31 January 2005

Single...With Children: Son's Car Wreck Reminder Of Priorities

Single with Children: Car wreck is reminder of what's important

By Susie Parker
Publication Date: 07/09/03

On a recent Friday, I had a couple of business appointments, but I ridiculously imagined I might actually get home before 6 o'clock. It was a very sunny, steamy late June afternoon, and the streets in the city where I live were clogged with more tourists than locals.

Of course I had my cell phone with me. It's an integral business tool, and it routinely rings upwards of 20-30 times a day. Most of the calls are of the five-minute variety, and none of them have ever made me stop in my tracks. At least none ever had until 5 p.m. June 27. That's when I got the "track stopping" call.

"Mom, I've been in an accident. I'm OK, but I think my car is totaled. Can you get here fast?" Every parent's worst nightmare. My 16-year-old was about three miles up the same road I was on.

I changed lanes in fast forward and realized I could hear my heart beating in my ears. Amazingly, I encountered only green lights and was at the scene of the accident within about five minutes.

There he was. Justin was pacing around what used to be his "dream car," having received it as a generous surprise gift from my parents May 6. It had carried him to school during those last few weeks; to the bowling alley countless times; to his first real job that he started just last week; and finally into the back of a truck with a bumper now locked underneath his.

This automotive object of his affection was a crumpled wreck. I quickly ascertained that everyone involved was fine. This was my primary concern, and I whispered a quick "thank you" to God as I tried to calm my son's nerves. What started as an accident could have ended in a tragedy in the blink of an eye. Mangled Mustang notwithstanding, I reminded my son that he had just experienced a miracle. Metal can be reshaped and replaced. Human life cannot.

My son also had the fortune of running into one of the nicest men in our town. Though he is in his mid-30's, it was clear he remembered what it was like to be my son's age and was much more concerned with Justin's emotional state than his own misshapen bumper. He couldn't have been kinder. Another blessing.

After the police arrived and the obligatory reports handled along with the exchange of insurance information, the tow truck arrived, and Justin emptied the car of his personal possessions. After shaking hands and thanking the man who also was involved in this incident, Justin and I drove toward home.

We learned that just 10 minutes after his accident, another one had occurred within two miles of where we were. Unfortunately one person involved lost so much more than a mere vehicle. She lost her life. This had a sobering effect on Justin and made both of us realize how truly blessed we had been on this 27th day of June.

I could tell that as much as he missed his car, Justin also understood how incredibly obscene it was to mourn the loss of a machine. That night we gave prayers of thanksgiving for the fact that no injuries occurred in his close call. We also sent up prayers for a family who now would have to grapple with the loss of a loved one that no insurance company can ever compensate for or replace.

Even though I wish this car accident had never happened, I see changes in Justin. A little bit of that 16-year-old invincibility has been eroded. He has talked about how he might feel a little fear when he gets behind the wheel of a car again.

Perhaps the most valuable lesson of all is the realization that life is a very fragile thing. We were both reminded of how important it is to see the blessings and miracles hidden in the most unlikely of places and situations.

Readers can e-mail Susie Parker at susiewrites@gmail.com or write to her c/o Amarillo Globe-News, Features Dept., P.O. Box 2091, Amarillo, TX 79166.

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