A reminder about real priorities

It always starts with a phone call, doesn’t it?

A phone call you never want to receive.

A phone call that stops time, sends your brain into overdrive, and ties your stomach into knots.

This time the call came from Texas, where my daughter and granddaughter now reside. The tough part went about as follows:

“Lisa and Lori have been in a serious accident while coming home from Brownie camp. Their car is a total wreck and they’re both being transported to the hospital. I don’t have any more details, but I’ll call again as soon as I can.”

Now, you’re sitting there, shaken, holding the phone with a million questions running through your mind and no answers forthcoming. You tell your wife — who’d been listening in a state of increasing worry — and watch as her face becomes an exact mirror of your feelings.

Added to this wretched brew is the fact that you know that you can’t help. It’s already happened. You can’t protect them. You have no control. All you can do is wait, because things are what they are and it’s all happening half a continent away.

And it’s about then that you re-learn just where your priorities really lie.

There are elections coming up and everyone is shouting for your attention? Don’t care. The economy is struggling? Don’t care. News, sports, weather continue to be broadcast? Don’t care. Lawn needs mowing, house needs paint? Don’t care.

Your flesh and blood are miles away, they’re hurt, and those are the only things on your radar.

Finally, the phone rings again but, now, you’re struggling with yourself to answer it because of what might be coming next. But, literally trembling, you pick up the phone.

The information comes quickly. Your daughter is in critical care with internal injuries to her liver and kidneys and may need surgery. Your granddaughter is still undergoing various scans and tests. But, then, you hear the words that you’ve been praying for.

“Both of them will be OK, though. Their injuries aren’t life-threatening. They were lucky.” And, then, you find that you can breathe again.

Following that came the details of the crash. Their car was hit on the passenger side. The center of impact was at the windshield pillar and the passenger-side door was smashed well into the vehicle.

That’s when you start thinking about the “what-could-have-beens.”

Our granddaughter had transitioned to a booster seat and I’d bought the one she’d been using. I remember thinking, at the time, that it didn’t look like much, but it turned out that that booster seat likely saved her life.

I don’t know if it was designed to do what it did, if it was a combination of good engineering and materials, or if it was just a one-in-a-million fluke involving the dynamics of the crash.

Whatever it was, it doesn’t really matter. Because in the span of milliseconds — as that door was being shoved into the passenger compartment — that seat got wedged between the door and the center console and protected my granddaughter from being crushed.

And, now, when I think of all of the times when we were in a rush to get somewhere and needed to find that seat and considered just forgetting it, I shudder. Because, even though these accidents are a one-in-a-whatever-number you care to use, that number came up for us.

I’ve seen pictures of my daughter’s vehicle. It was totaled and we dodged a bullet. Others haven’t been so lucky.

This was the second time that my wife and I have come within a hair’s-breadth of losing our daughter. We nearly lost her several years ago to a random incident. This time it was both our daughter and granddaughter in an auto accident. Both times, we’ve come away with stark reminders (of which we need no more) of where — in this crazy, convoluted, and convulsed world — our priorities should really lie.

It’s trite, but the important things always are and they bear repeating.

The only things that matter in life are those close to you.

They always have been. They always will be. Everything else is simply noise.

Pray nightly that you never receive a reminder of that very simple truth.

Larry Simoneaux lives in Edmonds. Send comments to: larrysim@comcast.net

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