There is something about a dark empty field in the middle of the night that just feels disquieting. And when a car sits in it with its hazard lights feebly blinking, that lets the panic monster shake the bars of the cage. Even worse is everything that assaults the mind after. I made it through though. I had a guy.
I should have been concerned when my phone rang at 10 pm and it was Harrison’s ringtone. I missed the call and stood by my phone waiting to see if he would leave me a voicemail. He didn’t. He called again right away. Even then, I didn’t fret. I said hello. Harrison told me that the brakes had failed on the Honda.
“Oh no,” I said casually, as I might say to someone who couldn’t find their keys. “I’m sorry.”
Then Harrison told me that he kind of went off the road.
“Oh,” I said, still not getting worried.
“And the airbags deployed,” Harrison said.
I paused for just a second.
“So,” I said. “You’ve had an accident.”
He didn’t want to actually use that word. Neither he nor Benjamin was hurt. I told him to call Triple A and explain to them that he needed a tow. I asked where he was and told him I would be right there.
Most phone calls at night mean the alarm is going off at church. When that happens I put on my long black coat and grab my flashlight. I didn’t this time. I headed right out the door. I was serious, not terribly worried, so I took the van instead of my truck. I don’t know how my seriousness meant taking the family van other than that I wanted the safest most reliable vehicle we had. This wasn’t to be a fun drive.
I left the house and drove down out of town and across the freeway to the road Harrison told me he was on. He said he would have his hazard lights flashing. At the end of a long straight stretch I saw black skid marks stretching across the centerline and leaving the road. My headlights fell on the car’s rear reflectors. The car was far off in a field. I crossed the road, flicked on the high beams and let them shine on where the car was. When I stepped out I saw the path the Honda had continued to make after it left the road. It had narrowly missed a guy anchor, which is the wire that comes down at an angle from a utility pole. The car had struck a dirt berm and continued for almost 100 feet. Weeds were pushed aside and there at the end of the cleared path was the little Honda Accord. The lights were blinking very dimly, as if the car’s life was ebbing away.
Harrison and Benjamin were both in good spirits, laughing and joking. Harrison was shocked into somberness when I showed him how close he had come to the guy anchor. His spirits sunk further when I told him that the car was probably a total loss. He told me that the brakes initially didn’t work and when he stomped the pedal they locked up. He had lost control and went in a straight path when the road curved.
I called Prajna and told her how things were. I didn’t say what a close call the boys had experienced. Harrison’s phone started giving him notifications from friends asking if he was okay. Prajna had been on Facebook.
The first tow truck to arrive couldn’t get close enough to the car for fear of sinking into the soft dirt. They called a lighter truck and hooked the winch up to it. The transmission wouldn’t get out of park and the wheels didn’t turn. They dragged the car backwards through the dirt and weeds, got it on the truck and towed it to our house. Right now the car is sitting where my truck sat for 10 months.
I was surprised that I fell right asleep that night. It was the next day that thoughts started scaring me. If they had hit the guy anchor it could have knocked the car sideways and they could have rolled. They could have hit the pole. They could have crossed the centerline right into the path on an oncoming vehicle. The brakes could have locked up farther down the road where there is a steep drop-off and the car could have plunged down into it and no-one would have known about it until the next day. The worst case scenarios got worse as I kept thinking about it all.
But nothing like that happened. Benjamin got a scrape on his face from the airbag that he wears like a badge of honor. The car, yes, it’s a total loss, and we’re sad about that. But for now, Harrison is driving the family van, and I have my truck to run to the store or go water at the community garden. We’ll manage. And we will of course continue to thank God for His watching over everything and keeping my boys safe.
It’s hard to sort out the feelings after an incident like this. The paralyzing fear of everything horrible that could have happened goes up against the fact that God it didn’t and I feel blessed.
My mind keeps going back to that vast field under the night sky. It was cold. The car was sitting where a car shouldn’t be with a path behind it. The path came just a few feet from the guy anchor. The guy wire stuck in my mind.
A guy anchor equalizes tension. A utility pole is stable enough to stand on its own. But if there is an unbalanced load or stress from high winds it keeps the pole upright. As the overhead wires pull one way, the guy wire is anchored to the ground and provides counter support. There is tension, but stability through careful engineering.
I did play out the sequences in my head of my sons being seriously hurt. I did what anyone might do and I wondered how I would handle it. I hope that I would be able to handle it reasonably well. Obviously I wouldn’t be cool as a cucumber, but I think I could function and not panic. And this is because I have a guy anchor. I have a network of support, a home church and friends who I know would be there for me. Of course I have God. But more than that, I have friends of God. And if and when I hit the kind of crisis that I might dread, I have them keep me from falling.
The car won’t stay in the yard long. I called the wrecking yard that sold me the differential for my truck, my truck that’s working again just at the right time. Things worked out okay this time. If they don’t next time, I have my guy anchor.