my day began at 6:15 a.m., with a black dog on the deck next door, covered with a blanket. and she was dead. though i have not quite ended this day literally, it ended for me with a phone call from an 82-year-old woman whom i didn't know until this morning, telling me she is all right.
my neighbor lost is beloved 13-year-old black lab last night. and because he is grieving, he could not bare to do anything but leave her, her head resting on her dog bed, a blanket covering her as if she had only gone to sleep.
i knew she was there, having said my peace to her as she lay, still warm. I rose this morning to walk my own dog, checking as i went out, and she was there. (she has since gone to her final resting place.)
i was late to work, which is fairly usual for me — (since i work for my church they are forgiving:) — having stopped for a minute to visit a friend... and so i was in a hurry, and as i rushed along the road, something struck me as odd.
a lincoln town car, just like my parents used to own, crammed into a utility pole.
weird place to leave your car, i thought as i passed, crammed into an utility pole like that (i am not entirely sure why i thought this).. then i saw them. an elderly couple inside the car. and no one else but me around. the car steaming, just a little.
i did a u-turn on what is usually a very busy street, thinking only: this could be my parents. as i approached, the man — the driver — dressed in a suit, opened the door to the car. i saw a woman in the passenger seat trying to dial her cell phone.
have you called 911? no, tried, to, but no. so i did. it took six rings. the utility pole was severed, held precariously by lines above our heads. the man and the woman sat, all of us unsure of what to do... they were not visibly injured.
at this point i have to remind everybody that i am the only person in my immediately family with NO medical training. i am grateful no one was bleeding.
more people came, helped them get out of the car as i talked to 911 dispatchers. moved them to safety.
this is a road i take every single day to work, and again on Sundays, to church.
a man stopped in the turn lane. rolled down his window: is anybody hurt? not that we could see. he got out of his car, wearing a neon vest: police chaplain. just happened to be passing by. God puts us where we need to be, he said.
i sat with the woman. her name was Gaynelle. she was from out of town, a small town i had heard of but have never visited, and she was headed with her brother to a funeral, just one street over from where they were. her brother was fine, then veered right, ran over a mail box, slammed into the pole. seemed to remember he had a coughing fit.
as we talked, i told her my name. she told me hers. where she was from.. which if you are from Eastern NC, which I am, is really the second thing you say to anyone you meet. the third thing is: what does your daddy do... we never got to that.
"it is so nice to meet you," she said.. and so as i said: so nice to meet you, too, but i wish the circumstances were different, i thought this lady has some salt. i was about to cry, and she was making introductions. she is 80, at least. trying to find a number on her cell. i thought of my own mother, my dad, who won't even turn on the cell phone when they are in the car.
help arrived. they were in safe hands, so i left after what seemed a very long time, but was probably only about 20 minutes from their hitting the pole.
i was unable, honestly, to concentrate on my work. with the glory of google and the nature of small towns in n.c., i plugged her first name into a box, and found where she lives, her phone number.
all day i wondered about her. i drove home, and six hours later, the nice people who work those utility poles were still trying to replace the one that broke in the crash. in late afternoon, i called, left a message.
20 minutes later she called. she was home. safe. she and her brother had been declared just fine, and the nice police chaplain had followed them to the church, where they made most of the funeral, went to the burial, came back and had lunch, and then made their way two hours south, with their nephew, driving them home. what? they crashed into a utility pole, totaled their car. yet made it to their appointed destination. and then some.
again: she will be 82 next month. she lives alone. i'll be fine, she said to me on the phone. it is amazing to find so many wonderful people in one place at the same time. everybody was just so nice.
well shouldn't everybody be?
i am not alone. and this day rattled me. all day i wanted to come home, take a rest. and she kept on with her day. i am sure you were scared, i said to her. well, yes, i was, she said. no inflection, no emotion just fact. yes it scared me. but we are fine.