a real-life adventure
Read Part XVIII here.
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My own sense of urgency didn't need any deadlines. As soon as I hung up, I rolled out of my bed and hobbled over to the apartment of a friend who lived in the same apartment complex and asked if I could pay for a tank of gas in exchange for a ride to Castle Rock.
My kids had done pretty well after the accident. It may have helped that they didn't have to get in cars for anything we did. They had nightmares the first few nights, and the once-enchanting thunderstorms and associated lightning-chasing that accompanied nature's light shows now made them nervous and sometimes sleepless. But overall, they were much more resilient than me.
Except for the loss of Raz's blankie. I'd made matching quilts for both kids a Christmas or two before, and now Taz would take turns sharing his with his sister, but both kids were very attached to their quilts, thanks to Klondike and Snow. The twin polar bear cubs had been rejected by their mom and had nearly died, their miracle survival story capturing the hearts of every grade school child in the entire state. My kids heartily identified with every character who lost a parent — longneck dinosaur Littlefoot, killer whale Willy, cuddly white Klondike and Snow... These were their imaginary friends and daily proof Taz and Raz could survive, even though they'd each lost birth parents.
Raz, so named by my brother who enjoyed calling her Carrot Top because of the slight red tint of her thick mop of hair, cried at night when Taz didn't share his quilt. He slept on the floor of my bedroom when Raz got her turn with the remaining blanket. In those pre-eBay days, I called every material shop in Denver's chunky yellow pages in an effort to find more material — all I needed was two yards — but not even six inches could be found. My kids seemingly weren't the only schoolchildren in Denver to adopt proxy polar bear orphans.
Taz, so nicknamed after the Tasmanian Devil for personality traits I won't bother describing, would be starting middle school in the fall. Chances were his security blanket would soon go up for permanent adoption. I had hoped that in time, the issue would work itself out.
Instead, I found myself en route to Castle Rock and engaged in lively chatter with a Yugoslavian neighbor while his wife graciously babysat. Prior to my second car ride since the accident, I hesitated for several minutes before sticking my first foot inside. It took even longer to close the door once I'd managed to stuff my whole body inside. Think hokey pokey...
My chauffeur patiently waited and didn't even start the car until my labored breathing returned to normal. If my neighbor's accent had been any easier to understand, I might not have made the one-way 90-minute trip south. Predrag understood how uncomfortable I was, and he kept me verbally occupied the entire ride.
Laying eyes upon my redesigned car was like stepping into another dimension. It didn't look like my car. It didn't feel like my car. It was a complete stranger to me. A hostile one at that.
The first thing I noticed wasn't the shattered glass or the caved-in driver's side doors. The steering wheel nearly touched the seat. The seat was no longer denim blue but a repulsive, putrid shade of brownish red. The front door looked as if someone had tried to wrap the gearshift with it. The back door was in the trunk, and not because some good Samaritan had dismantled it and placed it inside. The trunk was as good as non-existent. The roof was in better shape than the front, rear and left sides of the car. The right side, where all three of us had exited, showed hardly any damage at all, if you stood at just the right angle.
The adjuster had been true to his word. All my electronic equipment, the quilt and other items had been taken to the office. Had I known that, I might have avoided reliving the accident yet one more time. I don't know that I needed to say goodbye to my car. I was already struggling with nightmares and flashbacks. Viewing the aftermath up close and personal could only make it worse. The only saving grace was finding two GameBoy cartridges and a shiny quarter on the floorboard of the backseat.
That night, both my kids slept, bundled in their polar bear blankets.
I didn't get in a car again after that day until the 4th of July. I cried on the way home on Independence Day. Thankfully, all the kids, mine and my chaperone's, were asleep. And I was in the backseat, in the dark, keeping my out-of-control emotions to myself.
The memories slowly became easier to repress and block out as summer waned into fall. Taz took up violin and joined the school orchestra. RTD could get me to work. School buses took care of my children's weekday transportation needs. But there were no workable options for extracurricular family activities. Unless I bummed a ride with another orchestra parent, I would not be able to attend Taz's concerts.
Because I wholly depended upon public transportation, I didn't know any of the other orchestra parents. I wasn't able to attend after-school activities and meetings, and I couldn't visit my kids' classes during the day.
Unless I expected to walk my kids to the middle school late at night, I was going to have to learn to drive again. I was going to have to buy another vehicle.
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Copyright 2013 by Deborah and Brett Atkinson