Monday, January 12, 2009

Driving my own life

So I got one of those phone calls today.  A phone call from my son.  You know the kind of phone call I'm talking about, where the very fact of the call reveals a problem.  As soon as I saw his name on the screen of my cell-phone, I knew.  If you're as old as me, you remember the whole life we lived before not only cell phones but caller IDs, answering machines, texts, etc.  It's pretty phenomenal how much the world has changed during my children's lifetimes.  Anyway, J called to tell me he'd hit another car with his, right in the parking lot where he works.  He had about thirty seconds to tell me because he didn't want to be late.  Afterwards, I called the Beve to tell him, but had so little information Beve wondered why I'd bothered to call him at all. 

I've received car accident phone calls before.  Beve once T-boned a car a block away from his job, just about the first week we lived in that town.  He'd run a stop sign without knowing it, and an older woman was just then driving across his path.  Actually this is almost what J did today--T-boned a car, causing more damage to his own car--the flimsy little thing--than to the other.  The person J hit is a retired or off-duty cop (I told you I don't have the whole story!), and, because it was in a parking lot, no tickets were issued.  We've lived through that kind of thing before as well.

When E was a junior in high school, she was driving in a parking lot, and bent down to change a music CD, accidentally turning the wheel as she did.  Her wheel drove straight up a turned out wheel of a parked car, flipping E's car onto its back.  Ten miles an hour and she flips a car.  She would have to graduate from stunt-driving school to manage that feat again!  She called me, and had an oddly cheerful lilt in her voice, "Hi Mom, I flipped the car!"  She's always been a positive person, it's true, but that was ridiculous.  My blood pressure sky-rocketed as she told me, but she was fine.  After all, how much damage could she do to herself at ten milies an hour?  By the time I got there, a fire truck and a couple of police cars were already on the scene.  From inside a building, someone had seen what she'd done and called 911.  Then a tow truck came, flipped the car back over, and pulled it away forever.  It was obviously totalled, especially since the tow-er tipped it onto its only good side in order to right it on its wheels.  The process seemed wrong to me--why not tip it back the way it'd come so at least half of it would be fine?  But what do I know?  I sure liked that car, though.  Sigh.

Today, I was much calmer.  I didn't go racing to the scene.  Haven't seen the car yet, as a matter of fact.  I don't know if it's because he's older, or because I am, but I'm less apt to freak out now.  About most things my kids do.  When the youngest is 20, it's easier to sleep nights.  J, however, locked his key in the car in the midst of his adrenalin rush, then when he got his spare out of his wallet, he locked both the wallet and the spare key in the car as well.  So, even though I didn't freak out, it wasn't nearly as stress-free for him, obviously.  Then Beve took him another Toyota key, so he could drive home from work, but it turns out, that key was a spare to my car, not J's.  He had to leave his banged-up car and hitch a ride home with a friend.

Ah, the messes we make in life.  We all do it, don't we?  I've been responsible for a car accident before (right on I-5 near the Tacoma Dome, with 14 month old Stephanie in the car!), I understand the adrenalin, the stress, the worry.  And I've driven past accidents before as well.  Yes, I've pressed my face against the window of my car, slowed down to a crawl in order to stare at a crash site.  I've been the one to make the traffic bottle neck, or at least didn't keep that bottle neck from happening.  I wonder what it is that makes us want to witness the traumas of others?  Are we just curious?  Simply gawking so we'll have a great story to tell?  Gossips? 

When I see an accident, hear about a calamity on the news, something in me that thinks, "There but by the grace of God go I."  I know the messes that I'm capable of making.  Especially in a car, I know them.  Some folks are proud of what good drivers they are.  Not me.  I know I'm not a great driver.  I get caught up in conversation and my foot speeds up or slows down with the cadence of my words.  I get lost in a dream or a prayer, and the next thing I know I've slowed traffic because I'm going 50 on the freeway, or have missed my turn and try to make a run for it anyway.  I'm not so bad that your life would be in danger by riding with me, but not good enough that I'd be able to drive school bus for a living.  I've had a brush or two with near misses as a result.  I'm not happy to say this, but it's true.  There's just so much to think about, or talk about, and mundane things, like driving carefully, get lost in the shuffle.

Even as a metaphor, this is true: I'm not a very good driver of my own life.  I tend to make messes easily, hit things I wouldn't if I only looked where I was going.  In our insurance, there's a deductible we have to pay when we get into an accident.  In my life, I think there's something of a deductible as well.  There are natural consequences to whatever mess I make.  This doesn't mean that it's unfixable, that I can be made as good as new, but...but a rebuilt car isn't the same as a sparkling new one.  And I think this is true when I sin, when I try to drive my own life.  There's redemption, recovery, being made new again.  But wouldn't it be better--infinitely better--not to have made that mess?  Not to have T-boned that other person? Obviously.  And hopefully, the older I get, the less I try to drive my own life, therefore, the fewer crashes I have.  

It's a life-long lesson to learn, though, because I'm sin-trained to take the wheel of myself.  Giving up the key and getting into the passenger seat--that's the only way.  Do I sound like a broken record?

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