Hold Hands, and Look Both Ways

I haven’t been writing; I’ve been worrying. Last weekend, my granddaughter, love of my life, got hit by a car. She’s okay. Bruised, badly scraped, concussed, but okay. She’s tired already of all the fuss that comes with, you know, being HIT BY A CAR. She’s okay. I, on the other hand, have been worrying.

For the first few days, my brain was stuck in a loop repeating variations of “she got hit by a car.” Nonstop. This couldn’t have happened. Couldn’t be real. It didn’t matter that she had been discharged from the ER the same night. I imagined the impact, the fear, the landing. Hit by a car. Over and over.

Yes, it could have been worse. For many families, it is. I know that. And that knowing made me doubt the validity of my own panic, the shock of it all, the urge to do something to protect her. She was FINE, she insisted when we talked. But she wasn’t. Her injuries weren’t major, but she was far from fine. Indignant, yes. Fine, no. She had been hit. By a car.

And I wasn’t there when it happened. I couldn’t protect her. Couldn’t ride with her in the scary ambulance. Couldn’t hold her hand or sit by her bed. I was home, bombarding my poor daughter with texts demanding more information than she had. Waiting to find out whether she had major injuries this child who has spent far too much of her life in hospitals. (I had written “already fragile child” and deleted it. She’s not fragile. She’s medically complex. She’s at risk. But she’s strong and resilient and feisty and fierce. She heals, and she grows, and she surprises us daily. She’s not fragile.)

Neither of us had been there when it happened. She got the call, the one you get in nightmares, the one summoning you to the ER as fast as you can get there. She told me later that her partner drove while she freaked out. At that point they didn’t know the extent of the injuries or what news would be waiting for them at the hospital. She had been HIT by a CAR.

I’ve wondered from time to time how I would react in a crisis like this. When I got the text from my daughter saying they were in the ER, I wasn’t fazed. We’ve been in the ER with this child so many times. But it was the next line, the second sentence, that changed the story. Hit by a car. I gasped. Out loud. I’ve never done that involuntarily. I surprised myself, because it was so loud. As I gasped I felt my heart stop, just for a moment, before it started to pound faster than ever. And my hands started to shake. I needed to do something! I pounded the keys as I texted back, asking for details. Text after text.

I wanted to call someone. I needed to tell someone. My husband was at work, but he picked up right away. Then I called my sister and told her. Not just to fill them in, but to calm myself down. I needed to take action of any kind. It worked for a moment, but not long. I asked my daughter to send me a picture of our girl, who was now resting in a bed under observation. Seeing her was crucial. She wasn’t a pancake. She wasn’t bleeding. She looked grumpy and sleepy and sore. But fine.

Later she called me from the hospital to chat. She was still disoriented and had concocted an elaborate story to explain the accident she didn’t remember. She sounded like she always does, and I finally was able to breathe normally.

“Why are you all worrying so much about me?”
(Oh, I don’t know, maybe because you just got HIT BY A CAR.)

“It’s what I do,” I reminded her. “I worry about my baby.”

“I’m not your baby.”

“You’re my baby’s baby. That makes you my baby too. That’s how nanas work.”

“I’m FINE.”

Okay, kiddo. But I’m not. I want to scoop you up and take you home with me, wrap you in blankets, pad you with pillows, and never let you out of my sight. But I’ll keep all of that to myself, and I’ll stay back here where nanas and papas watch from the edges of their children’s lives. Part of the action, sometimes, but not in charge. Letting your lives unfold the way they’re meant to without major interference.

You’ll know I’m worried now and then, but never how much. You’ll see just enough to make you say, “Oh, Nana!” in that exasperated tone you use with me. And maybe someday, when you’ve got littles of your own to worry about, you’ll understand that it wasn’t that YOU got hit by a car, but that WE got hit by a car. We got hit by a car. That’s how this works.