Perspective Adjustment, or How We Lost Our Van

Having three kids is hard.

Actually, having two kids under 5, and an infant is hard. My daughters are now pretty easy to handle. When they’re obedient, they’re tons of fun. After the arrival of our new son though, it has been a struggle to keep the right perspective. Then something kinda crazy happened.

Three weeks ago, on memorial day, I was at a friend’s daughter’s third birthday party. They live in my neighborhood, but on a corner lot, at the elbow of a sharp curve.

We arrived at the party, fashionably late as usual, and made our way around to the back yard where there were kids enjoying kiddie pools and a couple of pet chickens roaming around in the yard. We were having a nice time visiting with friends when we heard a screech and a horrific crash.

In moments like that your heart is in your throat because you just don’t know what you’re about to see, what awfulness you’re about to encounter.

The men all rushed around the corner while pieces of glass, metal, and other debris rolled by. Then there was the shrill sound of a young woman in the car screaming for help. In moments like that your heart is in your throat because you just don’t know what you’re about to see, what awfulness you’re about to encounter. There was a black car flipped upside down where my friend’s Honda Pilot used to be, and my other friend’s Toyota Corolla had been knocked 180 degrees into a pole on the other side of the driveway. I immediately dialed 911 and gave all of the information we were quickly gathering. 1 person in the vehicle, a fire was burning in the engine, but was quickly being distinguished. She was trapped in the vehicle, suspended by her seat belt, I looked over and read off the street numbers, the closest intersection and everything else I knew to be pertinent information.

People quickly flooded the area and we had enough good samaritans to lift the car off the ground if we needed to. A man ran in his house and grabbed a sharp knife, cut the seat belt and freed the trapped teenager inside. They then worked together and lifted her out of the car. With the guidance of two paramedics on the scene (one of which was my friend whose daughter’s birthday was today), they laid the young woman on the ground and immediately took her vitals and checked for life threatening injuries. They found none.

This young woman, while scared to death, terrified and asking for her mother, was not seriously injured. No one was hurt.

We all breathed an enormous sigh of relief. It wasn’t until then that I looked over and noticed that the rear of her vehicle had caved in the gate and part of the roof of my van.

Oh well. No one was hurt.

All the wifes/mothers in the back yard hadn’t been in the midst of helping to distinguish the fire, help the girl out of the car, and looking on helplessly, instead they gathered their chicks and held them dearly. They thought about how very badly this could’ve gone, how everyone was alive, and ok, and how it could have been so much worse.

There could’ve been people in the front yard.

There could’ve been children in the front yard.

If it had been 10-20 minutes earlier, people could’ve been killed. The driver later reported to the police officer that she was going 80mph when she rounded the curve and crashed into our vehicles. It was likely that she survived the crash because she hit our cars, and not a tree. Her accelerator had stuck. The police officer verified that she had put the car in neutral and pulled the emergency break, which is why she spun out of control into my friend’s yard, and into our cars. At the speed she was going, no one would have been able to move out of the way if they had been in the front yard. She could’ve hit a tree instead of our cars. Trees don’t have suspension, trees don’t move, trees don’t dent and cave in like cars do. She could’ve died.

After our cars were towed away, we all figured out transportation to get home. All of us having kids didn’t make that easy, but again, no one was hurt, and we were all grateful for that, and figured insurance would take care of the car situation.

I spent the majority of the next day on the phone with various parties trying to sort out the situation, getting a rental etc. Geico was a disaster. For the first week they tried to pass the buck to Toyota, and told me they weren’t accepting liability. I called my insurance agency to file a claim under my collision coverage, only to find that the policy had been written in error, and my ’95 Volvo was the car with collision and my 2009 Grand Caravan only had comprehensive. So, that was frustrating. I spent the next two weeks waiting until finally Geico said that the driver’s insurance didn’t have enough in her property damage to cover all the expenses, which meant my insurance retroactively took over from the beginning. The third week was spent negotiating the total cost of the car, and settling to move forward and replace it.

After all of the frustration this situation caused, it’s all very minor considering everyone was ok, no one was hurt.

My wife and I spent some time the other day talking about how we wanted to slow down and just enjoy our kids, instead of always being so caught up in parenting them, and disciplining their behavior. Thinking of moments like we had at that birthday party, when we were so close to such an awful disaster, where so many things could’ve gone wrong, but didn’t. It makes you realize just how precious life is, and just how fast things can change.

Last year we had another incident that caused us to look at the world with renewed appreciation. I will say, I will take this situation over that one every time. In those moments when you realize just how fragile life is, material posessions don’t even rank. I remember so specifically when my daughter was comatose last year, when she was turning blue and staring off into space, how I would mortgage my house and give everything I owned to ensure her well-being … whatever it took.

The past 3 weeks have been incredibly frustrating. There are other things I won’t even waste my time explaining here that added to the difficulty…but in the end, it pales in comparison to worrying about the health and well-being of your children. What matters most is what lives in these four walls, and is transported by the vehicles we own, not the home, or vehicles themselves. And three weeks ago, we were fortunate enough to be clearly reminded of that.


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