was shaking from the cold, and moaning.

I put Diamond into a Down-Stay a little ways from the accident scene, knowing that some people are afraid of German Shepherds. I went over to the young man on the ground and told him that he was going to be o.k. I got some jackets that the other three had thrown from the car and covered him the best I could. I was afraid to try to move his head, fearing a neck injury, but when he slightly moved his head, I slipped a jacket underneath to protect him from the cold. I felt his pulse, finding it to be strong, although he was shaking violently – I wasn’t sure if he was going into shock or was simply shivering from the cold. One of the young women was dialing 911 on her cell phone, but couldn’t tell the operator where they were. I told her to tell the operator that they were on Roy Malcom Road near the Social Circle By-pass, which she did. There was nothing more I could do, except to stay there. I stayed bent down near the injured young man, stroked his arm and kept telling him that help would be there soon.

In a few minutes a Social Circle police car and fire rescue wagon arrived. I was so relieved that help was there. I stepped back to let the experts take over the situation. The policeman seemed more concerned about the car than the young man, but the EMT began asking him questions and trying to stabilize him. In another few minutes an ambulance from Walton Medical Center arrived, and I breathed a breath of relief. The real life-savers were now present! I stood to the side, watching, as they put a collar around the young man’s neck and gently moved him onto a board and then to a gourney. He was soon inside the ambulance and on his way to the hospital.

After the police officer took my name, phone number and statement, I hugged the young man who was the driver of the car, learning that the injured man was his brother. He was in agony that he had hurt his brother. I reassured him that his brother was in good hands, asked him for their names, and told him that I would be praying for them both. I then hugged the two young women. They all thanked me profusely for being there and helping them.

All this time, Diamond was waiting patiently in the position I had left her, not moving, even with all of the activity around her, sirens blaring, and strangers hustling about, especially uniformed men, for whom she holds very little regard, and under ordinary circumstances would be growling and in protection mode. As I took up her leash and led her away from the activity, tears were running down my face, and I began shaking. Feeling her nose nudging my arm, I settled down, took a deep breath, and step by step, we made our way back home.

So, what is the point of this narrative? I believe that the real feeling for my unease about driving down to Florida might not have been about driving alone or soon to have a tummy ache. I think I was meant to be on Roy Malcom Road yesterday afternoon at 2:30. Nobody else was on the road except for Diamond and me at the time, and as I think back, except for the rescue vehicles and police cars, only one other car drove down the road during that time, and it was after everything had happened and help was already there.

I listened and responded to that pestering inner voice, because

In a heartbeat……….

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Snowy Days

It began snowing yesterday at around 2:00 pm. It is always exciting for me to see the first snowflakes drift toward earth, and to watch as they accumulate on the rails of my deck. When I woke up this morning, the first thing I did was grab a ruler, put on my slippers, and step out onto the deck to measure the snow. Our grand total this morning is 4 inches – just enough, and not too much. Now I am waiting for the sun to get bright enough to head outdoors to try out my new camera for some snowy shots. I hope that the sunshine will melt all of the snow on our steps and off the roads so that we can get out later today.

I remember another big snow- the biggest I’ve ever seen. This one was during the same week as this snow, in 1983. We were living in Winchester, Virginia, and the boys were looking forward to their Valentine’s Day parties at school. The day before the big snow was a beautiful sunny day – ironclad proof that snow was on its way. I spent the next two days either outside walking in the snow and wind or sitting at my kitchen window, gazing out at a storm the likes of nothing I’d ever seen before. By the time it was over, 36 inches of snow were on the ground, and we couldn’t open the storm door at the front of the house. The next several days were spent having fun and shoveling, obviously school snow days with thoughts of Valentine's parties long out-of-mind. With neighbors up the street we built a bobsled run for our sleds, and joined other sledders on the steep steps of John Handley High School for the sled rides of our lives. Of course, we had to shovel the sidewalk in front of our house – a city ordinance demanded this- but I was so enamored at all of the snow, I didn’t mind it at all! I don’t remember how many snow days the kids had, but I do remember still seeing mountains of melting snow in the local parking lots for almost a month before it all melted away.

I am not a winter person. I don’t like layering my clothes, and I don’t like being cold. But there’s something about a snowfall that shoos the summer person away for a little while, and I become a little snowbird. When it gets brighter outdoors, I’ll get my winter boots out that I’ve had since the blizzard of ’83, wrap up, and head out with Diamond to see what we can see. I’ll put a pot of homemade soup on the stove later today, and bake some fresh loaves of bread. For a snowy day, it will be just fine.

Even while admiring the snow, my mind is on tomato and pepper seeds, and counting the days until we can begin planning our summer garden. Phil keeps telling me that it’s still too early to plant my seeds, but in my mind, I am plotting our garden, planning what we’re going to plant. On the first day of March, regardless of the weather, I’ll be downstairs in the shop filling up the potting trays and tenderly planting seeds that we will later transplant outdoors. I’ll also get the graph paper out and line out my rows and label where each vegetable will grow.

It may be a snowy day, but it is also one day closer to springtime!