Yesterday, I was driving to the funeral home for calling hours for a relative of a relative. I was heading down west on West Tuscawrawas (West Tusc, if you want to sound like a local) and I glanced over to the eastbound lanes. I couldn't believe it when I saw a pick-up truck snag a pedestrian, throw him to the ground and continue driving. License plate number, I thought, and I quickly focused in on the truck's plates and tried to memorize the characters. I got the first two letters and all of the numbers on the plate.
My stomach turned over as I then saw next vehicle, a green minivan, honk and go around the downed man. I turned into the Mr. Hero parking lot and dashed inside. I needed to get paper and pencil to jot down the licnese before I forgot it. They were already on the phone to 911...
"A man just got hit by a car on Tusc in front of the Mr. Hero..."
And then she turned to me, "Was he dead?"
"No," I said, shivering. I had seen him moving as people began to gather around his injured body, half on the curb and half in the street.
She reported this to the ambulance as I finished writing down the license and description of the truck. I went back outside and pulled my car into a parking spot rather than leaving it in the middle of the parking lot. I got out and stood about 50 feet away from the poor guy; other samaratans were trying to keep him still until the ambulance arrived.
In the meantime, his friend from across the street came over. She was very upset to see him. He was crossing the street to buy her a pack of cigarettes. She was barefoot and distraught when she learned that the truck who hit him continued on it's merry way but she was somewhat relieved that I had grabbed most of the license plate number.
Once he was safely in the ambulance, the police arrived and an officer started questioning the witnesses. As is always the case, our stories differed. One lady had witnessed the hit and run from behind and couldn't swear it was the truck or the minivan that hit him. I defiinately saw the truck hit him, but I thought the truck had a cap and she said that it didn't have a cap, but was full of junk in the back. Neither of us could describe the driver. The officer gave us clip boards, pens and statements to complete and sign.
I stood on the sidewalk next to Tusc trying to capture everything I remembered. Once I paused to look down and think and I realized I was standing right where he had been struck. I saw a pool of blood and a bloody handprint on the street two feet away from me. I looked away, suddenly recalling the last time I had seen a pedestrian struck by a vehicle.
I finished my statement, handed it over to the officer in charge and he sent me on my way. To get another close look at our mortality and the fragility of life at a service for my cousin's husband's grandfather, Pap. Before I went into the funeral home, I paused to call Doc and tell him what happened and that once the calling hours were over, I was coming home and never leaving the house again.
Needless to say, this was not a typical Sunday for me. I am usually gathered around the tiki with the neighbors, while our kids gad about in the leaves and we enjoy the last warm days of autumn, standing in it's long light and shadows. But yesterday, I stepped on a rake, which knocked me on the head and let loose chaos in my mind and in my heart. I could barely continue without imagining the pedestrians near the road getting knocked about like rag dolls. I also couldn't get out of my mind the fact that the people attending the calling hours were more inclined to talk about their own problems rather than remember the dearly departed and his impact on their lives.
It made me think about my cousin, who's lost so many people in her life and how many Memory Boards she's had to put together over the years. I thought of how, even though she had a total hysterectomy three weeks ago, she still pulled on a dress and pantyhose and heels to show up for the family. And how she'd had to sit down (at my insistence), take some medicine and rest, since hugging aggravated her abdomen a great deal. I parked myself next to her, blocked the huggers, and shooed off anyone who looked like they might upset her in any way. I sat there for an hour and a half, observing, serving and trying not to concentrate on the violence I had recently witnessed, but being reminded when I'd happen to glance over at Pap's embalmed self.
When asked, I said, I was fine, never better. I listened to the family stories that trickled in, the detailing of other people's recent surgery, the pat offers of sympathy and respect. Finally, when the calling hours were over, Pap's siblings and cousins, all elderly, gathered around his open casket and knelt or stood to say the Lord's Prayer. It was moving if surreal, against the back drop of the casual others who stood around talking about the mundane.
It's unlocked something for me. I'm feeling the pain of the loss of those who have walked on and I don't think I've fully begun to deal with. Even for those who have been gone 15 years or more. Some of those folks were old and it was reasonable and not unexpected to see them pass. Others were too soon, too sudden. Still, I couldn't grieve. I would be sad for passing moments but I didn't feel the gulf of our separation. I'd dream about them and still feel connected.
But...I don't know...today they're all close and I'm missing them. And I want them here. I also want things I know I can't have, like seeing what my children would look like as little old ladies. But most of all, I want you to cross the street carefully and pass that message on. We take so much for granted, but there's so much random violence out there. Why take the chance and shave 2 minutes off your trip only to end up forever in a wheelchair? Think about it, won't you?