Someone's Morning Cup of Coffee

The News Hour on PBS is airing a series this week called Autism Now. As part of that series, the great Robert MacNeil is sharing his grandson Nick's story, which is an important and moving glimpse into the life of a child and family living with autism. Please click here and watch the video; it will probably be the most valuable time you spend with a screen this week.

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On the way to my pediatrician's office yesterday, I had one of those moments where I realize how much I have to be thankful for. Actually, I had several of those moments.

Lola had a crazy, weird full body rash on Sunday evening, and that, combined with a handful of other symptoms, had us off to the docs to rule out strep throat. (It has since been ruled out.) I was stressed because we were running a little late. With no traffic, I can get to the pediatrician's office in about 25 minutes, and I left the house with only 20 minutes to spare.

I had to choose between the freeway or the backroads. I chose the freeway. I chose unwisely this time.

We ended up in three separate traffic jams, caused by three different accidents. One was fatal. The scene was gruesome and terrible and scary. The other two were not as bad, but still created a snarly, chaotic mess on the freeways.

Accidents in the Bay Area, especially bad ones like that first one, create an incredible ripple effect. The unending lines of bumper-to-bumper cars, across 5 lanes of traffic, puts me in mind of all the missed appointments, late arrivals, and changed plans caused by the crunch and crush of metal and steel. Thousands of people were no doubt using their cell phones to call with the same message: "Traffic is awful, I'll be there when I can..."

But at least one person got a very different kind of phone call. "There's been an accident..."

Whenever I see an accident, I think of the people involved, about how they didn't wake up this morning knowing that their lives were going to turn upside down. Someone's mother had her morning cup of coffee unaware that the taste of it would still be in her mouth when she received a call with the worst news imaginable.

I'll take the delay. I'm not sure I could take that phone call.

I was 30 minutes late to the doctor's office. We arrived whole, three laughing girls playing the "Pick One" game: Blue or green? Country of city? Beach or mountains? Apple pie or brownies? The endless game kept them giggling and bubbling for the entire crawl through broken glass, bent fenders, and emergency vehicles.

Finally past all the accidents, we passed the hillside again, the one I've written about twice before. According to the sea of white crosses thrust into the ground, the death toll in our wars with Iraq and Afghanistan -- the US military deaths only -- has reached 6003. The hillside is getting crowded; I wonder how many more deaths that space can hold. I wonder how many more our country can stomach. And I wonder how many more deaths are not reflected in that number: enemy combatants with mothers themselves, civilians, children.

My children have been sick like crazy this week. They've been sick, and demanding, and loud, and whiny. They've been throwing up, and coughing, and ripping away at strange rashes, and asking for tea in buckets. They have been fighting with each other, with me, and with their dad, and leaving ungodly messes everywhere they go.

They are wonderful and alive and here with me, making me work and stretch harder than I ever have, making me feel like screaming and running away 10 times a day, until I have occasion to want nothing more than to run straight into the messy, noisy, stressful, imperfect, impossible tornado that is my family.

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nicole said…
Well written.
The thought of running into the wild fray of family is a great word picture
Kerri said…
I saw that same fatal accident on Monday. It left me shaken for a few days after I heard the back story on the news (i won't go into details on a family blog). I, too, became grateful for my family and the little things in life we take for granted. It's too bad it took a family losing their father on I-80 for me to gain appreciation of what I have.

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