a real-life adventure
Read Part XVII here.
Now available in ebook format!
During the next six weeks, I learned not only how to roll in and out of bed, stifle sneezes, wait for doors to be opened for me, delegate grocery shopping and sit without doing anything at all, I also mastered the metro mass transportation maze. I learned how to get just about anywhere in Denver via RTD. My kids argued RTD doesn't stand for Regional Transportation District, but Ride Through Denver.
Of course, even buses were a challenge. Three steps up, three steps down. Uncomfortable seats, when seats were available. Railroad tracks. Oh, the railroad tracks! Pain rumbled through my back and ribcage like lingering canyon thunder every time a bus jerked to a stop or traversed a bump. Railroad tracks were downright demoralizing, like a super-sized, premium, obstacle course extreme. Waves of pain yearning to roll.
Railroad tracks aboard a bus were better than driving, nonetheless. I was convinced my kids would not survive another automobile ride with me. I could not be trusted with their lives.
Insurance negotiations ached on the other end. Ours would be a precedent-setting case that would tie up courts for seven years before all the dust settled. My insurance company, Louis' insurance company, the truck driver's insurance company and the insurance company covering his load duked it out in an effort to push the majority of responsibility on each other. Louis often got caught on the short end of the insurance stick, sometimes going without necessary services because the individual insurance providers didn't want to take the brunt of responsibility for his medical expenses. To validate 50% of one claim would in essence be admitting they were half-responsible for all of his claims, which were extensive. Here he was, the hero, and none of the four big-name companies wanted to carry their share of the burden. It didn't seem fair.
In a follow-up conversation with the investigating police officer, I learned the truck driver had been fired. That bit into my guilty conscience, too.
My kids' adoption and bonding therapist kept trying to convince me this was an accident; it wasn't a crime I'd intentionally thought out and carried out with exactness. I may have had difficulty swallowing my own innocence, but I had no problem whatsoever knowing with all my heart the truck driver was involved in an accident. Just the fact he left the road three times before hitting me demonstrated he was doing everything within his power to try to control his rig. What about his family? What about his future? How could he be cut off and shut out just like that, no mercy? I experienced recurring nightmares detailing my mind's impression of how that driver, whom I never got a chance to meet, must feel about Louis' predicament. How do you ever get past squishing a human being who was trying to help a damsel in distress?
My personality completely changed. Before the accident, I could never be found at home on a weekend. I'd shuttle the kids up to Rocky Mountain National Park or Mount Evans for sunrise every Saturday morning, or we'd take bike rides in new places throughout the metro area. Long weekends would find us in Moab or Salt Lake City. Lake Powell or in a tent somewhere along the West Slope. Garden of the Gods or Horsetooth Reservoir. New Mexico or Washington State. We were not stay-home potatoes.
Now we took bike rides, once I could ride again, but we stayed on the South Platte bike path. I didn't have to drive us to the trailhead. It was easily accessible from our home.
Weekends were spent at home sewing, writing, walking to the local park or taking a bus to Water World. We walked to church on Sundays. We walked to the grocery store. If we wanted to go out to eat, we walked to Taco Bell, McDonald's or Wendy's because they were all close.
We didn't take any trips that summer, with the exception of fireworks in Estes Park on the fourth of July weekend. Someone in the singles group at church just happened to be going and asked if we'd like to ride along.
People kept asking me when I was going to buy another car. I couldn't bear the thought. Taz sometimes would hint that he would be in driver education in a couple of years, but I still couldn't picture myself behind the wheel of a car.
The day the adjuster contracted by my insurance company called to interview me, he was at the Corolla graveyard and attempting to locate my vehicle amongst a sea of 20 something vehicles that expired the same day as mine. Plain white four-door Corolla, blue cloth interior, probably smashed on at least three sides, smashed on the top, broken windshield, green and white Colorado plates DHH something something something.
"Oh, here it is," he finally said. Then there was a formidable pause.
"Oh... my... gosh!" I heard him gasp. "I can't believe you're alive! How did you survive this? You were in the front seat? There isn't room in the front seat for a human being! There isn't room in the front seat for a small child! You are incredibly lucky!"
This guy surveyed compacted vehicles for a living, and my car shocked him. His reaction was incomprehensible to me. How did I survive? How in the world did I not wind up part of the metal and glass?
Any vehicular appeal I may have felt immediately disintegrated as he described my car to me. At that point, I still needed to hitch a ride out to Castle Rock with someone who'd be willing to tolerate my blubbering so I could retrieve any personal items that might still be in the car. But after that particular conversation, I had no interest in seeing my dream car ever again. The romance was over. I could replace anything that still remained in the car. I no longer wanted to retrieve the case of CDs, the GameBoys, the first aid kit, the emergency blankets, the roadside emergency kit with jumper cables, the tripod, even the important papers in the dash. Getting in a car again seemed deadly enough. Getting in a car to see my car... that was just plain suicide. Besides, it might rain. Rain and roads no longer mixed for me. I was destined to become a wart on the doorstep of Denver, never to travel again.
But then the adjuster said something that triggered a change of heart.
"Looks like somebody left their pillow in what's left of the back seat," he said as he rifled through debris. I could hear the muffled sound of him rustling paper while he probably clutched his cell phone between his ear and shoulder. "Oh, no, I'm sorry, it’s not a pillow. It's a little quilt. Do you have a baby? Or was this a gift you planned to give to someone?"
"Quilt? My daughter's quilt is still in the car???" I breathlessly asked.
"Blue with white polar bears. Yep, it was neatly folded and wrapped in a plastic bag."
"Someone tried to put it on me while I was waiting for the ambulance, then it disappeared into thin air," I said in utter astonishment.
"Looks like they tried to protect it for you. They wrapped it up pretty darned good. I'll put it back in the bag and leave it at the front counter of the office so it will be safe. You're awfully lucky it's still in there. Looks like a box of CDs in here, too. Oh, and here are a couple of electronic games. Those must belong to your kids. If I were you, I'd get out here as soon as you can. Your vehicle is going to be crushed and shipped out by the end of the week."
Read Part XIX here.
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Copyright 2013 by Deborah and Brett Atkinson