The last thing I remember before the wreck was Jamie singing along with Garth Brooks on the radio. She gave it all she had. I watched her belt out lyrics while I drove along the interstate. Her singing voice: a mixture between Gomer Pyle and a 1953 Buick Skylark.
It was sunny, it felt like the whole world was on fire. We’d just finished camping in Pelham, Alabama. And, after a small spider had found its way onto Jamie’s bedroll, she swore off tents for good. And sleeping bags. And husbands.
So, there we were on the interstate. The truck hit us from behind. My wife choked on the Garth lyrics and flung toward the windshield. I lost control.
He hit us again. On the side.
The impact crushed my side of the cab. My windshield turned into shaved ice.
This sent our vehicle sliding into oncoming traffic. It took a quarter of a millisecond for my wife to glance out her window and see a semi-truck honking at us. We screamed, since that’s all we could do.
Garth Brooks kept singing.
To tell you the truth, I don’t remember much else except a baseball-bat-type sound, accompanied by a twisting-metal noise. And spinning.
God, did we spin.
We crawled out of the passenger side, into the ditch. My ears rang, my shoulder was a mess, my eyes wouldn’t focus. The two of us sat in the tall grass, silent.
My truck looked like a wad of tin foil.
One surgery later, that day seems one million years old now. We were different people then. I wore my hair different, my wife used a different perfume. We had different jobs—she taught preschool, I laid sod. And in those days, we even tent camped.
But, just the other day, on the way home from Birmingham, we drove Interstate 65, past the place it happened.
Jamie clicked off the radio. I slowed down a little. She pointed to that familiar spot—which is just a highway marker. You’d never guess it’s where somebody once busted my spine.
“There it is,” she said. “You remember? I was just singing, thinking, ‘God, it’s such pretty weather.'”
To be honest, I’m not sure why I’m telling you this. Except to say that sometimes, you think you have a lot of time left before your song is over. You don’t.
It’s easy to get lost in this world. Even easier to make the wrong things important. But then, I’m one to talk.
Go hug someone you love.
Do it twice.