I’ve had a lot of time to think about what happened. After two plus days in bed one thing is certain, our bed isn’t that comfortable.
I wasn’t being over confident. If anything just relaxed. Happy to be out in the sunshine. The freedom of a night with other adults ahead of me. I took my usual path down to Queen. Side streets and through Monarch Park. One of my favourites. With its big, old trees and lush green grass. It reminded me the parks in London. I ride my brakes almost all the way down the hill, slowing cautiously before each stop sign. Waiting to turn left on Queen Street at a pedestrian crossing, a car let me out and I stuck close to the side of the road on the right, away from traffic and street car tracks. I went further down the street, crossing a couple of intersections, eyeing my left turn ahead of me. I looked back to indicate with my left arm out early enough to get safely into the flow of traffic. I easily crossed the first street car track and contemplated the next. Was my arm still out indicating my left turn up ahead at the light? I don’t remember. My front wheel got caught and I tried to pull out of the track saying ’NO NO NO, this isn’t happening, I can do this,’ and then in that split second I realized it IS happening and my cheek hit the pavement. Hard. My head was spinning as I caught a glimpse of the four people lifting me and my bike up and over to the curb. Out of on-coming traffic and allowing the traffic behind me to continue uninterrupted. There were no screeching halts. No soft or hard collisions.
Only later do I realize how awfully it all could have gone had one driver been looking down at their phone instead of the road. Or had those four pairs of legs — I couldn’t see past my helmet — not lifted me so easily and quickly out of further harms way. One thing was clear. It was Street Car Tracks: 1, Kara: 0.
I sat on a bench outside the Bubble Tea Cafe. Someone immediately brought me ice in one of those clear bags that I used to get iced tea on the street in Bangkok in. I hastily put it onto my cheek just as someone said I’d definitely need stitches there. On my cheek? I wondered. I couldn’t feel it but for the blood trickling into the napkin on the ice pack did I realise the extent of the injury over the throbbing from having greeted the pavement. I checked it a couple times to comprehend the reality. My head was still spinning. I knew what had happened and I started to get upset at myself. It hurt my face to cry so I squeezed my eyes tight. Two of the people who had lifted me up now had faces and we’re making sure someone was staying with me. A woman who had been driving had stopped to help and locked up my bike before moving on. The girl at the cafe sat next to me and also helped steady me. I fumbled with my phone after someone reached it out of my purse and called Ali. I hardly recall much but asking him to come get me. He hadn’t even driven since his own bike accident two weeks prior, so I wasn’t sure who would be coming to get me. We had friends over to help with bed time since Ali can’t lift the kids and I was going to be out for the evening. My big night out (a baby shower!) after carrying the load of taking care of the kids since Ali’s own cycling accident had taken a less than ideal turn (fractured vertebrae and rib).
*If you were turning 35 this week like you should be, I’d laugh about falling off bikes and getting stitches in our faces with you. And it would feel good. I’d remind you about the time you came walking up the driveway with a yellow glove on your hand attached to your forehead. Blood streaming down. Instead of picking up the neighbors trash that our dog had demolished you were jumping your bike. You’d flipped and landed on a rock. There were no helmets back then in the 80’s. You hit your head and it was gushing and you held it with a glove that had been picking up trash. I think we laughed at the incredulousness of the situation later. Did you get stitches? Probably. For story’s sake I’m going to say yes. So I can pretend that we are laughing at ourselves now for falling off our bikes and getting stitches in our faces except that I’m 39, not 9. Maybe it’s too soon to joke but with you in my heart, I can*.
When you lose your brother that you knew for your entire childhood — after all he was born the year my memories started — it’s difficult to accept having lived so long without him. I’m living in a third lifetime already, the second without him. The first was my adventure days in my twenties and now I suppose it’s my parent days. He will always have my childhood days. So perhaps I’m lucky to connect with him in spirit now over a bike accident even though it’s been twenty years since he’s been here. *Thank you for sending your angels to lift me up off that street and out of harms way. To keep me conscious and awake and help the nausea pass. To keep the stitches to a minimum and add a little glue. No fractures. Only a mild concussion*.
The fire men came first and then the paramedics. I forgot I was 39 for a moment and answered 38. As I sat there rocking, trying to focus, the woman at the Bubble Tea place put her arm around me, steadying me. I was afraid. My eyelids were heavy and I wanted to vomit. What if I passed out in the car on the way to the hospital with Ali at the wheel? I had her call Ali back to see when he would arrive. It was taking him so long. Then I had her call 911 because I was afraid. The fear creeps in slowly but rises fast.
The firemen checked me over while waiting for the ambulance and then Ali arrived. The Bubble Tea woman got me some water to sip on and stepped to the side. The kindness of strangers is really something to remember when you feel like humanity is failing in other departments. The firemen joked about me staying on trails after this, no more roads with street car tracks. It hurt my face to smile but I wanted to. They helped Ali put my bike into the back of our car while I ambled onto the ambulance. The paramedics told me we’d have to go to a hospital downtown and I explained to them the need to go to the one which is just a block from our home. They said they’d try…I explained to them the necessity including my injured husband, our disabled son, toddler daughter, and lack of family (though plety of great friends that slide right into that space that family usually occupies when you are in need). I later found out one of the paramedics also has a son with a disability and she fought to get me to the hospital near our home and that’s where we went. I remember a time when I believed that people were connected and that certain people came in and out of your lives for a reason and somewhere along the path of time I lost that belief and it was slowly trickling back on this day.
I sat propped up on the bed in the back of the ambulance, covered in an orange sheet and strapped in carefully with gauze on my leg. Road rash. Still my biggest pain was the headache accomanied by my fall, which would later be replaced by the needle shooting numbing solution into my cheek to ready for stitches. But as mentioned, that came later. Now we moved in slow motion. There were no sirens. I was not an emergency. I was just afraid. Injured, yes, but mildly. These coupled warranted me a ride to the hopsital just in case I might pass out. Which thankfully, I did not. As we jostled over the bumps I looked out the back window of the ambulance and saw Ali behind us.
I wondered if he could see me. I wondered if he tried. And I wondered what it was like for him to follow his wife in an ambulance. When he got into his accident, there were sirens. And he had wanted to call me to tell me what happened but the paramedics wouldn’t allow it because it might frighten me. It most certainly would have. My brother took an ambulance after he drowned. I know only because we had a very large ambulance bill to pay. We were also told that he had been air lifted to the hospital so perhaps a combination of the two. I digress. His bill was either in the hundreds or the thousands. I can’t recall clearly enough but I know that it was a lot and that someone else paid for it after he died. Ours? Each separately we received a bill for $45.
There is a memory for everything.
The hospital. We have gone to the ER for Sebastian plenty of times and regular hospitals are just not the same as children’s hospitals. Somehow they are not as scary. I’ll spare the details of the face x-rays (no fractures!) and shots for the stitches and even the stitches themselves. The most heartbreaking part was a little girl next to us with her dad who had broken a bone and she wasn’t in any pain but she was terribly frightened. And it was hard for her dad to ease her anxieties because he wanted her to be tough and to be brave and she felt neither of those things at that moment and she just wanted someone to reckognise that. When she wailed I heard Tallula in my heart and I’m not sure whether my tears were for the pain where the anesthetic didn’t work while I was getting my stitches (3 turned to 2 with a little glue on the side) or the pain of listening to that little girl and her fear she was so easily able to express.
I heard someone calling my name from around the corner, behind the curtain separating each of the ER patients being processed, or taken care of. I didn’t believe they were calling for me until their heads poked around the corner and smiled. It was the paramedics that had brought me it. They’d returned on another call and wanted to check on me. After a thumbs up for the stitches and recommendation for the Polysporin with lidocane, they were on their way. The night before they’d been the unit to respond to a shooting of a 10 year old boy in a neighbourhood not too far from our own. Their stories will always outdo my own.
Recovering from a concussion is hard work when you are used to working hard. Laying in silence in the dark and sleeping only when the Tylenol kicks in to minimize the excruciating headache there is so much time to think. I could hear muffled voices downstairs and I wondered if everything was going according to the way things should go and then I had to learn to let that all go and just trust that it would GO. Which is really the important thing anyways, right? Kids fed, watered, bathed, and entertained?
The irony of a bike injury so close to my brother’s birthday was not lost on me. Getting stitches out on his birthday? I usually try to do something special on his birthday. Like buy flowers. Eat cake. Go to a cafe or the beach or a nature walk. Today? Got stitches removed. It took me 30 years to catch up to the things Josh was doing as a kid. I wanted to embrace the feeling of stitches in my face equating with the fact that I am out there. I am living my life. No fear. But seriously? I’m a stay at home mom who did a lot more risky things in my twenties who must have serious angels about her because I could have had plently more mishaps along the way than the one I experienced last weekend. My kids are proof that I am living. I don’t need some stitches to prove it!
Five days later I was at a follow up appointment with our family doctor. The nurse shouted on her way out of the room, after passing me off to another nurse to remove my stitches, ‘You are alive! That’s a good thing.’ My brother would have been 35 this week. I would have called him up and told him about my accident. He would have teased me but his voice would have been full of love because that’s how Josh was. Full of love. But a joker. And that’s him. Forever 15.
Sometimes you fall off your bike and you just have to climb back on. I’m working on it. (I think Ali is too.) And that’s ok.
*I had my bike accident one week ago Saturday.