Thursday, March 18, 2010

Blessing: Counted

by Zinta Aistars

My son, the Timex watch man, hit head on by another car today, airbags deployed, walked away, keeps on ticking. Blessing: counted.

Quite a few blessings, actually. I'm not so very terrible at staying aware of my blessings, but admittedly, now and then, I get distracted from seeing them--head on. Which is about when airbags are deployed, a soft but simultaneously hard slap of a pillow in the face, so that I am that much more aware again. Wake up! Your babes are alive, and they are well, and with that fact snuggly in place, there is nothing you can't beat. Any good mother out there knows exactly what I mean. There is nothing else. Nothing else. Nothing. Not one thing.

No more dreaded call than when my phone rings at work, and I am many miles away from home, at least an hour's drive, to hear my son's cracking voice: "Mom. I've been in an accident."

Pause. I hold my breath, taking in those words, in split second examining his voice with instant replay in my brain to assess the damage, if any.

"You okay?"

"Yeah, yeah. The car..."

"Yes, but you..."

"I'm okay, Mom."

"Okay." I breathe. "Okay. So. What happened? Where are you?"

"Some ditz rushed a light. Trying to get her turn in. While I was still heading straight through the intersection."

"Is the ditz okay?"

"Yeah, I think so."

"Where are you?"

"Back of a cop car."

Pause. My son is not a blue uniform fan. He's never come up against a uniform he likes. Rebel runs in his blood, testing every rule, just in case it wasn't meant for him. The last few years have tamed him a bit, though. He's begun to accept that a few of those rules--a few, mind you--might be meant for him, too, and not all for the bad.

"What's going on? Paint me a picture. I'm leaving now, but it will take me an hour to get there." I am already turning off my work computer with my free hand, fishing for car keys in my top drawer.

"He's a nice guy."

"Excuse me? Who?"

"The cop."

"A nice guy," I test that.

"Yeah. He's writing it up now. Couple of witnesses. He's writing a ticket."

"For ditz or for you?"

"Ditz. Deemed it her fault. He's writing her a ticket. And called a tow truck for me. Said I could sit here and rest for a bit."

"I see." I breathe deeper. "And you're okay."

"I'm okay."

"Okay. And the car."

"Is totaled."

"Technically or truly?"

"Truly one ugly heap."

I flashback to early morning. My son had just walked in the door, come up the stairs where I was preparing for the work day, and cheerily started to tell me how one of his friends had spent the last ten hours of the night welding the rotor, or rather, melting it off his wheel. It had been so long in that 1989 Honda, driven hard, that sustained heat and pressure had welded it into place. When my son wanted to replace his brakes, he couldn't remove the old rotor. His friend worked and worked and managed to get it off, installing new brakes. The old car was looking better all the time. My son babied it like, well, his baby. Even though it was nearing 200,000 miles, it was still running smooth and easy. He loved his old wheels.

Ten hours work for naught. His brakes worked beautifully; hers did not. She was racing to get to whatever it was that was so very important to her that she tried to beat the light, and it was the gas pedal she was pressing, heck with the brakes.

But he was okay. He was okay, even if the old car, the one I drove for so many years and on so many fine road adventures, finally handing it over to him when I replaced it with a new Honda, was not.

One hour. I had to resist racing too fast. It was tempting. But finally I was back in town, and he was home, surrounded by a circle of friends, and the tow truck depositing the steaming ruin on the side drive. Perhaps some parts could be salvaged. One of my son's friends joked that all he had to do was find someone willing to trade front of car for back of car. My boy was already prying loose pieces of crunched metal, brake fluid was spilling into the soil, and the spiderwebbed windshield crunched and buckled. He turned the key and a billowing cloud of blue smoke swirled from the exhaust, but the engine worked fine.

"The engine," he grinned, "she's working fine."

All his friends huddled in to watch it turn, to listen to it hum. And I watched all of them. They had come to him within moments. When I was some 50 miles away, they were here, all of them, a colorful bunch, Ron, Chris, Molly, and they fussed over their pal and he depended on them. They were all there for each other. They were patting him on the back, bumping into him, rubbing his head, cracking jokes. He was laughing. Prying loose pieces of metal and cracking jokes back.

If there's one thing I have always admired and respected about my son, it's his ability to be a true friend, and in so doing, earn true friends. I knew he'd do anything for his best pals, because I'd seen him do it, again and again, taking the fall, getting up again, taking the fall as many times as needed to defend and stand in for a friend in need. I was pretty sure his friends would stand for him, too. He was a wealthy man.

I went inside my house to sit down for a while. Just sit. I sat. I just sat. For a long time.

My BlackBerry blinked a red light. A text message coming in. My daughter was sending message on the results of her two job interviews today. Like so many, she is looking for work. She'd been deputy campaign manager for a fine candidate in Evanston, Illinois. The candidate won the primaries, defeating four others, with no opponents to face her at the November elections. My daughter's work was done, and now she needed something new.

Text: "2 interviews, 2 call backs, in 1 day! Hurrah!"

Hurrah, indeed. Blessings counted and still counting. Two out of two of my babes doing just fine in one good day.

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