Tuesday, February 12, 2008

"Happy" Birthday, Elle!

Note: Road names have been deleted or changed from the original post to ensure security.

Happy Birthday to Elle! She's been my sister for 15 yrs now. Before she was born, I prayed for a sister to play with. Well, we did more than play. We irritated the daylights out of each other with our pestering and biting. But something changed, just when I don't know, so that within the last 5 yrs, and especially the last 3, we have grown to be the best of friends. We know each other's feelings and thoughts. We can usually even read each other's faces and communicate expertly by nonverbals. I don't know what I'd do without my biggest sister.

Today, Elle and I went clothes shopping (something we don't normally do) by ourselves (another thing we don't normally do). We headed north to Benton Harbor to peruse the mines of clothing stores for a few specific items. It was fun! After beginning with Good Will (for obvious reasons), we visited TJ Maxx, Sears, Walmart, and even JC Penny's. With the exception of Walmart, those are shops we didn't really expect to make purchases from, but it felt wonderful to touch the stiff, fresh, soft fabrics of beautifully made clothing, even though one look at the price tag assured us that we'd never take the garments home. We each splurged on an article or two, then picked up some more basic necessities (such as vitamins and socks) at Walmart before heading home. Per Mom's directions, Elle was careful to check the trunk after each stop in case any unsavory character had slipped in inspite of the locked doors. Already late for the time schedule mom had given us, we were somewhat daunted to realize how slippery the roads had become. But we had enjoyed a wonderful time (at least I thought it was fun. What'd you think Elle?) and so faced the snow without discouragement. Cautiously, I drove home. (Roads and driving directions removed.)There I made what proved to be a fatal mistake, though it seemed logical at the time. I chose to pass Artist's College Rd. and take Lemon to Bean's Prairie instead. Lemon is one of those back country roads that twists and turns (and which people seem to consider it their duty to drive fast upon). I chose to take it simply because I drive that street more often, and it is somewhat wider than Artist's College.

As we approached Bean's Prairie, I slowed the van, but it didn't want to slow. The sound of the antilock brakes grinding forced me to quickly down-gear. Then I made another fatal mistake. Instead of passing by our Rd, I instictively turned the wheel as I have done almost every day of the past 4 mths. Only this time, to my chagrin, the lower gears had not slowed the vehicle as much as was necessary. Even though we were sliding forward at the slow pace of 15mi before we even came close to the turn, inertia was propelling us toward the snow bank bordering the opposide lane of Bean's Prairie. If I attempted to turn back to our original course down Lemon, we might miss and impact the electrical/telephone box. If I continued the turn, we just might succeed in staying on the road. I turned the wheel....

....and we didn't make the turn....

Instead, we saw a stop sign up close and personal - just before the van's bumper collided with that green steel post, snapping it from it's upright position and sending it hurtling through the drift into the ditch below.
With a crunch, the van ground to a halt, leaving Elle and I shaken inwardly but untouched outwardly. Our tires were firmly held by the snow - stuck!
Thankfully, our house was less than a quarter of a mile away. If we had needed to, we could have walked, but the steady stream of potential assistance made it somewhat infeasible to abandon the vehicle even for a short time. It seemed that every vehicle that passed halted it's course to offer aid. We turned them all down with thanks, for surely Dad would come pull us out once he heard our plight. Elle called the house on my cell phone as I continued to assure passer's by that we were fine and would have help soon. It seemed that every one of those eager to assist had sage advice of some sort.
One elderly gent pulled along side and rolled down his window:
"Should have slowed down?"
"Yeah...." I responded shamefacedly.
"Well, you're slowed down now!" came the response with a earsplitting grin and a laugh.
Somehow I didn't think it was that funny, but I couldn't help admitting that his analysis was correct. We were certainly "slowed down now".
At the house, Luke picked up the phone and informed us that, "Mom and Dad are gone." When pressed for where they had gone we were told that the pair had "gone on a walk in the woods." Disgruntled, Elle instructed him to ring the bell. Apparently, either this didn't work or the order was disregarded. After a time, we called again. This time we talked to Anna. By this point I was nervous, ashamed, panicky, and scared all at the same time. Elle cooly explained to Anna that we had had a little problem. "Not a little problem, a big problem!" I shouted in desperation.
"Yes, Anna, an accident," Elle spoke calmly, ignoring me and my pleas/commands to hand over the phone. The phone hung up. Anna apparently had run to the woods to find our missing parents.
I couldn't believe I'd actually had another accident. That makes two in a year. Elle tried to tell me that there was such a thing as forgiveness, but I had to respond that, while forgiveness is free, trust isn't.
After several more interrupted calls to the house, Mom's voice finally came on. She kept asking if we were alright and where we were. The phone routinely lost signal as we tried to answer. Thankfully she had heard enough of our location to direct Dad to come to our rescue, and soon we saw the big white van turn out of the driveway down the road and head in our direction.
Grandpa was with him (cringe, cower, quiver). Thankfully, he was not angry with my driving clumsiness and told me not to be too upset, but to me more careful in the future.
As Dad pulled the blue van out of the drift, we noticed a county sherriff vehicle making it's way down the road toward us. Ouch! That had me more scared than I had been even about Dad. Through my mind's eye flashed images of sky-rocketing insurance, a ticket, a criminal record, and lots of other somewhat unrealistic possibilities.
Thank God for that officer though! A short stocky man, his face reminded me of a cross between Pr. Preus and Pr. Stiegemeyer and he had the same kindly air to his demeanor. After taking all my information and the vehicle's, and listening to my account of the accident, he informed me that he could issue me a ticket for not driving according to road conditions. I think he meant to frighten me. It definitely worked, though I had been expecting the full weight of the law, so I was not surprised. He looked at Dad with a twinkle in his eye and asked if he should ticket me. Dad smiled and said that he didn't think so. I was left with a warning to be more careful.
Though Dad said that we didn't need an accident report, the officer had to take one anyway in order for the the road commission to fix the stop sign. That took a few minutes. Finally, the officer came back and told me that he was finished and that I could go. He also gave me some official advice about driving in the snow........amoung other things. I really appreciated his concern and kindness.

Then we drove 2 min. down the road home. Mom was in a state of anxiety. Apparently, Anna had told her that Sarah said it was a BIG accident, but Elle said it was a small accident (Mom of course didn't hear this part). Somehow, Mom thought Anna had also said that it was a big accident with lots of blood. Just goes to show how messages change through the grapevine.

What a way to start Elle's family birthday dinner! Sorry sister..........

Thank God for protecting us....and for sending a kind policeman!


TruthQuestioner said...

There, Elle. How's that? Now no one will trace our location. ;)

Snap said...
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Snap said...

I like the new street names, though they sound somewhat familiar. I wounder...... ;)

Rev. Rick Stuckwisch said...

Aw, shucks, I wish I would have read this earlier in the day, so that I could have wished Ellie a Happy Birthday (a day late and a dollar short, but nevertheless).

As I don't believe I have her e-mail address (maybe she could send it to me?), please relay to her, "Happy Birthday!" Cool!

I'll have to find out birthdays for the rest of the family, too.

Snap said...
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Snap said...

Thank you pastor. A day late is still good :)

By the way Truthquestioner, you misspelled Teddy Bhaer's name on the picture of last years kids.

Matt said...

Sometimes I think you might be a little paranoid. :) Great story nonetheless!