Thursday, February 26, 2009

Dont Look Down When the Sun Comes Up

My youngest daughter and middle son just celebrated bdays. Her 15th and his 17th. I was just sitting here wondering how it came to be that they are that old? Wasnt it just yesterday they were running through the house half naked with coloring markers all over themselves and nice artwork left on the walls for Mommy to admire...and clean off? God how I miss their childhoods.

Anyhow, it got me to thinking about the past and suddenly a memory came up that I hadnt thought of in quite awhile. I realize looking back that its rather a miracle that the 3 of us are here.

See, one night, around 13 years ago, with a full bright moon and crispy snow on the ground...we nearly went into the black. Picture this...

Has anyone driven through Wyoming up into Montana during the winter? Its got to be some of the more treacherous driving there is...especially considering Montana doesnt have a speed limit on the open highways(at least they didnt 13 years ago...not sure about now). Put the lead down to your hearts content...just remember once your into Wyoming...better slow down. The highway patrol in the big square state dont take kindly to scraping speeders off the highway just over the border from Montana....anyhow....

I had been staying with my older sister for a few weeks down in Wyo (grew up there you know) and had to return to Montana on the spur of the moment (was living there at the time). I didnt really have time to prepare for the trip adequately being in a hurry (thats another story...the reason for the haste) and couldnt make arrangements for the two younger ones to be looked after so was forced to take them with me. I threw two laundry baskets of clean clothes in the car...some snacks and necessities for the kids and off I went. It was to be one of the most heart stopping nights of my lie.

I can no longer remember the highway numbers and road names etc (40 year old brain full of sand) so dont ask me exactly where I was when I took the wrong turn. Considering I had driven that route before a few times Im not even sure how I managed to make the wrong turn...but there it is...fate, destiny, the Hand of God...or maybe just two noisy kids in the back seat distracting me....whatever.

By this time it was around 11 pm and the night was cold and crispy with a beautiful full moon lighting up the road...which was becoming increasingly more narrow and headed upwards. It was about here that I realized things didnt look right so suspected I needed to turn around and retrace my steps...see where things went wrong. Well things were about to get much worse.

Im well aware that driving on snow is a dangerous activity at the best of times...but throw in unfamiliar territory, shaken nerves (reason for the trip), and the late hour...and its all you need to make a mistake. My mistake was to hit the brakes just a little too hard in order to slow down and turn around....I immediately went into a slide. I actually wasnt going that fast to begin with because I knew I was headed the wrong way so probably wasnt doing more then 30 at the time...but it was fast enough to put the car into a slide...and we were headed straight for the side of the road....that was pitch black.

The car did a complete turn and I had just enough time to think, Oh God!!! before slamming up against a snowbank...and came to a stop with the car tilted just awkwardly downward...with snow piled up against my drivers door. I nearly screamed at the prospect of the snow giving way and the car continuing its slide over the side...which, as I mentioned was pitch black. I couldnt see anything out my window except blackness. I couldnt see where the snow bank ended...if there were trees...if there was a ditch running along the road...nothing. The not knowing what was out there is a terrifying feeling ...believe me. Imagination going full throttle and all.

My heart was literally pounding out of my chest...I didnt dare to breath believing any sort of movement would start the car sliding again. I actually held my breath (without realizing it of course) until I nearly passed out...and had to let it go in an explosive release...which literally scared the shit out of me (dont believe me...just wait)...and I waited with breath held again to see if the car would stay put or not.

I dont really know how long I sat there without moving a single muscle...I was breathing in shallow breaths...trying not to even let my diaphragm be the deciding factor that tipped the scales in favour of gravity. I couldnt even reach out to put the car in park...the fact that it was still in drive terrified me and I slowly....ever so slowly, slid my foot away from the pedal believing I would accidentally hit the accelerator and that would be that. And I just sat mind utterly blank as to what to to save myself and my two small children...who were incidentally asleep in the back seat. To say that I was thankful for that small miracle is no lie...can you imagine if those two toddlers had been awake...there is no way I could have kept them from bouncing around in the car...the result of that too horrifying to contemplate....I prayed they would stay asleep...and for the ingenuity of Mcgyver to get us out of this danger. I was blank...and on the verge of a mental melt down.

Im thinking at least an hour passed before I got up the nerve to reach across and put the car in park. I did it so a expert bomb diffuser...sweat dripping and breath shallow. For some reason I felt safer with the car in park...dont ask my why..probably just because I felt like I had DID something. Action is always better than inaction you know. So then I sat there for another hour or so (I think...who knows).

It was then I noticed the gas gauge was nearly on empty. My God if the gas ran out it was going to be horribly cold in the car in no time...and I hadnt brought blankets etc thinking I wouldnt need them. Now I vacillated between plunging to our deaths (depending on the incline) or freezing to death in the car and nobody finding us till Spring. I hadnt seen a single car come by up to this point obviously.

Now, this is the somewhat funny part (its been a riot so far right)....I had to go to the bathroom...seriously. Remember earlier when I said I got the shit scared out of me...that was no lie folks...I very nearly shit my pants when faced with the prospect of going over the side of the road into the black...up till then I had ignored the fact that I seriously needed to defecate if I didnt want to add one more misery to my night by shitting in my pants. I know it sounds crazy now...but was a crazy night.

So I sat there for another good half hour wondering if there was anyway I could maneuver myself out of the car in order to relieve myself...and of course that could entail risking moving the car enough to jostle it loose from the snow bank. Not to mention Im not the most athletic person in the getting my ass across the seat to the passengers side and getting the door open seemed akin to climbing Mount Everest. Making that first move was torture...

Dont know how long it took me but I eventually got myself over there...with much pausing and holding of breath to see what the car was going to do about my recent clumsy held. Once I got myself situated by the passenger door...I contemplated the act of opening it...and disturbing the balance of the car...and then thought about hefting myself out of the car...and disturbing the balance some more. I know this all sounds bizarre now...but I was burning up some braincells thinking about all the "what ifs" (theres that damn game again). Heres a truly strange thought....what the hell would I do even if the car started going over? Both the kids were in the back seat asleep...the sheer speed and dexterity I would need to throw myself their door and drag them both out was something Im sure only Tom Cruise or Van Disel could manage with any hope of succeeding. In a bizarre way I felt as if I was protecting them by being in the car with them...but as soon as I got out of it they would be vulnerable didnt bear thinking about....but I seriously needed to GO. I eased myself out....

The car stayed put....I stood there for a few moments looking at them sleeping in the back seat...seriously considering taking them out to remove them from the danger of going over with the car....but it was freezing outside. Already my teeth were chattering and the cold was seeping into my feet through my shoes. At least in the car they were long as the gas held out. I left them and went to the back of the do my business and to try and determine just how deep in the shit we pun intended. Pulling your pants down in the middle of the night on a moon shined snowy road thats so quiet all you hear is the crunch of your shoes in the snow is truly lie. You still have the feeling someone is going to come along and catch you with your pants down...even though you feel like your completely alone in the world...and likely to stay that way. Eerily enough...I felt like hundreds of eyes were watching me...well it was the "wild" so who knows.

I checked the side of the car but it was completely black on that side...all I could see was the wonky angle of the car...and snow up to the door...nothing at all down the side of the road. I walked back to the passenger door and thought about getting back into a car that might likely plummet me to my death...but the fact that my two children were in there cast my hesitation away...I had no was too cold...and if they woke up I needed to keep them as still as possible. I eased back in...and sat there...for around 2 hours I believe...dont ask me what was going through my mind...I have no idea. Then the car turned off...the gas had run out.

In barely half an hour I was shaking with chattering teeth...shock no doubt contributing to my rapid decline...but amazingly the kids were still asleep and seemed to be warm enough...all cuddled up to each other.

I was seriously starting to wonder if anyone used this road other than ignorant white woman who headed out on the road with two toddlers without adequately preparing for the trip or paying attention to where she was going? By 6 am the sun was just starting to distinguish the day from the night. We had made it through the night...but how long until someone came down this road...and my God I was cold!!

It was about this time that I heard a truck coming and before long I could see its lights. We were saved!!! Yay us!!! Thank God. I carefully eased out of the car again and waited for my would be saviors to crest the hill...turns out that two early morning hunters had decided to take this road to a good hunting location...yes folks...somehow or another I had managed to get myself onto a little used hunting road...dont ask me how cause I dont know either. The men were peering at me out the window of their truck as if they had came across some new species of deer...I was momentarily warmed by the flush of embarrassment that shot through me....but was willing to look the fool just to get the children and myself the hell off that mountain. It was then the sun came up enough to get a good look at where we had spent the night...Turns out the snowbank was the only thing keeping my car from plunging off into a gorge that went straight down a good few hundred feet. Now I was really feeling warm...I guess thats what impending heart attacks do...warm ya up all nice and toasty...ya think?

I quickly got over my embarrassment and got the kids out with as much grace and composure as I could...they were just waking up...and were excited to find themselves in such a pretty place...and boy it was beautiful...any other day and I might actually enjoy taking in the view...not today!!!

The hunters actually asked very few questions all though Im sure they were a hell of a lot more curious then they let on...maybe they were use to finding lost mothers on the side of mountains precariously balanced over the edges of cliffs...I dont know...sounds like a regular hunting trip to me. They bundled us up in the truck...took us back down the mountain (yes I had manged to drive up a mountain...still...dont ask me how)...and located a tow truck to sort my car out.

So looking back...I realize what a lucky night that many things could have gone wrong (other than the obvious of getting lost) but it worked out...Im thinking that if I had been aware of just what was waiting for us in that dark abyss...I might not have stayed in the car...I would have freaked out and dragged the kids out no doubt...and who knows what would have happened then....but the dark hid the danger....and I stayed put in the warmth of the car...and Im still here...and the kids are still here...they dont even remember it of course...they were too young...but I certainly do.

So happy bday (belatedly) my daughter...Im so glad and thankful your both still here with me...and that Im still here for you. Love you.

Side note....thats one good reason to be happy there is no snow in Bahrain...could you imagine the driving here then?


Aafke said...

And this horror-story, this breathtaking scary nightmare, you sort of managed to sort of, FORGET about??????
You must lead a véry adventurous life....
Woeaaaa, was rivetted to my seat!

Chiara said...

It is amazing, isn't it, when male rescuers just know the circumstances when one shouldn't ask too many questions or engage in male ridicule?

On another note, if your youngest daughter and middle son are 15 and 17, respectively, does that mean your children are all rapidly reaching the age of majority (or at least the boys, given that girls remain "minors" forever)? And, is that good news or bad news in your battles with the ex?

Happy Birthday to both, anyway!

coolred38 said... not like I completely forgot about it...couldnt possibly forget....just hadnt thought about it in quite awhile.

"You must live a very adventurous life"...if you only knew. Some of the adventures I could certainly live with out.

Chiara...yup...those guys were just sitting there quiet as church mice. I wanted to laugh and tell them to lighten up...but I figured if I started laughing I wouldnt stop until I descended into

My fighting with the ex is not really about him wanting the kids...he doesnt want them as he cant even look at them in the face...his family have raised a stink just to "look good" for the community...dont want to appear to be complete shits and "not care" you know. Im fighting with him in court about not paying the child support...

btw theres still my nearly 11 year I still have some years to go before everyone has safely reached

Suroor said...

Happy belated Birthday to your son and your daughter!

This was such a scary but exciting story - and funny too. You are amazing, Coolred!

awais said...

you're a great story teller.

fred_says said...

Seatbelts? Carseats? I guess though no airbags?

Chiara said...

Coolred--thank you for your reply. Too bad the ex wasn't rightfully ashamed BEFORE he did the deeds, and your analysis of family concern about reputation sounds right. I was more wondering about the legal obligations to pay support depending on age and being in school or not. May they all do multiple non-overlapping PhD's (at 8-10 years per) and keep him paying for a verrrry long time! :)

Aynur said...

Wow, amazing story!

coolred38 said...

fred...for sure we all had seatbelts...ask my kids...Im a seatbelt freak at all times. When they fall asleep with the belts on they are more or less bent over sideways...looks damn uncomfortable...but still they sleep.

awais...thank you....when its real sort of tells

suroor...thank you.

Aynur...thank you.

marahm said...

This is an amazing story. It has everything-- danger, fear, love, suspense, humor, and a happy ending, all wrapped up with good craft!

I couldn't help but note the metaphor of darkness as a protective pschological cover for the danger that surrounds us when we find ourselves helpless, trapped in emotional or economic circumstances that we can only endure patiently until we are released.

Sonia said...

Wow, its amazing that you were able to "forget" this experience...I think I would have nightmares every night and would have to cover my mattress with a plastic wrap. So glad those hunters took that road! You should write a book about it :)

Susie of Arabia said...

One thing that I love about you is that you are fearless in your writing - no topic is too embarassing, too painful, or too gross for you to write about! I'm glad there was a happy ending to this one.

coolred38 said...

marahm...thank you. I didnt think about the darkness metaphor really but I think your right about that.

sonia...thank you...and Im glad about the hunters as well.

susie...was it too I figure its pivotal to the story...having to go so bad I was risking danger...