April 13, 2000

Life is fragile. We take it for granted.

We drive too fast. We talk on the phone while we drive (OK, definitely here in LA and I'm assuming on the rest of the planet as well). We drink too much. Smoke too much. Eat too much. Take unnecessary or foolhardy risks. We take chances.

Because everyone thinks, "oh it won't be me."

But sometimes it is you. Or someone you love very much.

The thing is, you never know when it's going to be your turn. There you are with your family, enjoying a tragically normal evening. Then it happens. It's not like you can prepare yourself.

You can't take precautions. That would be the first step on a very slippery slope. If you don't do one thing because it's remotely risky it gets ever easier not to do the next thing, and so on. And then the degree of riskiness becomes smaller and smaller and soon all you're doing is sitting on the couch and ordering pizza delivered because you're too scared to leave the house.

So last night we Atkins' were having a tragically normal evening. Dinner had been served and Chuck ran down the street to go pick up his new contact lenses. Normal right?

Chuck had been gone about 35 minutes when the phone rang. The man at the other end said, "I think I have your husband here." Weird. What was going on? I didn't think the worst. Frankly, I figured he'd left his checkbook home or something and the store manager was calling me so that I could come meet him.

Imagine my surprise when I hear Chuck's voice and he said, "Honey, I've been hit by a car." Those are words you don't really ever want to hear. I will admit I took some comfort in the fact that he was clearly well enough to call me and talk to me himself. It would have been like a million times worse if the call had come from some doctor or nurse from the emergency room. Worse yet would have been that knock on the door and a police officer standing there waiting to give me the news.

He was at our corner. He said he was OK and that someone had already called 911.

I grabbed the car keys and Zoe. We got in the truck. I was the picture of calm on the outside. I was a huge ball of quivering jello on the inside.

We got to the corner in about 3 seconds. All I could see was a crowd of people and someone laying on the ground. OK, not someone. My husband. The man I love. At the same minute we arrived the paramedics, police, and fire trucks arrived.

I got Zoe out of the truck and carried her over to where Chuck was laying. Since he didn't look all mangled I figured it was OK for Zoe to see him. So she could know for herself that he was OK. When we left the house I hadn't told her what happened. I didn't know how bad it was. I didn't want to upset her unnecessarily.

The paramedics attended to my husband. I spoke briefly with the couple who'd driven by and seen him laying at the sidewalk. The wife had heard Chuck's cries for help. They turned around. They were the ones who called me. I thanked them. I talked to the neighbors. No one saw anything but three of them had called for help. I thanked them all.

The paramedics took Chuck to the hospital. The firemen and paramedics were absolutely the nicest and most helpful people. They were calm and reassuring. The on the scene assessment was that my husband was one lucky guy. They could see that Zoe was upset by the whole episode. They were calm and kind to her. One of the paramedics gave Zoe a little stuffed alien doll. She clutched it the rest of the night. She took it with her to school this morning.

I went home and got my purse and shoes for Zoe. I called my boss and told him I wouldn't be coming in to work today. We went to the hospital.

They made me fill out some paperwork in the waiting room. About a minute after I was done with that the attending physician came and got me. He took us to Chuck's room. Chuck was laying on a small bed in a small room. He looked a fair shade of green.

the color of my husband

Zoe and I stayed with him until about 10:00. Not much had happened treatment-wise yet. He was waiting to be x-rayed. They'd done nothing to address his other assorted wounds. His finger still needed to be stitched. His finger was scaring Zoe, understandably so. It resembled ground beef.

We'd called Chuck's mom from the ER. She wanted to meet us at the hospital. I told her I needed her at home more. She would meet me and Zoe at the house and stay there so I could go back to the hospital and stay with Chuck.

Zoe needed a lot of comforting and holding when we got home. She didn't really understand what happened. She was scared for her daddy, and looking at him, fairly covered on one side with road rash scared her. I held her. We read. We talked. I assured her that daddy was going to be OK.

I got back to the hospital shortly after 11. Chuck had had some x-rays by now and was waiting for the last round. His finger had been cleaned up somewhat, and stitched. He was OK. He was crotchety and funny all at the same time. In other words, he was himself.

We got home from our ordeal at around 12:15. I then went to the pharmacy to fill his prescription. When I got back home I found him making coffee for his mother. (Always the gracious host.)

My family made a huge withdrawal from the karmic bank last night.

He's beaten, battered, bruised, and pretty damned scabby. But he's OK. Had he been standing a scant six inches to the right of where he was when he got hit, this whole thing could have had a very different outcome. He's a lucky man. I feel lucky.

Until next time...