Having escaped an accident that could have easily resulted in my death not once, but twice, in my life, I’ve always felt a bit of an affinity for this saying.
These events were but two small moments in my life and I honestly don’t pay them too much mind these days. The second event gets more of a showing than the first but it alone was almost 23 years ago now. That’s quite a ways in the past.
But both of them were serious and both of them were car accidents.
For the first one I was 5 years old and crossing the road on Good Friday. We had a little store right across from our house and my mum gave me 4c to go and get a lolly for my brother and me; a reward for playing so well that morning.
I remember buying the lollies (sherbies) and the shop owner asking me if I needed to be walked back across the road. I said no and went on my merry way with my head down reading the lolly wrapper. Always a good way to cross a road.
The next thing I knew I was on the ground and my dad was asking me if I could wiggle my fingers and toes. I won’t bore you with all the gory details on this except to say that I was very lucky. I had grazes all the way down the side of my face which eventually healed without scarring. The antenna on the car had gone deep into my back right next to my spine and thankfully caused no damage. And I had a broken toe. All good. In the end it was Easter in hospital and lots of extra chocolate.
Talk about LUCKY.
Take 2 was a bit more full on than that. For take two I was a 14 year old rebellious little thing. I had a 17 year old boyfriend with a licence and I was forbidden from ever getting into his car. As it happens, 14 year old rebellious things don’t listen well to instructions that involve the word “forbidden”.
We had the accident one afternoon on the way home from school. It was me, my best friend and our respective boyfriends. My best friend dated my boyfriend’s best friend of course. That’s how you do things in Year 9. So there were 4 of us in the car: the 2 boys in the front and us 2 girls in the back. I was on the left hand side (which is still my favourite side – WEIRD).
Anyway, I still, to this day, don’t really know what happened. We were heading down a street with lots of dips in it and the car was quite probably going too fast. I got that sick feeling in my stomach, the kind you get when on a roller coaster. I leaned forward and asked my boyfriend “What’s happening?”. And that was it.
The next thing I remember it seemed like everyone was getting out of the car and I was freaking out as I thought it was going to blow up. In my haste I shuffled to the other side of the car and got out. I have no idea how I managed this as I had a broken back and serious internal injuries (ruptured bile duct that remained undiscovered for 1 week for those that know about such things).
All this took place on my brother’s birthday, poor kid. He was having his favourite dinner cooked by mum with some friends over to celebrate and there I was stealing the limelight and getting myself almost killed in the forbidden car. I’ve always felt bad about that.
It took me 6 months to recover from these injuries. For the first 3 months I wasn’t even allowed out of bed. They wanted to operate on my spine and put rods in but the internal injuries took precedence (can’t really live if the insides aren’t working properly) so instead they told me to stay flat and let my spine heal naturally.
It did. But not straight. It now protrudes from my back around the T12/L1 vertebrae (where my break was) which I am extremely self conscious about – I can’t wear a bikini or a tight fitted shirt without it being noticeable.
I found this particularly difficult as a teenager but have learnt to adapt with age. It is more prominent as a mother as you are quite simply bending over one hell of a lot more. I still find it difficult dating. You have to introduce someone to this something different about you and some people don’t cope too well. They see it as unattractive or a disability that will require their effort in old age. I know for a fact it has turned more than one man away. There is no point in dwelling on that though is there? Life is what it is.
And I can WALK. Walk! I broke my back pretty darn severely and I walk! My muscles were so wasted after 3 months in bed I had to learn how to all over again but I did it.
Not only do I walk but I run. And I go to the gym. And I get to lift and carry and hug my child. I don’t really have back pain very often, not the sort that needs medication at any rate. In short, there are many people in the world dealing with way worse than this for seemingly less reasons.
So this saying: there, but for the grace of God, go I.
It was brought home to me recently when I went to look at a house in an area I am interested in buying in. I was pretty sure this wasn’t the house for me but I wanted to go and have look to compare cost with inclusions and all that real estatety stuff.
The house was owned by a couple in maybe their late 40s. They have 3 grown kids. The father is a quadriplegic. His break is so high in his spine that he can’t even talk. He communicates using his eyes. The house was custom built to accommodate him so he wouldn’t have to go into a home after the accident. Respect.
When we arrived at the house I noticed two family photos on the wall, side by side. In one the father is a healthy young man, standing behind his family. The other is identical in style but the father is now in a wheelchair and the kids are a bit older. I think they were all still primary school aged when the accident took place. Still so young. My eyes welled with tears just seeing the story just two pictures told. They are welling now as I am writing this.
On inspection day the couple were siting out the back together while the inspections took place. Going out probably isn’t the easy option for them. The wife was sitting there by her husband’s side like she has done for all these years. We said a few hellos and oh my, I just wanted to hug her so hard and buy that damn house. I really did. That woman has stayed with her husband all these years and cared for him. Made him comfortable, given him a home and allowed him to watch his children grow up.
That is love right there. And the true meaning of “for better or worse”.
I can still see this man so vividly in my mind and have given him more than a passing thought over the last 2 weeks. Here is someone who has been trapped in his own mind for years and is probably eternally frustrated that he cannot hug his children, show love to his wife and indicate more than yes or no with this eyes. The thought of it all simply makes me catch my breath.
So with this in mind I now look at that ugly spine of mine and think fuck it, FUCK IT. That’s nothing. NOTHING. Because…
There, but for the Grace of god, go I.
I post Tuesdays and Thursdays so grab a wine and pop in and see what’s happening.
One more thing! Don’t forget that I am compiling stories from mama’s who, like me, had trouble bonding with their baby. I would be so grateful if you would share your story with me. I will keep your identity out of it so please don’t feel like you will be exposed by sharing. You can read more about it here.