God helps those who help themselves, as goes the saying. But sometimes things happen, for good or for ill, that defy our understanding of cause and effect. They remind us that the best perspective on life is one of gratitude.
The stories below happened as described, I just changed people’s names.
We were going too fast. Jake drove, I rode shotgun, Jake’s brother Randy and his girlfriend were asleep in the back seat. We were heading up to Boston, Rt. 24 northbound. It was late evening, torrential rain, and all you could see was the red smear of the taillights ahead.
There was no prelude, the spin-out was instantaneous. As the car spun with zero apparent resistance over the layer of water I saw the headlights of oncoming cars, then nothing as the we spun away, then headlights again but much closer. I braced for my rib cage popping on impact (that’s what flashed through my head) and hoped that it doesn’t hurt too badly. Then white light flooded everything.
We are in the left lane, facing the wrong way, the engine stalled. No other cars around. Sheets of rainwater cascade down the windshield. Jake starts the engine, turns the car back north and chastened, we continue at a cautious speed with blinkers on. Randy and his girl are now awake and are asking what happened. Jake and I are in a state in which it is difficult to speak. He said: “I don’t know. The car hydroplaned and I was tapping the brake to get control of it.” “What about the other cars?” I asked, “they were right on us.” Jake says “I don’t know.”
My droogs and I storm a backyard trampoline. Randy (same one) jumps around erratically and lands next to me just as I was launching myself into a flip, causing me to lose control of my jump. Mid-air I twisted my torso and landed on my shoulders. Legs swung hard in a wrong direction and a lightning bolt shot down the backs of my legs. I crawled off the trampoline and stooped over, shuffled toward my car and sat there for about an hour, smoking one cigarette after another until the rhythmic pulses firing down from my lumbar vertebrae quieted down.
During that same time, my sister was spending a week at the beach with her boyfriend. When she came back, I asked her how it was. “Awful!” she said, “on the first day I was picking up a seashell and this pain just shot down my lower back. Keith had to carry me home and I was on the couch for the next bunch of days because I couldn’t walk!” Then I remembered my trampoline mishap and told her about it. When comparing notes, we were startled to discover that my incident and hers happened on the same day, and quite likely at the very same time. I believe that through some mechanism or agency she absorbed just enough of my trauma to keep me from injuring my spinal chord.
What a year. We’re either the world’s luckiest bastards, or God is with us.