Wow! What a couple of months. Talk about getting stopped dead in my tracks. Thank you for your patience and messages of support. It meant so much to me. It was a tough time, but Gordon is doing really well now. My apologies for not really saying much while it was all going on. I find it hard to express myself until the thoughts have had time to settle and find their places. Maybe, it’s an introvert thing. But, boy, am I glad to be back online!!!!!
It’s odd how ordinary the morning was before the accident. Yet, it was an extraordinary time in our lives. Over old school bircher muesli and coffee, we discussed how we would like to move out of the city, so we could have space to expand our vegetable garden and chicken run. Oddly, the accident seemed to confirm all the whys of wanting to reduce the financial pressure and give ourselves more space to continue doing the work we love.
On the morning of the accident, I kissed Gordon goodbye and that delicious buzz of upcoming adventure passed between us. He kissed our two-year-old boy on the head and shouted goodbye to our big boy, who was in the bathroom. Gordon clicked on his bike helmet and his bike shoes clip-clopped down the path. Yes, it’s like the start of a horror film, where the (slightly annoying) happy family are singing in the car…
‘Good luck, daddy!’ Our big boy said as he burst out of the bathroom.
‘He’s gone, sweety. You missed him,’ I said. ‘He had to go.’
‘But I didn’t get to say good luck,’ he said and burst into tears.
‘You can say it to him tomorrow.’
We cuddled. We packed lunches, library books and bottles into bags and bundled out the door for their day at grandma’s house, so I could get some work done. We hopped in the car with an assortment of the usuals… ‘Please don’t lick the car.’ ‘Could you please hurry up and put your seat belt on.’ ‘Gah, why do I have to ask three times for you to put your seat belt on.’ ‘No, don’t stick the truck up your nose.’
The phone rang as I pulled into a parking spot.
‘Yes, honey,’ I said.
Gordon wailed in pain. Urgent voices. Cars. ‘I came off my bike,’ he said. More groaning. More voices. More cars.
My stomach turned. It was the window before my coping shutters clicked into place. I often wonder what feelings do behind those shutters. I like to think they play cards, calmly waiting for a chance to express themselves, but it’s more like puppy dogs trapped inside during a thunderstorm, frantically scratching at walls and throwing themselves at doors.
‘Has someone called an ambulance?’ I said.
‘Where are you?’
I threw the boys at grandma, muttering words about Gordon being in a bicycle accident, but didn’t stay for a response. Ran. Drove. Standstill traffic.
‘Why the fuck is there a traffic jam here?’
It dawned on me, my husband was causing this traffic jam. A gap appeared in my coping shutters and feelings launched at it. I lost my breath. Punched the car into a spot and ran across the park.
An ambulance. Some high-vis men waved traffic through. The lump in the middle of the road was mine. Another gap in the coping shutters and the feelings battered it. My husband. I ran faster.
I crouched down next to him and took a deep breath. Coping shutters locked in place with airtight seals. Don’t look at the blood. I put my hand on the red coat someone had covered him with and he looked up.
I smiled, ‘You’re going to be okay.’
Part wishful thinking, part mantra, part what-the-fuck-do-you-say.
He groaned as the paramedics and the police moved him into a neck brace and onto the stretcher. I took a deep breath, wincing with each groan.
‘Keep taking your big deep breaths.’ I said. It’s what I used to say to our boy when he was in hospital. It’s all I know how to say at times like these.
I picked up his backpack and walked over to the ambulance. I didn’t have the space in my brain to say thank you to the people at the scene who helped him. I hope they know. There were many: the council workers who stopped their work to direct traffic, the cyclists who collected Gordon’s bike and helmet, the drivers who stopped to help, the lady with the coat, the off-duty paramedic out walking her dog who stabilised him, the paramedics and the police. Thank you.
Most of all I thank the strength of my husband. His right arm took the brunt, as he hit the back of the car and launched through the back windscreen of the car. And because of this, there was no spinal damage, organ damage, internal bleeding or even a fracture. I thank the ER team for getting him stabilised, the plastic surgeons for the eight hours they spent picking out glass and carefully stitching his arm back together.
It was only two days later, once he was all bandaged up, our boys came in to the hospital to see him. They pulled on all the wrong things, sat in all the wrong places and filled the hospital room with joy and life.
It took about three days before I got mad, really mad. I was so cross. Angry at him. Angry it happened. Angry. Angry.
Gordon came home from hospital and some dark days followed, as he came off the pain killers and the reality of how our lives would look for the coming months settled in. My coping shutters disappeared and I discovered how ugly I can be in the face of adversity. I didn’t want to have to renovate a house, raise two boys and nurse a husband. I didn’t want to cope. This family has had enough trauma, I thought.
I had warned him not to ride on that road and how I hated that blind corner, but that’s exactly where the accident happened.
I wanted to be more compassionate, but I didn’t have it in me, so I left the compassion to others and I got on with the jobs at hand. Meanwhile, Roosevelt’s speech kept popping into my head and it is this I can thank for helping me find the compassion again. That, and spending lots of time walking on the beach…
I still disagree with taking unnecessary physical risks, but good ole Roosevelt might have a point…
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming.
Theodore Roosevelt at the Sorbonne in Paris, France on April 23, 1910