THESE WINDING ROADS
Originally posted on the website:
“Daddy, I hope that none of our friends come to our new house to visit at night and have an accident on these winding roads.”
“Yes, there have been many accidents on these roads and people have been killed. I myself had two accidents on this particular road when I was in high school.”
“Yeah, the first was in Pop’s car, an old 1967 Volkswagen. I was driving too fast in the rain and tried to go around that curve by the farm at 70 mph.”
“Wow! That’s crazy!”
“Yeah. I spun out and ended up off the road. Luckily, the car wasn’t damaged and I wasn’t hurt. I never told Pop about it until years later!”
“What was the other accident?”
“I was driving my own car. It snowed the night before, just a little. I went around that other bad curve there. I hit some snow on the side of the road and started to slide. Your aunt was with me. I said, ‘Hold on!’ We slid off the road and into the ditch. The force of it made me slide clear across the seat up against your aunt. I calmly said, ‘Hi. How ya doin’?’ She started to cry.”
“Wow. You’re lucky nothing serious happened in those accidents.
Such was our conversation on our way to the new house that my kids and I are moving into. It’s in the “country” near where I grew up. It’s “home.” In fact, when I was ten years old, I played football with other kids in the yard of the home in which we are moving. Funny how life goes around. I have so many memories of days spent in this area as a kid. I have a feeling the move will inspire me to write about many of those memories. We will be living across the road from where a childhood sweetheart of mine lived. Her name was Debbie. I was so in “love” with her when I was ten. I used to daydream about having a super cool, green colored Kawasaki dirt bike that I could come riding down the road on to whisk her away to do ten-year-old romantic things, like maybe hold hands and carve our initials into a tree. Ah… those were the days!
I was nine when my parents divorced. My mom and sister and I rented a small home, more like a tiny cabin, a mile down the road from where I will soon be living. I spent hours riding my sort of cool 10-speed bike around the winding roads there, sometimes nearly wiping out in the loose gravel as I tried to take turns too quickly. But I never crashed.
My son followed me to the new place in his car (my old car) last night. We unloaded several boxes I brought with me. We will be renting the house from one of my friends. He has given us permission to start moving our things in. My current landlords agreed to shorten my lease. So I will be moving by the end of March or sooner if they find a new tenant. The kids and I spent just a short time at the house last night, discussing how we were going to arrange the living room. We hadn’t eaten dinner yet. My daughter remembers that it was 9:16 when we left there. Instead of going back the way we came, I said, “Follow me. We’ll go the other way to the store to get something easy to make for dinner.” My daughter jumped in the car with me.
We were in a happy mood as we started down the road. Regina Spektor was playing on my iPod. The song was called “Flying.” The road was too winding for us to be flying. But our spirits were flying at the thought of living in our new place soon.
Within a few short moments, our light conversations abruptly changed to short statements of concern. As through the trees we saw speeding headlights approaching the turn ahead of us, we both knew that danger was rapidly approaching. It was apparent that the oncoming car was traveling too fast to manage the sharp curve. I said, “Hold on! Hold on!” I slowed down as quickly as I could and headed for the shoulder of the road. Unfortunately, that shoulder was narrow and bordered by a wooded bank. The other car came sliding around the curve sideways in our lane. Everything was happening in slow motion as I attempted to avoid the out of control maniac. But there was nowhere for me to go. “We’re going to hit! We’re going to hit!” At the very last second, when I knew there was nothing else I could do to avoid the accident, I covered my face with my arms and ducked my head.
Slam! Bang! His car smashed into the front of mine. The air bags in my car exploded into our faces. The first thing I saw when we stopped was the passenger air bag deflating before my daughter. The interior of the car was filled with a choking smoke. “Are you okay? Are you okay?” “Daddy, my face! My face hurts! Daddy!” “Something’s on fire! Roll your window down!” I can’t get my door open! The other car is in the way! “Are you okay in there? Are you okay too?” I have to back up. Shit! His car is rolling with mine! I have to back up! Someone’s knocking on the passenger door. I’ll unlock it. “Are you both okay in there?” It’s my son. “Take my phone. Call 911!” My door’s open now. Wait. Make sure it’s in neutral. Let the clutch out. Pull the emergency brake. Put the four way flashers on. Turn off the iPod. No sense letting the battery go dead.
The next thing I remember was running to my son’s car to turn on his flashers. He was tending to his sister. “Tell that other guy to turn his flashers on before another car comes and slams into us!” Some girl with a Russian accent stopped to see if we were okay. “Don’t let her move her neck! Tell her not to move her neck!” Then she got back in her car and left. Thanks. I guess.
A police officer came. An emergency squad member arrived. The ambulance was there. Then fire trucks. Another ambulance. People all over. The road was closed. “Who was driving this black car?” “Oh, that would be me.” “Are you okay sir?” “Yes, I feel fine. My daughter is hurt though.” “We’ll take care of her.” Give my story to the police. Give my story to a squad member. They’re putting there equipment all over my brand new car. “Oh man! I didn’t even have a scratch on it before this! I haven’t even had it for two months! Why the hell are you cutting my battery cables?? Fuck! My car!”
The trip to the hospital in the ambulance with my daughter was a dream. As we were pulling away I saw a car in the road that looked like mine. “Hey, there’s my son! What’s he doing here? Man, I think I’m going to throw up…” I think I was somewhat in shock. I don’t remember most of the ride to the hospital. Then I found myself giving all my information to a grumpy emergency room worker while my daughter was wheeled away for a CT scan. My hand was x-rayed. It was only a bruise. After what seemed like an eternity, we got word that my daughter’s scan was fine. We could go home.
What a thin line separates us from this life and the next! If I was only 50 yards further down the road… If I was distracted and didn’t notice the oncoming car as soon as I did… If the car didn’t have air bags… If I was speeding like I normally do… If… If… If… We may have “gone home” for good. It was that close. The fact that we avoided a head-on collision and all walked away with only minor bruises is something for which to be sincerely thankful. Possibly we were at the right spot at the right time to break the crash of a young, speeding high school boy who before that moment most likely thought that he was indestructible, very much like the high school boy who years before nearly wrecked his father’s Volkswagen on a similar risky curve a few miles back on the same road. All is well that ends well. Cars can be replaced. The same can’t be said for people.
Here are a few photos of both cars.