Today held one of those moments when I realized that had my timing been off by about an hour, my day may have ended far differently.
I often see accidents that have just happened and, as I drive past them, I rewind a bit and realize that had it not been for the slow person ahead of me in line at Starbucks, had it not been for hitting every red light, or had it not been for forgetting something at the office or at home and going back to get it, I could’ve been in that accident, too.
I wanted to run some of my parents’ mail and a Mother’s Day gift for my grandma up to my parents’ house this afternoon. I hadn’t planned on it, but my errands took me in a different direction than I’d planned for the day to go. Knowing that they’d just picked her up from the airport today and that she’d be at their house overnight — and suspecting I wouldn’t see her next weekend — today seemed the best time for a delivery.
Her brother’s memory has taken quite a hit in recent years, and he’s not the person he used to be. They’re both hovering right around 90 and each is struggling in their own way these days, some of those struggles more visible than others. I recently came across a photo of them from 2007; they were sitting on the couch at a family gathering, both beaming, and both looking alert and upbeat. It’s a good photo and likely one that they’d both be glad for others to have of them, so I had copies made and framed one for grandma.
On my way home from Corona after delivery, traffic was completely stopped from the moment I got on the freeway. It wasn’t that way when I was on my way to drop the gift off, so it had just recently happened. It took 30 minutes to go 2 miles, and when I finally came upon the scene, there were two firetrucks, three police cars and five cars that had seen better days off to the side. Some were burned. Others were so damaged they weren’t recognizable. The carpool, first and second lanes were shut down. I don’t know if there were other cars involved that had already been taken away, and I don’t know if there were people beyond those who were standing dazed on the side of the road who had already been driven to a hospital by ambulance.
I tried to go to my parents’ house earlier in the day, but I didn’t get an answer when I called. I assumed they were home, but didn’t bother to leave a message. Instead, I decided to make a trip to the grocery store. About 40 minutes later, I was heading home from the store to put things away and had since talked to my mom about dropping off the gift.
It’s tough to say whether my delay and trip to the grocery store saved me from being in the accident that I saw on my way home, but I always wonder about things like that. I remember thinking there was probably a reason I didn’t get an answer when I called. Maybe they were all listening to grandma talk about her trip. Or maybe they’re in a deep discussion about the changes my mom and dad are seeing in her. Maybe she’s being difficult to reason with. Or maybe grandpa is being difficult. Maybe his hearing aid batteries died again and they went to get new ones, but in the meantime perhaps they’re all speaking so loudly to him that they can’t hear the phone ringing.
In reality, maybe I didn’t get an answer because I wasn’t supposed to get there any earlier than I had. Because if I did, I would’ve stayed the same brief amount of time, left and gotten on the freeway — only to be caught up in that accident.
You never know. But sometimes it doesn’t hurt to wonder, to listen to the things that aren’t being said or that aren’t right in front of you. Sometimes reading between the lines is when we hear and feel the most.
Tonight I am thankful for the tiny events of the day that led me to my parents’ house when I did. I was wondering earlier this afternoon why I drove to a gas station four miles away instead of going to the one that was a mile down the road, why I took a winding road through the hills home and then went to a more distant Target than the one I was close to. At the time I chalked it up to being bored and not feeling like getting out of the car just yet. But maybe that was supposed to be the plan all along.
You never know.