Sunday Scribblings: Solace

I wrote this in 2006, after my dad was hurt in a car accident. I hope it gives you, dear reader, the extent of my love of the outdoors. My place of solace.

I'm lousy at hypotheticals.
You know, having to ponder questions like "What would you do if you had a million dollars?"
I'm unlikely to ever have a cool million and thus cannot fathom what it would be like to be flush with so much disposable income. Hypothetical situations have just too many variables.
Real-life situations are, I don't know, tangible. You are forced to deal with things, whether you like it or not.
We had just pulled into Etna, when my buddy's cell phone came to life. It was my ex-wife, frantic that I get in touch with First Sister, who lives in Iowa.
My 77-year-old father had been in a serious accident.
He'd been run over by a car.
Notice I didn't say hit by a car. From what dad's been able to tell us - he's doing great, is in good spirits and took his first spin around his bed in a walker on Wednesday - he was out grocery shopping, and as he walked back to his car, he was allegedly struck by an older gentleman who was pulling into the open parking space dad was occupying.
Dad said the man then backed the car over him, pinning him to the asphalt.
"They admitted him in critical condition," First Sister said over the static on the cell. "From what I can tell, that's just a precaution because of his age. They also put a breathing tube in, to help him breathe. They think he may have a punctured lung, a broken ankle and a broken wrist (he later had to have his foot amputated).
I was a few hours away from entering the Russian Wilderness Area for an annual backpacking trip with the boys. Out of contact. In the middle of nowhere.
So, what did I do?
I strapped my pack to my back, and walked into the woods.
After careful consideration - and another telephone call with First Sister - I sought relief in granite, pine and trout.
Dad had a broken ankle, a bruised lung and was basically one big, human contusion (a bruise in the form of a tire track has appeared on his backside). But he was alive - and continues to show remarkable recovery skills.
"There's really nothing you can do here," she said. "Go have a good time, and try not to worry."
So, how do you find joy in a situation that's fraught with sorrow? The outdoors , for me, is that perfect outlet. Not a place of escape, but one of renewal. It was in a conversation with a buddy, while fishing, that gave clarity to the moment.
"Not everyone can fathom this, just being out here," he said. "I'm so happy that you understand it."
When I got home, I gave my dad a call.
"I'm doing OK, considering," he said, recounting the accident for me. "I kept telling them, 'Get this goddamn car off me, it's heavy.' That damn car was on me for five minutes."
"What kind of car was it?" I asked.
"How the hell should I know?" he said. "It was on top of me."
Good point. Stupid question. And dad, thankfully, remains feisty as ever.
The car was a 2001 Buick Century, according to the police report. The 2001 Century weighs 3,371 pounds, I looked it up. It also has a ground clearance of 5.7 inches - roughly the length of a Bic ballpoint pen.
Dad is a considerably thicker man than that. It is by the grace of God that he's still here. But he is a man of considerable, unshakable faith (and one tough hombre).
And real life does what the hypothetical just cannot do - point out the obvious richness and color of our daily lives. What it means to be human, to care, to create. To love.
Soon, it'll be my pleasure to fly home to Nebraska and do what I can for the man who taught me how to fish, how to embrace the natural world and to never let it go. He's also the one who has steadfastly reminded me that life isn't fair - and was good enough to smack me in the head hard enough 12 years ago to get back into journalism. A move that led to Redding, and now to the plains of South Dakota (in a move that has brought me closer to my entire family).
Real life is gritty. It isn't fair. But it is an amazingly interesting journey. And being outdoors, this is what gives my life clarity.


Granny Smith said...

This is vivid and moving! Thr redwoods, huckleberries and ferny banks of northern California have been a comfort to me many times. I hope your father made a full recovery.

One of children, now a senior citizen, has told Otto and me that one of the best lessons we taught him was that "life isn't fair." Your father indeed sounds like "one tough hombre."