Saturday, April 6, 2013

50 years ago... my world changed

Half a century ago, an event took place that changed my family's life forever.

My young parents, had dreams of prosper and visions of a great life. My sister not yet 3 years old and I at 10 months, completed our family. They had recently decided they would soon move us from Indiana to Texas. My Mom was from San Antonio, and with jobs declining, and the threat of my Dad's job on the line, they had hopes of moving our family south so we could prosper and my Mom would be closer to her family.

My Dad had a friend named Bud, that often talked of his Harley Davidson, offering to Dad to take it for a spin any time. One beautiful day, April 6th, 1963...my Dad took him up on the offer, wanting to show my Mom how safe motorcycles were and wanted my Mom to see that it would be a good investment for them. My Dad felt with the warmer climate of Texas, and the small amount of fuel they took, this would be idea transportation for him once they moved to Texas.


My parents left my Sister and I in our Godparents care, and went for a spring ride on a 1948 Harley Davidson. I can assure you, my Dad was driving careful.  He was an experienced rider, his lovely wife was on the Bike with him, and he was trying to prove how safe they were, so she would be in agreement that he would buy one.

While driving along 42nd Street, in Indianapolis, they hit a rather large chuckhole, throwing them from the Harley. My Mom, skinned, broken arm and a good 50 feet from my Dad, couldn't get over to my Dad. He was badly injured with a massive head injury, among other things.

My Dad's vitals were slight. He was brought into the hospital as DOA... Dead On Arrival. A Resident was performing a check for all vitals and told his training Doctor he was certain he was hearing some gurgling in the heart... My Father, was indeed alive. Barely, but alive.

Across the city, his younger cousin, Pam, sat with her family watching television. The phone rang.   Her Mom, (whom not only very close to my Dad, but was a nurse as well), answered....Pam remembers her Mom saying over and ever again "Oh My God! Oh My God!.....
After that she left to go to the hospital. Pam will never forget the utter fear and helplessness in her voice.
 
Meanwhile, my Dad is hanging onto a thread of life. My Mom at 22 years, is watching a priest give last rights to husband, a shell of a 27 year old man... His discolored head cracked open, his body badly broken and torn apart from the pavement and impact. When her friend brings my Sister to see her, Julie is frightened of my mothers appearance, and does not recognize her. My scared Mom feels so alone. She looks at her husband...his  head is as round and large as a basketball. It is purple. He is not recognizable at all. The rest of his body is wrapped in cast and bandages. He does not look human.
 
My Dad survives the night.
In fact, although in a coma for 13 days, he is considered a miracle and many Doctors are amazed that he not only survied, but starts to show improvement. After a lengthy stay in the hospital and several months in rehabilitation, he leaves them... capable of walking out, speaking, and functioning... He has re-learned the most simple task that are extremely difficult to him. He has to learn to feed himself, master coordination skills, thought process, using his young yet damaged body the best he can. My Dad becomes a study case, and enjos the opportunity to assist the many Doctors and medical students in clinicals and interviews.  My Dad received an award from Crossroads Rehabilitation Center for his acheivements.
Over the course of a year, my Dad is back to work and trying to get his life back.
My Mom... she is thrilled to have him back....Alive... and having much of his functions back.  However they are not back to normal, and never will be.  My Dad's handicaps have put a huge unspoken burden on my Mom, who now has two small daughters as well as a handicap husband to care for.
Think for just a moment.
Look around and see all we have that is handicap accessable today. Now imagine 1963. We have none of it.  Nothing.
 
My Mom, kicks into gear, taking care of us all, never second guessing or complaining. She just jumps in and gets it done.  The dream to go back to Texas is gone. She does not get the pleasure of her family to help her, although Dad's family steps in.
 
Over the years, one thing after another, from the impact of "The Accident" as this has been named, has come upon them.  One day, my Dad's boss, (he was working in a manufacturing plant) approached him and told him that he is too slow now. His producting is not near what they need and they "don't want a retard working here". My devastated Dad can't find a job. We do not have laws in place to protect the Handicapped Employee back then. No Americans with Disabilities Act.
 
My parents go through a lengthy lawsuit against the City of Indianapolis, due to the road condition that caused the accident.  My sister and I are placed in separate homes. I am placed with friends, but I am far from my family. Day after day I sit at the window crying for my Mom. I miss her. I am scared and confused. I am around 4 years old. My sister stayed with a neighbor as she had school to attend. I don't understand why I am not with her. Or my Grandparents...Or cousins... I want my Mommy. My parents win. Which all I understand is I get to live with my family again, so I am happy. We move and I think all is going to be okay.
It's not.
Over the next 40 years... my depressed Dad tries to take his life several times. My Mom as well suffers much depression. My Sis & I survive a dysfunctional childhood and learn to take life for what it is. We learn coping skills, yet we also suffer the consequences of things that happened throughout our childhood.
 
You know, I often wonder what might have been had that event had not taken place. What kind of life would my parents have had. Who would Julie & I become if situations were different? Even though I wonder, and I certainly wish things were somewhat better for my parents all these years, I do believe that things happen in life and it's what we do with what we are given that matters. I don't think it was God's will that they were hurt in that accident, but I do think it was His will that they survived. What would have happened if they had died then? Who would have taken Sis & I? And would we have been able to stay together? I am so grateful that we did have our parents to raise us and I am grateful for the person I have become. Far from perfect... and still learning... even at 50, but I am who I am because of what I have been through, who has been a part of me, and for what I have learned through Faith.
 
It has been an eventful life.  A very eventful year.
 
Yet we continue to move forward.
 
My Dad is a survivor.
And so am I.

1 comment:

rosaria williams said...

Oh Janis, what a touching story you tell! Yes, you are all strong and full of faith, resilient and kind, and you and your family have learned the most important lesson in life early on. To have life is a gift; to appreciate it and treasure it is a state of grace.
Blessings to you and yours.