you’re there, and then you’re not

First Son asked me once, when he was probably a pre-teen, how you knew when you were a grown up. I told him that I thought it was when you realized that you didn’t actually know very much about anything.

I’ve been wondering, recently, how you know when you are/are past “middle-aged,” and I think it’s when you realize that you will actually die someday. This might be slightly colored by the death of both of my parents in the past 15 months, but much as I don’t really like the idea, there it is. We all die. (Gulp.)


On my way to Only Daughter’s orchestra concert two nights ago. Stopped at a red light. The light for traffic coming from the other direction always turns green first, and as the first couple of cars travelled through there was a loud thump, (tire blowout?), something flew through the air (part of a fender? something on the road that the car hit?), and one of the cars braked suddenly. Our light turned green and I saw two other cars stopping to assist, so I drove on.

The orchestra played a very short concert, and coming home the road was blocked by police cars, meaning that whatever had happened may have been a bit more involved than what I thought.

We arrived at home, made dinner, OD did homework, etc. etc.  I got into bed, and for some reason the thought in the subject line flitted through my mind, prefaced by “It’s so weird;. . .”.

I then wondered if there was something on our local newspaper online about the accident, so I reached across for my smartphone and went to the site.

A headline and article reported that a runner had been struck be a vehicle a little after 6 p.m. at that corner, and died instantly. And then I remembered a flash of the shiny tape on jogging pants, and the fleeting thought: “It’s a good thing he has those, or we’d never see him.”  By the time I heard the thump I had forgotten he had even been there, or not realized that he was about to cross our road when he did (it’s a weird corner; 5 lane on the main road, the “cross” street off in one direction at a sharp angle, unusually-timed light changes).

It took me a long time to get the image (flying metal? a body?) and the sound (thunk) out of my mind. Even more upsetting is thinking about how irrevocably so many lives were changed in just a flash. The driver of the car and his 7-year-old daughter (can you imagine?). The family of the jogger perhaps preparing dinner, awaiting his return. He was 51; he had a lot of life still to live.

The jogger, an experienced runner, made an error — the 2 lanes closest to him had a red light; he didn’t look up to notice that the 2 lanes across did not — that any one of us could make, and, in a flash, it cost him his life.

Joggers and bicyclists: Be smart out there. Be alert. Look around. Don’t assume anyone else can see you, especially after dark. Black outerwear with shiny tape is probably not enough. Double checking your right of way and safe passage at crossings is a must.

I’m haunted by this, and my proximity to it. And I was just a bystander.




3 Responses to “you’re there, and then you’re not”

  1. November 6, 2013 at 4:02 pm

    This entire post had me nodding and saying Yes, yes…. Death is now a major focus for me (my mother isn’t dead yet, but she’s getting ready), and I had a similar experience to your jogger not long ago that still comes back to my mind. I survived, but one or two seconds difference could have made me the body flying through the air, instead of sitting here agreeing with your advice to cyclists & joggers.

    • November 7, 2013 at 2:23 pm

      And it’s such an easy mistake to make — to become a little complacent, to make an assumption. Sometimes we get away with it, as you did. Sometimes not. Only so many second chances out there.

      Be careful out there!

  2. November 9, 2013 at 9:52 am

    That is terribly sad. I often thing the same thing when I read of a fatality on my morning or evening commute – someone was heading to work, or heading home, and didn’t make it. It’s really unfathomable.

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