It’s early. I am not now and have never been a “morning person,” yet there are occasions when I must get up before the sun. My schedule this semester has me teaching on Mondays and Wednesdays at 7:30 a.m. On those days my alarm goes off at 4:30 and I am out of bed by 5:00. Today is Wednesday. It is 4:00 a.m. and I have been up for an hour. I don’t know why I awoke so early and so completely, but after about a half hour of trying to go back to sleep, I gave up. I am awake and that is that. Now what?
Coffee? For sure – I am on my second cup. Prepare for class? Sometimes I will get up earlier than usual to do that, but today I am already ready. Think too much? That’s a given – at 4:00 a.m. or 4:00 p.m. – it doesn’t matter, if I am awake I am thinking too much. But that should not necessarily be taken as a negative connotation, despite the “too much” qualification (or would that be a quantification? I digress). While I cannot say with any specificity what woke me up or why I am awake this early on this day, it is also true that today is one of those days that holds some significance. It didn’t happen yet, it would not until later in the afternoon, but one year ago today I got one of “those” calls every parent dreads.
“Those” calls come in different levels of severity, this one was up there, but it was not the worst case scenario. It is not the first such call I have received, either. This one involved my youngest son who was 29. The call came from an off-duty first responder who happened to be “first responding” when my son was cut off by some moron in a car turning left in front of him. Had my son been driving his Jeep, there would be very little to write about. He was not in his Jeep, he was on his Harley. The impact was violent and my son suffered major and potentially life-threatening injuries. Exactly one year ago from right now, no one had any idea that this day would be so pivotal.
When I got the call, I was driving my then girlfriend’s daughter home from school. I was told enough to realize the severity, but while the guy who called was honest enough, he did not indicate the actual extent of my kid’s injuries. He said something like, “He’s got a broken leg and a broken arm.” It turns out that my son’s broken leg was an open left femur fracture and an open tib/fib fracture, both likely occurred on impact. His broken arm was a nasty longitudinal fracture of his right humerus, likely occurring when he landed 25 or more feet from his bike. All required surgery and weeks of hospitalization followed by months of rehabilitation. But he did survive.
Ten months and a few days later, he was cleared to go back to work. He was not and is not 100 percent, but he is walking and able to care for himself completely. It was a long road back, but I never doubted his resolve. More importantly, he never did either. It is somewhat ironic that after I got the call and got home, I jumped on my bike to get to the hospital. I did not do that to make some sort of “motorcycle loyalty” statement. It was not in defiance towards every idiot, inattentive, cell phone using driver out there (and easily one third of y’all fit into that category – we who ride can see you, we can see into your cars as we ride by you – we can see what you’re doing and too often it ain’t driving). I rode because it was the fastest way to get through the traffic that the afternoon commute placed between me and my kid.
The nature of this day, a before and after kind of day, is probably not why I am awake so early. It’s not like it has been weighing on me; it’s not like I have seen this day coming and was tripping over its significance. Lots of things changed in my life and in his life since that day, some are a direct result of one moron who should not be driving and some are not. One of the few constants in life is change. If there is even a point to all this (and a point is certainly not a requirement), it is that no one is exempt from the inequities of living. My son was simply coming home from work. That’s it. He did not “have it coming,” he did not “deserve it,” it was not some kind of karmic retribution, it just happened. Furthermore, that idiot driving only had the legal minimum insurance coverage – nowhere near enough to compensate for his actions.
And life goes on. I am less than a month away from the completion of my 57th trip around the sun. That I have survived to see this day is amazing, maybe even unlikely, yet here I am. Shit happens, sometimes because of what we do or what we don’t do, and sometimes it just happens. It isn’t always “fair,” sometimes it is abjectly unfair, but it is upon us to deal with whatever it happens to be. I am still here. And so is he. His brothers, too, have had their share of incidents – defining moments, before and after moments – and they are still here. Life is not only not fair, it never has been and it isn’t supposed be. We will deal with it, how we deal with it is up to us.