It was a typical day. And by typical I mean the usual overload of work and school and fatigue all wrapped in one. I was leaving work—just in enough time to go pick up Ward when I got the phone call from an unknown number. It was Mom.
“Crystol, the car broke down. I lost power steering and was barely able to pull over. I think the belt broke again. Where are you? I need you to come get me and Kitty.”
It was just like that. I was hit by everything all at once without really having time to process all that was going on.
The first emotion that came to me was frustration. Not only because this would mean that I’d be late picking my husband up from work, but because Mom had just gotten the car out of the shop a few days before where they were supposed to have fixed all of the problems she was now experiencing all over again. Not to mention the fact that she had my baby girl with her and it had to be at least 95-degrees outside (which for VA weather means it felt at least like 105-degrees). Again, that wasn’t even what bothered me the most.
I guess everything happening at once was just a nagging reminder of everything that was currently going wrong in my life and those closest to me—which I had been trying so hard not to think about. Already the gas light would be popping on at any moment and now I had to make a detour; Ward’s car was out of commission, and we didn’t know when we would even be able to talk about getting the money to fix that; the baby would be coming in about 2 months and we hadn’t really gotten much in order for that (not all by choice), and part of me was exasperated due to the fact that I had to be there to solve everybody’s problems all the time. I had to be there for everybody but myself. Lately, every moment felt like I was on-call for somebody. I hated that I was unable to just stay home and take care of MY daughter throughout the day—because not working meant I couldn’t contribute to the provision for my family. I resented the fact that my mom was doing so much for everyone around her, but when she needed them—they were nowhere to be found. And sometimes I caught the brunt-end of that too.
There was no question about what I had to do next. I couldn’t delay getting my mom and the baby. Absolutely nothing would come before them anyway, so there was no hesitation there. And it’s truly not that I minded…I would do anything for my mom. It was just that thought of “it’s always something” that had me feeling a bit overwhelmed. Mom was already borrowing the phone of some stranger who just so happened to be walking outside in the neighborhood she managed to pull the car over to. She told me, “I know you’re busy. Go ahead and get Ward and we’ll be here waiting.”
Because that sounded so ridiculous to me, sometimes I wasn’t sure if she said things because she meant it or because she was trying to send me on a first-class guilt trip that would coerce me into doing whatever it was that she needed. It didn’t even matter. I explained to her that Ward could wait and that it would make absolutely no sense to get him first because after getting caught in downtown traffic, I wouldn’t get to her for at least another hour!
So I rode on. And I prayed. Suppose she was unable to pull the car over after losing power-steering? Or what if they had been on the highway without a phone to use? I just thanked God that they were okay. I knew He had everything under control, so no matter how it looked—I knew things would be fine.
She seemed surprised to see me so soon, but I could tell she was grateful. I made sure she and Kitty were as comfortable as possible—being that my car wasn’t the most spacious.
As we continued on to go get Ward from work, Mom explains that she was on the way to pick her sister up when the car broke down; so now we might have to go pick her up too. So great! We’re already crammed in here as it is and now more passengers! But I took a deep breath and said a silent prayer, thanking God that I did, at least, have a car that could assist in lending a helping hand when needed. The days weren’t too far between where I didn’t even have a car, and Lord knows I don’t miss that!
As I headed towards the other side of town, I made sure to be extra cautious—knowing my mom doesn’t handle being a passenger very well. I kept noticing that every time we passed a car or she felt that somebody was cutting a little too close to the lane we were in, she started gripping the seat, or grabbing the door handle, or leaning all the way over to MY side of the car.
I used to (correction: STILL DO) get really annoyed by the fact that my mom is so uneasy when someone else is behind the wheel. It is as if she just can’t tolerate not being in control; or at least that’s one way it came across. She gets so bent out of shape when she’s a passenger, to the point that sometimes I have to urge her to just go to the backseat of the car. She grips the seat, grabs the door, and just gets so antsy. She’ll call out, “Whoa!” or “Slow down!” or the one that gets to me the most: Hey! Hey! Alright now!” If you’re going 45mph in the 35-zone, she’ll say, “Speed limit is 35!” If you’ve ever been in a car accident, maybe you can relate. Her nerves are beyond shot! She acts like a person who just got released from physical therapy after a brutal head-on collision with a drunk driver. Yes. It’s that bad. But no matter how conscious I try to be when she’s in the car, nothing seems to ease her discomfort.
And it just really got me thinking.
Why is it that she becomes this unbalanced—almost paranoid—person when she rides in the car with people? I had heard the story before but never really considered it to be the real cause of her situation. I remember her telling me and my sisters about the days when she and my dad were married and how much of a crazy driver he was. How he would speed and get high off that feeling of just barely avoiding a possible fatal collision. She said she would sit in the passenger seat and close her eyes—just praying for it to be over. Sometimes she thought it was really going to be her last day alive. The result of the worst joyride he ever took her on was them ending up in a ditch –with their baby, my older sister—in the backseat. Thankfully they weren’t injured (physically).
But ever since then, the level of discomfort that my mother feels when riding in the car with other people can be described as severe at times. I admit, she’s better than she used to be. But the effects from that traumatic situation still resonates within her.
Like an earthquake that makes the earth quiver—leaving people behind with all the damage from its harsh and unexpected thrill. I’m reminded of the day we encountered one of Virginia’s worse earthquakes and the city was filled with such an eerie feeling afterward…and even the aftershocks continued months following the initial quake.
They sneak up on us all of a sudden—reminding us of a sometimes life-altering event.
I think we all have some “aftershocks” in our lives. We may not even realize that they are ever-present until something creeps up on us that just remotely reminds us of a situation we’ve been in that modified the scope of who we are in one way or another. Sometimes I still shutter when I’m left in a room— alone —with a man. I don’t care if he’s the doctor—it brings up something that I don’t want to think about. Something I’d rather not remember. But these aftershocks show up and literally “shock” us for a reason. We aren’t to live the rest of our lives encumbered by the pain of whatever it is we’ve gone through—but it’s meant to build us up. We must overcome these so-called aftershocks until the pain of the event gradually dissipates to the point that’s it’s no longer present in our lives, like the initial hit that shakes us.
Once we have arrived at that place, the evidence of healing has taken place and we are now able to help someone else through something they may not feel they can manage to overcome.
Someone once told me to embrace each and every thing I go through on this journey called life. The good. The bad. And especially the ugly…along with all the emotions that come with it. Because it all serves some purpose in shaping us into the person that we’re destined to be. If we can just turn our attention away from the negative portion of it and focus on how much we could learn from it—we will no longer have the aftershocks that send us spiraling into the past. Yes, I realize that some of the things people experience are very, very traumatic and not only do I empathize with you—I can relate. But I chose to use a simple story as an example of what the main principle is in order to give every person a chance to connect with something that carries a deeper meaning.
So look ahead! And know that you have a story to tell that can change someone’s life for the better—no matter how simple you may think it is; you just have to embrace…move pass the initial shock—the hurt, the pain, the agony—and instead believe that you are victorious over that situation because you made it out. You’re still here, aren’t you?
Yes, you may still have some wounds. but you made it out. So look over your shoulder and ask yourself, “Who, now, can I go back for and bring out with me?”