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The school of hard knocks (03/28/2004)
By Janet Lewis Burns

I came home from a long and haunting week, on Friday, March 12, grateful to be there. I could barely pull my weighted body up the steps.

I absently did my routine chores before settling into my accommodating recliner, as I iced face bruises. With a direct view of the daffodils on the dining room table, I noted that they were beginning to shed their skins, bursting into a joyful symphony of yellow. A somber and unblinking sky howled beyond.

I sat back and took stock of the past week. That I had hobbled away from a head-on collision Monday, during an unexpected whiteout, is something to be forever grateful for. Coming home from work in Rushford, in midday, I chose the route through Wyattville, catching County 25. The weather situation was a complete surprise! Snowflakes as thick as pudding and white fields had formed a blinding shroud.

Clutching the wheel, that was soon to do me in, I knew only that I wasn't far from the Brethren Church when it happened. Out of the blue ("white") the front end of a small dark car appeared directly in front of me. Then it was over. I saw my stuff scattered all about the floor, when I dared to look.

My forehead throbbed as it ballooned out. A hot scent of transmission fluid and raw fear engulfed me. The instantaneous impact was a clear, sharp, "SMASH," followed by abrupt, dense silence, a car horn's monotone piercing through disbelief.

An awareness came over me; someone else may be seriously injured. I spotted one leg hanging out of the door of the other vehicle, which now faced the same western direction as my van. Just then a thin guy, in a light blue work smock, cuts on his face, shuffled towards me, his right arm limp. The sight reminded me of Jack Nicholson in one of his sinister roles.

After what seemed like eternity, breaking through a ghostlike sleeve, we had an ambulance, two wreckers, local police, and, wouldn't you know, a sand truck rumbled through. The sun even showed up, the intensity of the relentless snow subsiding.

Our van was not to be salvaged. I am walking around with a huge goose-egg on my forehead and a Halloween-like face, which seems to turn a deeper purple with each new day. The fella in the other vehicle took the ambulance ride, and I have heard that he's okay. I stayed home one day to count body parts. Since my air bag failed to pop, my seatbelt took over. We were both wearing one. They are lifesavers!!!

Today, Saturday, my granddaughters paid me a second welcomed visit. Ally, three, was still skittish (and very sad) about my colorful wounds. Comforting hubs from Alyssa, eight, and her reassuring sentiments, saved the day. "They'll just think you slipped and messed up your eye makeup, Grandma," she assured me. Doing puzzles, it was back to routine for Papa and Ally. Alyssa was a ball of energy, helping me in the kitchen. It was the girls who did the nurturing this time around.

March 20th: The story doesn't end here. Hours after my collision, our son Mike had slipped on the ice and broke his ankle. He ended up in surgery, and now hobbles on crutches. Since nothing can keep Mike down, he's "back in business" again, making sales.

As two strangers crossed paths on that blue Monday, each of us had uttered these same words just before our collision: "Oh, my God!" Regardless of how strongly we believe that we are in control of our own destiny...something beyond human comprehension rises up and knocks us silly. What we have to do as habit every time we get into a vehicle is - "Wear our seatbelts!"

The daffodils have fanned open beautifully. It's so good to be "home." Giving them a drink of water today, I paused in wonder to admire the miracle...one of many.

"Oh, my God." 


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