The mother confided in me that she was nervous about her daughter being that autonomous after ten months of blissful dependency. She didn’t want her to fall, didn’t want her to hurt herself.
I told her that I clearly remember standing behind my son when he took his first tentative steps, my arms outstretched ready to catch him if he lost his newly-found balance or tripped over something that the naked eye could not possibly see. I was always confident that no matter where my son would be, no matter what stage in life he was, I would always be there to know when something was wrong, always be there with outstretched arms to catch him.
The ER nurse’s voice on the other end of the phone was purposefully controlled, hoping that her degree of calm would translate through the phone wires and keep me from hysteria.
“I am so sorry, ma’am, your son was hit while jogging and is in our Intensive Care Unit. Please come to the hospital as soon as possible.”
The world as I knew it ceased to exist. Another alternate universe took over; a universe where parents don't innately know when their children are in dangerous,or lying somewhere hurt. . .or worse.
In the weeks and months to follow, through my son's long painful recovery I was able to slowly assemble piece by excruciating piece, the circumstances that took place that night. It dawned on me that no matter how in control we feel we are, when the shit really hits the fan:
Do we all end up relying on the kindness of strangers?
All our children’s lives we’ve told them “don’t speak to strangers” and rightly so, because unfortunately there are extremely scary people in this world. But on the night of my son’s accident, while I was having dinner at the neighborhood Chinese restaurant, there was a veritable community of heroic strangers who came out of the night, kept my son warm and told him to hold on, constantly reassuring him that they were not going to let him die. They stayed until another group of strangers took over; the police and the EMT who then swiftly put him into the capable arms of the emergency room trauma team.
From that moment on I realized our families are not just the ones we grow up with, marry or give birth to. We all are connected and ultimately responsible for one another. In our worse moments,when our close friends and family are not around, our life may be placed in a stranger's hands. On the night of January 7, 2001 I finally understood the meaning of The Family of Man.
Alison is the award-winning author of The Lily Lockwood Series: Book One,The Seeds of a Daisy and soon to be published Book Two, The Silver Cord.