Black & White

Black and White. Beginning and End. Action and Reaction… When you do something- there is recourse. A couple weeks ago, something happened that caught me off guard and taught me a lesson. Never take anything for granted. Don’t think you can do tomorrow what you’re too lazy to do today. I live in a small- tight knit community. Everyone in my neighborhood- practically every house live the parents and nearby live their children. Case in point- I live in my grandparents’ house (where my father was raised) that was next door to my parent’s house, and next to me my brother built his home and started his family. I grew up babysitting all the kids on this block. Now, we’re all adults- mostly have children of their own.

As a kid- I grew up playing with my friend Becky. She lived in the farmhouse kitty corner to my house, a quick walk across the cornfields back then. We played together all the time. We grew up playing in the woods behind our houses. We went to each other’s birthday parties. Her parents were best of friends with my parents. Almost inseparable we were- until junior high. She fell into the cool kids- the bullies. I was the butt of their jokes. “Shelly Belly is fat and full of jelly…” she and her friends taunted. Over and over. Hence- why I hate the nickname Shelly, and very few can call me that to this day- basically just my mom. High school came and we settled issues. I was still in the unpopular, yet popular crowd. I had friends that spanned the farmers, the jocks, the preps, the pretty girls… I was the head of the reject clan. My own band of mostly “brothers”, as when I was in school the term and group “Geeks” wasn’t popular. I had the not enough farmers, the not pretty enough girls, the not athletic enough jocks, the computer guys, and the shy folks no one wanted to hang with. We were a big group, but as high school goes- you fit in where you fit in. Becky and I didn’t hang out, but talked.

Post high school, each went their separate ways but eventually- she married and moved back into the neighborhood with her husband where they started a family just down the road from me. Not even half a mile away. Not even a mile away from her parent’s house, or his sister’s and brother’s homes. We all find our way home, don’t we?

Sunday night a couple weeks ago… I was home. I had just finished cleaning up the house (my method of de-stressing from work), waiting for Hubby to come home from his shift. I heard a pair of really loud cars go past the house, silently cursing jackasses with trucks too loud all too frequent on our road. It’s long, flat mostly, with no curves. Then Hubby pulled into the driveway. I went out to help grab groceries he was bringing home for dinner. When we came back into the house- the fire department’s tones were dropping on the scanner in the kitchen. Pedestrian hit by car, caller is refusing CPR at this time. I looked at Hubby, eyes pleading. “You’ll have help in 30 seconds. You’re 30 seconds from the scene… Go! Please!” He shrugged his shoulders, grabbed a set of gloves (yes, we have boxes of them here) and off he went. Seconds later more fire trucks flew past with lights and sirens going. 

Then it hit me. There are only two people that walk our road around sunset… Becky and the old guy that always has a cigarette hanging from his lips walking his fuzzy football sized dog. Oh god no… It crept in- that gut feeling of fear mixed with sadness. Either way- we knew who it was. And it was those loud ass cars that raced past who hit them. Had to be. A firefighter arrived on scene and said over the radio “per medic onscene- 10-79.” I’ve been around this my entire life. The codes used for different things. I grew up with fire fighters and paramedics as friends. “10-4” understood. “10-3” please repeat. “10-7” on scene “10-8” Clear of the scene. “10-20” What is you’re location? “10-100” Bathroom break requested. “10-79” Medical examiner. Medical examiner. My husband just did one of the hardest things he could do and that was to look at a patient and realize there was nothing he could do or could have done. He felt for a pulse with his fingers and there wasn’t anything. There was such trauma to the victim death was obvious… That gut feeling grew stronger. I turned off the scanner, turned on some music, and broke out my sketch book- trying to distract myself from images in my head, the sounds of fire trucks slowed down but still rumbling by. Traffic being detoured to my section of the road. I tried to ignore the glittering flashers creeping into my kitchen window once it got dark of the police car blocking off the intersection 500 feet from my driveway. Hours passed before the sound of Hubby’s work truck pulled into the driveway.

The look on his face said everything I didn’t want to know when he met me in the middle of the sidewalk. It was Becky. He said he left just as the paramedics finished cleaning her up enough and were bringing her husband up to see her. He couldn’t watch it. He wanted to come home. Becky and her husband have three little ones, I think age 7 and below. The youngest, 20 months. A beautiful redheaded little girl. I cried. Like lost my mind cried sitting in the middle of the kitchen floor, like the night my dad came over and told me Gramma had passed. The loud cars that went past the house were two teenagers racing on our road. One went to pass the other in the glaring light before sunset and hit her as she walked on the shoulder of the road. Hubby assured me she didn’t feel it- didn’t see it. I was sad and furious. Cursing the ridiculous little bastards that did this. That killed the mother of three small children who probably kissed them goodbye and said see you in a bit as she left for her evening walk.

Action- Reaction. Because two stupid teenagers thought they could break the rules, break the laws- a woman was killed. A family ripped apart. I want those boys to see her every time they close their eyes. I want them to drive down our road and remember what they did. I want her to haunt their every waking thought. I want them to never sleep again. I want them to look at those children and tell them why she is dead and will never see them grow up. 

I spent time with the family the morning after. I delivered flowers to the spot on the shoulder of the road. I heard details about what happened from the all too eager redneck squad of neighbors whose houses it happened in front of- details I thank god my Hubby spared me the night before. Details that at any other time and place, I would be used to hearing in the “war stories”, but this time it was different. It was enough for me to utter the words- “I can’t handle being a medics wife right now…” Becky was beautiful- fawn colored hair in naturally perfect spirals and wearing a full face of flawless make-up even for her early morning jogs, or sunset walks… Something one of the neighbors said that still echoes in my head- wakes me up ringing in my ears from nightmares “She was so pretty… That’s what everyone used to say… She wasn’t when we saw her…” We attended the open casket funeral visitation, cried, cried harder when we saw the pair of running shoes at the casket, and went through the numb motions of the tragedy. The following Sunday Hubby went with my brother to the Critical Incident Scene Debrief (what is said and happens there is meant as therapy for those involved. What happens or is said their, stays there).

There is still the investigation spray paint marks on the pavement. The flowers and letters are gone from the shoulder. I am still angry. But I am reflective. It’s still the talk around here. At work at least once a day someone brings it up as a juicy bit of conversation with the cashier, usually me. I lock up and get cold. Ignoring everything they say, unless I am pushed. Pushed if I am dumb enough to acknowledge the tragedy as having grown up with her. The beg for details about what happened and I blow them off, as I cannot tell them in how many ways I’d like them to f**k off. It’s a scar now. Like 9-11. Still super fresh and sensitive to the touch, but it’s a scar that reminds me life is too short. I make sure I am wide awake enough to tell Hubby how much I love him and for him to be safe when he leaves for work. It scares me to leave for work if he is home on a day off. I silently pray he will be there when I get home. I pray I will make it home. I take the small things more importantly now. I take an extra five minutes to lay on the kitchen floor and play with the purring cats. I stay in bed an extra ten minutes, knowing I will be late, to cuddle Sienna a little longer. I turn off my alarm and cuddle up with my snoring Hubby, just to be near him a little longer. I look both ways before going to check the my mailbox, usually waiting until that car half a mile away goes by before setting foot on the concrete.

Black and white. Life is black and white. There is a beginning and an end. As much as our beliefs want to tell us there is something beyond the end- the fact still remains- it ends. And we don’t get to pick when. There is always something more to say, something you want to do. So do it. Say everything you need to say and don’t hold anything back, because you don’t know when it’ll happen. You don’t know when the final curtain will drop.

Stop and take time to appreciate the small things. Take a picture of that awesome sunset. Call your mom and tell her you love her. Enjoy that chilly fall air... Slow down and see everything, do everything...

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