My father-in-law recently said to me, "Life has a funny way of interfering with your plans." So true. As he said this, he was driving me and Timmy the 45 minutes from downtown Providence, to Karen's house. That morning, January 3, the five of us: Karen, the kids and myself, had driven there together to spend the morning at the Children's Museum. By that afternoon, we would have a broken car, its occupants shaken but mostly unhurt (and grateful to God for that!), and now no idea how and when we will be making it North Carolina before Tim's return.
Even with OnStar, downtown driving can sometimes be a challenge for me, especially when it's noon after a busy morning, and I was already tired to begin with. We left the museum and I missed the turn for 95 north. I decided to continue straight into a neighborhood, get my bearings, and turn around. I remember thinking, 'Ugh, I don't want to go straight here. This doesn't look like a nice place.' But the light was green and I went.
I didn't know he was coming until he was a blur in the corner of my right eye. I had just enough time to suck in a lungful of air before he slammed into us.
When our car stopped it was pointed left, against the curb of the intersecting street. Every airbag along both sides of the car had deployed, I couldn't see out of any of the windows, and I remember the air smelled like carbon. Hadn't smelled that smell in years. Weird. The kids were all crying, and Karen and I were asking each other, "Are you OK? Is everybody OK?"
The kids were all fine, buckled up tight as could be in their car seats. They were traumatized, so we unbuckled them and let them come up to the front with us. Poor Timmy had to wait a few extra minutes, still facing rear in his little seat, wondering what the heck was going on. But I got him out too, and Karen and I passed him back and forth. He stood on my lap looking around with a big smile on his face, like, 'I don't see what's wrong here. We're all together and having fun.'
Annie would later sum it up like this: "Our car got bumped, then the man put blankets on the windows." Delaney corrected her in her big-kid way, "No Annie, those were just airbags."
None of us went with the paramedics to the hospital. I refused transport to the hospital for the kids and myself. I will always wonder a little bit if Karen took my refusal of treatment for the kids and me as her being obligated to sign her own waiver and stay with us, when she should have gone otherwise. She went to the doctor later that day with pain in her neck, back and arm. She had suffered from side whiplash, which isn't a wonder, considering most of the impact happened right where she was sitting. We were hit by a Jeep Wrangler Rubicon*, a pretty big car, and I don't even think he slowed down. I'm grateful that we were in kind of a big car ourselves -- a Chevy Traverse -- that can absorb that kind of impact and keep us all safe. It also reaffirmed for me why I have the kids strapped in properly to their car seats, which means tightening the straps as much as humanly possible and having the chest buckle on their chest, not on their bellybutton. For some reason, this has been my obsession. As any family member who has had the pleasure of driving anywhere with us these past few months can attest, I have lost it on the kid who tried to interfere with the car seat straps in any way. After a few times of that happening, these girls got good at reminding ME if I forgot to either buckle them in, or cinch the straps down after they'd buckled themselves.
I had also been entertaining the thought of switching Delaney to a high-back belt-positioning booster this summer, if she reached the 40-pound threshold for it. Now I don't know if I see any reason not to keep her in a five-point harness for at least another year, or "until she's 17," as Tim Sr. remarked dryly, as I was telling him this very same thing.
I know that my kids aren't even as safe as they could be in the car, and that there are plenty of people who keep their kids rear-facing at Delaney's age and beyond. But that's why we like to have a very safe family car, so we don't feel the need to do that.
The kids and I did not sustain any injuries. For the past couple days I've had some back and neck pain, but nothing that a 200 mg ibuprofen can't help. I've just been watching the kids for signs of injury, not asking them, because they're little kids. If you ask them, "Does your neck hurt?" they're just as likely to say yes as no. And of course Timmy can't tell me. They seem fine. But the four of us will be seeing our chiropractor in NC as soon as we can.
I only saw the driver of the Jeep for a few seconds, when he came over to look in the car and see if we were OK. He was a little younger than me and had a bloody nose. I was told by the police officer there that he had gone in the ambulance to the hospital. I learned later from the police report that he was a Marine stationed at the same base in NC as us!
I remember being absurdly grateful to find my "lucky sunglasses" on the floor next to the pedals, without a scratch on them. You probably don't remember, but those are the same $200 Oakleys that I dropped in the ocean this past summer.
I also remember asking everybody who came to check on us for water. I'd never been so thirsty in my life. Exclusive breastfeeding means I require more water than the average person, and I was already thirsty when we left the museum, having just finished the bottle of water I'd brought, and having just nursed Timmy. Even under normal circumstances, I drink a lot more water than anyone I know (except maybe a fellow breastfeeding mom). I asked the paramedic, the policeman and my father-in-law for water when they arrived. The longer we sat there, the more desperate I felt. I was totally aware of how whiney I sounded, complaining to anyone who could hear about how thirsty I was when we'd just been in an accident, but I could do nothing to stop it. Throughout the rest of the day and night, I would lose track of how much water I ended up drinking, still feeling dehydrated and head-achey. Lesson learned: I will never be without a case of water in the car again.
So now we wait to find out what happens next. We were supposed to leave for North Carolina this coming Wednesday, but now we don't know when we will leave, and what we will be driving. The insurance appraiser isn't even looking at our car until Tuesday, but our friend who owns the collision shop where it is, says that it's "borderline" and could be totaled. He says that repairs would be very expensive and take about a month to complete after all is said and done. We just paid that car off last month -- four years of a six-year loan in one fell swoop, and the title hasn't even come in the mail yet. I love that car and I'm sorry I might lose it, but oh well, it's just a car.
*Karen and I had a pretty good laugh last night after reading the police report, and seeing that the other driver was in a Jeep "Rangler" (the officer couldn't spell, evidently). I hadn't seen it myself, since it had already been towed away by the time I got out. I laughed and said, "A Wrangler? That's it. You said it was as big as a Hummer!" Karen, a little indignant, insisted, "It was a Wrangler, and it was that big, Google it!" Sure enough, Jeep makes a Wrangler that's comparable to a Hummer. It was not the scrappy little vehicle with no roof that comes to mind when I think "Wrangler." Now we all know you're not crazy, Karen!