Every morning as I arrive at work, I make a right turn down into the driveway that goes under my office building to the garage. I have to cross the sidewalk, and am acutely aware that this very last part of my commute could be the most dangerous. The sidewalks are busy, full of people on their way to work or finishing their workouts, unlikely to notice an underground garage in the middle of the block. It’s true today, as always.
I look carefully to the left. No pedestrians. I look carefully to the right. No joggers, or women with strollers, or people with the earbuds in and music turned up. The way is clear; I make my way forward and turn across the sidewalk.
WHAM. On my right, out of nowhere, a man slams his hands into my car window, the rest of his body landing with a thud a split second later, his face up against the window, before bouncing backwards again. I roll down the window as he waves and turns around. “Are you okay!?”
“I’m so sorry!” I cry, “Are you sure you’re okay?”
“I’m good.” He smiles and walks away. I pull into the garage, my heart pounding, trying to figure out where he came from. It was only then that it registered that he’d had a skateboard in hand as he left.
I was being so careful. But I was looking for pedestrians.
I wasn’t looking for a skateboard. I wasn’t expecting that kind of speed.
My phone rang at work today. Mom. She said that Dad had been confused this morning, and had trouble eating breakfast.
I look carefully to the left.
Mom called his doctor, and they advised her to bring him in, or to take him to the ER if it was a true emergency. They walked up the stairs together, and to the car, so he was obviously not too sick–not like last time when the EMTs had to carry him up in a special chair. They were on the way to the doctor’s office.
I look carefully to the right.
His doctor took a quick listen and was pretty sure it was pneumonia. Chest x-rays confirmed it. We know how this one works–IV fluids, antibiotics, monitor oxygen. They’d feel better admitting him and monitoring him overnight. He doesn’t seem to be as sick as last time, so probably just a day or two to make sure he responds well to the treatment. No biggie.
The way is clear, I make my way forward.
I text my brothers and sisters to tell them Dad’s been admitted, reassuring them that it’s fine, that it’s pretty routine, that they’re just monitoring him. Call me if you have questions.
My command of the situation is a beneficial, necessary illusion. But I know that my care, my caution won’t be enough to prepare us. Eventually, something will come out of nowhere with a velocity inappropriate for the context.
We weren’t expecting that, we’ll say, hearts pounding.