Saturday, August 21, 2010

In the Blink of an Angel's Eye

The day began as a special treat for us.  It isn't often enough that I get to spend an entire afternoon, alone, with just one of my four Angel Daughters.  But Angel Daughter Number Three and I decided that Thursday would be our day.  We decided to head down south to Carlsbad to do some outlet shopping at a beautiful outdoor mall near the Flower Fields.  We were on our way back home, chatting about what we purchased, and boys(not you, Jacob;)) and what we would do for dinner when, mid-sentence, my insides began to sink.  The noise from outside was indistinct at first.  Kind of like when your tires get stuck in those grooves that they make on some roads or freeways, and then you bump along for a mile or so.  But suddenly the hair on the back of my neck began to stand up.  And my mind momentarily emptied out.  And my breath got caught up inside of my lungs.  A second of confusion before a moment of frightening clarity.  And then time sped up.

Tire bursts.  Check speedometer-70 mph in moderate traffic.  AD3 checks passenger side-view mirror.  Watches the rubber from the tire shred into large chunks which take flight and then bounce back down onto the freeway behind us.  I check my rear-view mirror as the vehicle begins to wildly take on a mind of its own while I clutch the steering wheel with all of my strength.  The metallic taste of fear rises into my mouth, but I swallow it back down.  We are in the center lane.  Check the rear-view mirror.  Three cars to the right without a safe opening between them.  Left lane, one vehicle in the fast lane about two car lengths behind us.  I choose left.  I lean on the horn so that if someone does not see me coming, they might at least hear me.  Car begins to sputter and fishtail all at the same time.  I say a silent prayer in hopes of making it into the left lane and then on to the very minimal shoulder that resides on the other side of the speeding cars.  Why is the steering wheel locking up on me?  I somehow manage to get the car over to the shoulder without getting us killed.  And then, oh crap, the breaks stop working.  I am thinking out loud.  I tell AD3 that I am going to use the emergency break and that she needs to hang on because I'm not quite sure what will happen.  I tap it once, the car jerks but does not stop.  I press hard and the car jolts to a stop.  I put the car in park and dial 911.  I let the dispatcher know what has happened, where we are located, and that we are in inherent danger because of where I had to stop.  We are between speeding vehicles and a solid concrete divider.  Very little room for error.  The dispatcher tells me that she is sending out an officer.  She tells me that we should remain in whatever spot feels safest and not to accept any help from passing motorists.  She connects me to AAA.(Automobile Association of America)  AAA tells me that the tow truck will arrive by 5:55 PM.  It is 5:20 PM.

"Mom, put the camera down.  This is not a moment for blog fodder!"  But I am doing my best to distract myself and my eighteen year old daughter from the thoughts of what just happened, and what could potentially still happen.  I call my husband.  She texts her boyfriend.  We watch for the officer.
Finally, in the distance, like a single-man cavalry rising on the horizon, I see the tow truck heading towards us.  He asks about the spare tire and I pop the trunk of my car open.  AD3 and I watch through the mirrors as Andy risks his own life to help us.  We feel the car rise as he jacks up our vehicle.  He quickly and methodically pulls off what is left of the shredded tire.
All the while keeping an eye out for the speeding traffic which is whizzing by us at a dangerously high speed.
And then we are back down on the ground again.  Spare tire in place.  Car miraculously safe to drive once again.  I take a twenty dollar bill out of my wallet and tuck it into the palm of my hand.  I shake Andy's hand to thank him for going what I believe to be above and beyond the realm of safety and pass the money into his hand.(Yes, I am very aware that AAA does not require tips.)  California Highway Patrol never did bother to show up.

And while Angel Daughter Number Three was right when she told me that this was not necessarily an appropriate time to be composing a blog post in my mind, what she did not yet understand is that it was a teachable moment.  Teachable for me, teachable for her and teachable for anyone else whom I might share this story with.  Because before this blow-out occurred, I had no way of knowing what would happen if... And what my daughters might learn from my own, actual behavior in this kind of life or death situation.

What I do know is this.

That even when my daughter looks like this on the outside...

*Photo found in Town&Country magazine.  September 2010 issue.(and no, I had no idea what I was going to use it for when I tore it out.)
To me, she will always still look like this in my mind.  Which means that every moment is a teachable moment.

Especially after AD3 turned to me soon after the blowout and said, "Mom, you handled that really, really well."

Which reminds me.  It is not always what we say, but what we do, how we respond, react and rebound, that teaches our children how things should best be done.  And as I recount this bit of life experience into some blog fodder, I am grateful that I was able to keep my little girl safe and oh, so sound.


Claire said...

I was moved to tears by your story. I am just sitting here thanking God for your safety, and Andy's. And you did handle that wonderfully.

Renee said...

So very glad you are both okay and things worked out so well....and what a teachable moment it was for your daughter....and even yourself..
I think often of how important it is for our children and others to see how we handle a situation that arises or circumstances we must deal with. Like you, I am chronically ill and in pain we cope with our illnesses and how we live life inspite of them also is a teachable moment. Debra...You do it all so well...we do the the best we can and our children learn to be strong and courageous because of it.

Ness said...

I couldn't read fast enough to see if you were OK!

God was with you the physical strength to control the car. Fibro people just do not have that strength normally.

Thank you God for looking out for my sistah-friend and her AD!

And thank you for sharing...consider me taught on what to do in case of a blowout.

And AD, the beautiful thing is that Life gives us many teachable moments but few fail to take the time to teach the lesson that has been laid in their laps. Your mother is phenomenal. I know you know that but never ever forget it!

Something Happened Somewhere Turning said...

Wow! That sounds very scary. I am glad that everything went alright. You sound like you were on top of things from the get go.
I hate that feeling you get when things go bad. All that heart skipping and frantic scrambling to keep it together. It always takes you for a ride.
I remember Lois and the girls and I were driving down the freeway a year or two ago and I sat in the passenger seat staring out the window when I saw a car edge dangerously close to us in just a split second. It was so fast and so close that I thought we were going to trade paint and I feared the worse. Moments like that are so frightening.
I'm so glad that everyone out there was safe. Good job Andy.

Sharon said...

I realized halfway through the second paragraph that I was holding my breath. What a harrowing experience. You did handle it really well. I don't know how I would have reacted. I am glad you shared what happened because I learned some things. I am grateful that you and your daughter are alright.

Peggy Payne said...

So glad you're both okay. I love the put-the-camera-down instruction. Funny -- but I tend to think that the picture-shooting note-taking parts of ourselves can really help to de-fuse such a situation.

I did get to Ground Zero, still found a way to avoid the pain. Probably I should go again. I'm sorry about your husband's friend.

Laura said...

Oh Deb,
I am so grateful that all is well now. I can't imagine the world without you! What a scary event...and yes, teachable moment. You truly modeled clear headedness in an emergency for AD3 and for all of us as well.


(I think I would have been composing a blog entry as away to stay calm too, in between prayers and meditation...and my girls would have been all "MOM put the camera down!" as well. Life is art...blogging is art. What can you do? You have to document.

Anonymous said...

Oh, my!! I held my breathe almost the whole time I was reading this. I am so thankful you were able to get the car stopped and you and your sweet daughter are safe. Bless the man who changed your tire.

Thank you, for checking on me. I have not been feeling well but am doing better now. Just have not been in the mood to do much of late.

I will remember this post for a very long time and I thank God you are okay.

Hugs, dear, sweet friend.

Sabi Sunshine said...

Hello Deb,

Finally I am here and over with my exam haahaha! What a story i really love the part "It's not always what we say, but what we do" i agree with you... sometimes it's always a better to do rather thn saying things.

How are you doing?


Teresa - in the Middle Side of Life said...

Thanks for visiting my blog and leaving such a kind comment!

Wow - this was a very scary incident and a great teachable moment. Sometimes we handle teachable moments very well and other times, maybe not so well (speaking of myself here - LOL). Your daughter is right - you did very, very well.

Catherine said...

Goodness ~ four girls and all those lovely animals! I am thinking you are one busy woman! :)

xo Catherine

Laura said...

Thinking of you:)

Neil and Susan Brown said...

Oh Debra!!! I really think you are a mom with five angels! You had one looking over your shoulder that day! Great photo's of Andy and beautifully written. You handled it all incredibly well! I especially loved the life lesson involved. So happy that you are safe! Susan :)

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