The thirtieth anniversary of the car accident happened in August and, for the first time, I didn’t notice.
When I realized that my internal calendar had not prompted the usual torrent of memories, I didn’t feel relieved, better, healed. I just felt a different kind of confused bereavement: experiencing the anniversary was painful, but losing the anniversary is a different kind of grief. I don’t want to forget that day. It is too important, I’m the only witness, and the anniversary was the only time I allowed myself to remember.
If I concentrate, the facts are still there to be recited, and I still have panic attacks. But I rarely allow myself to talk about it, think about it, dream about it. This causes practical problems: during a recent oncology appointment a new doctor wanted to know why the scans showed historic evidence of five broken ribs, and I just stared at her, perplexed.
Though I guess I didn’t know that five ribs were broken. Some ribs, obviously, since my heart was damaged, but an indeterminate number. In 1988 I didn’t care about the broken bones, the smashed joints, the eyelid slashed open. I didn’t even understand that a fractured pelvis was significant until the fact complicated my first pregnancy.
The photographs of the accident site and our broken bodies are grotesque but not detailed, the immediate aftermath was too chaotic to keep track of all the injuries, and mine were trivial compared to the other people hurt that day.
The physical injuries were in fact minor compared to the rest of it. The accident took away our health, but also our youth, our optimism, our futures. We all survived, but thirty years ago that was not much solace.
Looking back I can see that I was one person before August 1, 1988, and an entirely different person after. Without the accident I might never have had the rage to leave home, the practical knowledge required to navigate the larger world, or the money to pay for the journey. The accident took away everything I cared about, but it also catapulted me into the life I have now.
Time might not heal all wounds: some will get worse. But the edges of this trauma are eroding. I can feel the fuzz in my brain, taking over the places where I used to store the metallic smells and sounds from that day.
Thirty years is a long time to carry the memory of broken glass and blood.
Installation day! Or rather, week.
I now know more than any sensible person should about historic tile.
To create the tight lines of an accurate, traditional 1890 bathroom requires setting each tile with razor precision. Literally.
Opening the tile shipment!
New fun project!