Someone once told me I should write my autobiography. I countered, "Who'd want to read it?" She answered, "A lot of people who want to know how you tick."

Ok-a-a-y. I gave that considerable thought.

So if I were to write this grand tome of personal information, here's how it might start off (with apologies to Denzel Washington in Fallen):



Let me tell you about the day I died....

August 22, 1970...a day with vignettes of consciousness held together with laces of excruciating pain....

Saturday, August 22, 1970, 11: 45 AM, on Pio Nono Avenue in Macon, Georgia....

...a road named for Pope Pius IX...soon to become my road to Hell....

I'm sitting in the passenger seat of my husband's brand-new Toyota Corolla. We're on the way to the car wash. He wants it to be clean when we go to the theater tonight. We turn into the driveway...

****

I awake face-down in the dirt, hearing voices I can't see...Where's Dennis? Where's my husband?....

****

Hands seize me, place me on a stretcher, put me in the back of an ambulance. While the siren shrieks, I hear another sound...deep...tearing...ripped out of lungs struggling to breathe...I see my husband convulsing, two attendants holding him down....

****

We reach the hospital. Dennis is unconscious. My shoulders and legs are grasped. I'm flipped onto my back. I scream as broken bones collide with each other. Everything goes black....

****

I awake freezing. My drug-muddled brain tells me I'm lying on the deck of a battle ship, plowing through the North Atlantic. Waves of ice are thrown over the prow as the ship cuts through the frigid water. A man wraps me in a blanket. I struggle against him, screaming, "Don't touch me! Where's the captain? I'll have you courtmartialed!"

My father walks away from the bed, sits down in a chair, buries his head in his hands, and sobs....

****

Three days later, I become lucid enough to learn I have a crushed hip, a pelvis broken in three places, a fractured vertebrae; one eye has been cut open, as well as the right side of my mouth, all my front teeth have been snapped off, numerous shards of glass embedded in my face, arms, and legs. Dennis is in ICU. He won't wake up for three and a half months. In October, we were to go to New Orleans. The day we were to leave is the day he regains consciousness. Until the day of his death, he'll be an epileptic and a borderline psychotic. That same month, I leave the hospital in a wheelchair, crutches at my side....

****

Every year on August 22, I don't go outside. I stay away from automobiles, and for a few brief, terror-filled moments, the events of those few moments come unbidden into my mind. I tell myself it's forgotten, but it never will be because that's the day my life changed forever...that was the day I died.

I tell myself it might have been prevented...if I'd refused to get into the car...if I'd talked Dennis out of having the car washed...if...if...IF....

...then I put my regrets away for another year and tell myself next time August 22 rolls around, I'll just let it pass--it'll be just another day--but in the back of my mind, I know I won't, and the words of the poet echo through my resolve:

Of all the words of tongue and pen, the saddest are It Might Have Been....


There! Think it's got a chance? My next post will be more uplifting, I promise. (The above picture was taken by my husband in June, 1970.)

5 comments

  1. Mary Ricksen // November 4, 2008 at 8:11 PM  

    For someone who is dead, your words are so full of emotion and life.
    It's a great thing to put the angst in your writing, as long as you can leave it behind sometimes and find inner peace. We all have had to make that choice at sometime or other, pain is universal. Thank God you found the strength to not give up. Or the loss would be we never got to know you, how sad for all readers, and authors that would be.

  2. Arkansas Cyndi // November 4, 2008 at 9:20 PM  

    wow. Strong words. Strong emotions. How did the accident happen? Did you hit another car or another car hit you?

  3. Mary Marvella // November 5, 2008 at 1:04 AM  

    I cannot imagine living through what you tell, though I know others have suffered in ways as horrible. My blessings are many and so are yours. You came through it with a son and years to share your talent.

  4. Nightingale // November 5, 2008 at 11:38 AM  

    Beautifully written,Toni. The words evoke many emotions. I was in a really bad car accident once but I was fortune enough to escape without injuries that followed me through the years. The sentence "held together with laces of pain" is FABULOUS.

  5. Mary Ricksen // November 6, 2008 at 5:41 PM  

    I tend to find I can't get your words out of my head.
    I also hope that strength can replenish itself and that it isn't finite.