We had some early snow in October. Sometimes a little slush on the road is worse than a snowy accumulation, especially when you don’t have snow tires on the car yet. My commute home is on winding rural roads, and in spite of cautious driving, I skidded into the other lane while going up a hill. It was a small wobble, and there were no other cars around, but it brought back a memory.
Years ago, I was driving to the airport with my mother. She was making a last minute alteration to my raincoat sleeves while I negotiated the heavy traffic in the rain. I noticed a driver passing at an unsafe speed, but it wasn’t my concern – until a few seconds later when that driver, who turned out to be drunk, caused a multi-car accident. I have a vivid memory of lights reflecting off wet pavement and a long slow sliding into the car in front of me as I slammed on the brakes.
Our car had seat belts, but not shoulder straps. My head flew forward and hit the steering wheel. It broke my jaw, and instead of going to Europe for a summer study program, I went to the hospital, followed by a summer with my mouth wired shut. One thing I remember clearly is my mother saying over and and over again, “Why couldn’t it have been me? I wish it was me.” She didn’t pay attention to her own injuries, and only worried about me, although there was nothing she could do but wait and watch as police and ambulance arrived.
Recently, my adult daughter confided in me about a worrying health issue. I felt helpless and ineffective in response. There is nothing I can do but wait and watch. I pray in my own way, but I can’t save her from worry or pain. I can love and support in all kinds of ways, but as a mother, that doesn’t seem like enough. Why can’t it be me? Why can’t I take this on myself and save my child from harm? When I broke my jaw, my mother wished she had been driving. Perhaps she thought she could have stopped in time. More likely, she wished it was her jaw that was broken instead of mine.
When I skidded on that October slush, I was traveling slowly, so it was a short, harmless move, easily corrected. I wish I could do that for my children. I wish I could be in the driver’s seat for their lives, to protect from the unexpected, to deflect the uncontrollable, to save them from harm.