Saturday, March 13, 2021

Lessons I learned from my wife, a fallen woman

NOW MUSEUM NOW YOU DON'T: On a lighter note, two Marches ago
 right now, the much-loved Bug took us to, among other places,
 this factory museum in Bradford, PA.
Sometimes  I talk too much. 

Comes as a shock, I know.

But get this: A few days ago, on a Friday afternoon around 4:30, my wife Helena slipped and fell on the ice in the laneway behind our house. She's  okay except for a sore and scratched wrist but the end result could have been a whole lot worse. 

When Helena slipped, she was behind her black Volkswagen Beetle that I was backing up.

I’ll say that again in case you missed it. 

I was backing up on an icy laneway and my wife of more than 30-odd years fell down behind and less than one metre from her car’s rear right wheel and I did not see where she went.

At the moment she wiped out, I was looking frontwards, out the windshield. 

A millisecond earlier, I’d glanced over my right shoulder, saw her standing there, quickly looked ahead to see how the front of the car was and when I looked back again, she was gone. All the while the car was, ever so slowly, moving. On ice.

Many many things could have changed in that moment.

But in one motion, I jammed on the brakes, slammed the car into park and opened my door to exit the Bug. It is way too easy to imagine any or all of those activities not being completed satisfactorily.

I might have, say,  lost my footing. And smashed my jaw on the car door. I could have forgotten to change gears, in which case the VW would have continued backwards. Another possibility: Missing the brake pedal. That's happened before. 

Did I mention the laneway was an ice sheet?

Of course I'm here writing about the event happily because none of the above took place. By the time I got around the car to help Helena up, it was clear that we wouldn’t be going to emerg and there was no bloodshed.

teaches at Ryerson University whose website I stole this photo from
We got back in the car and resumed the errand that had almost been interrupted by a death in the family.

And it didn't take long for me to figure out that the near crisis taught me a whole whack of lessons; the first being this one:

I am a motormouth.

Here’s how I know. 

Carter family rules dictate I had to phone my brother Alex to tell him about Helena's near miss. 

A few years ago, Alex was carrying a box of books that he was going to send to Ed when he fell on the ice in his driveway, hurt his leg pretty badly and was laid up quite a while. (Interesting coincidence. When Helena went down, we, too, were delivering something to Ed. So yes, this is all Ed’s fault. What good are siblings if you can’t blame things on them? Also, if Ed heard me describe the laneway incident, he’d interject with “A near miss? Isn’t that actually a hit? If you nearly miss things, you hit them, right?” Sometimes there’s just no talking to Ed.)

Back to my phonecall. The moment Al picked up, I launched into Helena’s story.  

Alex is nothing if not a good listener, so he said very little as I described the ice, the fall, the subsequent visit with Ed, the traffic and who knows what else? I went on and on. (Pay special attention to the “Who-knows-what-else-I-went-on-and-on part.)

ROTARY CLUB MEET-UPS: Another victim of technology's 
relentless march forward
His response: “I’m guessing it’s my dad you phoned to talk to, huh?”

My nephew Alexander’s voice is exactly the same as his dad’s and similarly, Alexander II’s no slouch in the listening department. In fact he said afterwards, “as soon as you mentioned that Helena’s fall was like the one I took a few years ago, I figured you thought you were talking to my dad but I didn’t want to interrupt.”

When it has to, the human brain works very quickly.

“What,” my brain asked itself, “did Peter say to his darling nephew by mistake when he thought he was talking to his brother?"

Had I said anything, like, um, unflattering about any other family members? No. Impossible.

Did I utter something that would make my nephew think for one second I was anything less than a flawless uncle by whom all other uncles should be measured and who never has a nasty remark to make about anybody?

It’s in these situations that you realize that when necessary, your brain gets an adrenaline rush, so you can do the mental equivalent of lifting a sedan off a trapped child – or in this case a slipped spouse. 

Your brain works faster than any computer.

Realizing my mistake and reassured I hadn’t screwed up too badly, Alex Jr. and I laughed and he handed me over to Al my brother.

I sometimes might talk too much.

Second lesson.  The disappearance of landlines has removed another source of mystery and surprise from our lives. Time was, when a phone rang, it could be for anybody in the house. Remember handing the phone to a sister and announcing, loud enough for everyone to hear: "Norma. It's for you. And it's a BOY!" 

Another example of technology robbing us of one of life's joyful mysteries.

Lesson three: Remember three paragraphs ago I was rewinding my conversation to figure out if I'd said anything revealing to Alex Jr? 

My 15 nephews and nieces all know me better than I know myself. 

Who'm I trying to kid?

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