I've been blessed in many respects to have not had the difficulties that some endure in life. As is the case with all of us I imagine though, there have been difficult times. I've spoken about my father and his passing here before so instead of rehashing something I've written about I figured I'd write about the time I was hit by a car when I was 14 years old and the months that followed.
It was a beautiful, albeit hot, summer day on July 17th 1990. I was lazing my way through another summer vacation following the end of the school year. I passed my summers by doing your typical teenaged boy type things, watching t.v., playing video games and playing sports. I don't remember if I stayed up late the night before or not, but on the 17th my twin brother Clifford woke me around 11 am and asked me if I wanted to go with him and our best friend George to our friend Mark's house and go swimming in his pool. I did not typically sleep that late when I was 14 years old so it was rather unusual for me to still be asleep at that time. I remember feeling kind of blah when Clifford woke me. I expressed my reservations to Clifford after he asked me if I wanted to go swimming at Mark's house. The bike ride would require that we travel along the service road to the Long Island Expressway, a road that I never felt very safe on. There were no side walks to ride on along the Expressway and cars tended to travel a lot faster than the 30 mph posted speed limit as it was a decently long and mostly straight roadway with only one light at the very end of it.
I had put up fusses about going places and doing things before, but I think I put up a little more of a fuss on that particular day, which is part of why it stands out. After a bit of an effort on Clifford's part to convince me to go, I finally acquiesced. My real motivations for not wanting to go I think were that I was just tired and feeling lazy. Clifford was just trying to get me up and doing something fun instead of being a bum all summer. I don't think that we had gone to Mark's house at all previously that summer. If we had been to Mark's house, it had only been once, so that's ultimately a big part of what convinced me to go along and not just stay home. We made it safely to Mark's house around noon time and had a lot of fun swimming in his pool and playing a variety of games with George and Mark. I do not remember exactly what time we left, because it was not long past the apex of daylight (June 21st) here in New York meaning it could have been later than I remember it. I'm guessing it was close to 5 p.m. though because we probably had not told mom where we were going and we wanted to get home right around when we knew she'd be getting home. At any rate, Clifford and I left Mark's house before George did even though George lived a little bit further away than we did.
Right at the point where we reached the Expressway service road on the way home Clifford and I were figuring out if we wanted to ride with or against traffic. There was more room on the side of the road biking against traffic, but the law was that bicyclists should bike with traffic. Therefore we decided to cross the Expressway service road. We actually hopped on our bikes and started travelling away from our house, so that we were going with traffic before we looked over our shoulders and crossed to the other side. I remember this being a point that the police could n't understand during the accident report (probably because no one follows the biking laws), but Clifford and I were conscientious kids and just trying to follow the stupid law.
Of course, I started to cross the roadway and a driver was coming quite fast. I thought I could make it across, but realized that I was not going to and had just enough time to jump off my bike (at least that's how I remember it) as I was hit by the car. I was only wearing my bathing suit and I was carrying a bag with my clothes in it. I wore glasses at the time and apparently both my glasses and the bag were thrown from me as I was thrown to the ground. I do not remember blacking out, but I do not remember tumbling either. I simply remember being on my back. I had broken the tibia in my leg and could not get up.
I did not know that I had hit my head at the time and I don't think that I ever had a concussion test at the hospital, but later when I was laying in the hospital bed I remember feeling a bump and some dried blood on the back of my head. Prior to going to the hospital though several drivers stopped to help out. I remember two men who stopped and one asking me if I could get up. When he did, the other man kind of yelled at him, "CAN'T YOU SEE HIS LEG!". I guess it was kind of obvious it was broken. If I looked at it I only did so briefly as I was trying to manage the pain. A lady who was driving a UPS truck also stopped by and even though it was a very hot Summer day, got a blanket from her truck to cover me because I was chilly, still being wet from having just gone swimming and only wearing my bathing suit. Several other on-lookers stopped too, but I only remember seeing those 3 people and the driver who had a piece of cotton in her mouth. I felt badly thinking that I might have flown into the wind shield and that she had been injured in the accident, but I later found out that she was on her way back from a dentist's appointment and that's why she had the cotton in her mouth.
When the ambulance got there they asked me what day of the week it was (for some strange reason it was probably the only day that summer I knew which day of the week it was --- I mean REALLY? What kid keeps track of the days of the week when he/she has every day off during the break in the school session?). They also asked me who the first President of the United States was. Good thing I remembered George Washington from history class. =D
One thing that has always stood out to me is that I did not shed a tear. I guess being in shock helps the body to cope not just with physical pain but also mental anguish. The ambulance took me to the hospital. One of the people who stopped to help out drove my brother Clifford back home and brought my parents the glasses and clothes that had been thrown from me. I do wish that I had known who the people who stopped and helped me were so that I could have thanked them. I never had the chance to thank them though, so I hope doing so here, now is worth something at least.
At the hospital I had quite a long wait on top of a table in the emergency room. The had me in front of a fan, which made me very cold, as I no longer had a blanket on me at the time. I remember mom being pretty mad that they left me there in my bathing suit in front of a fan before I was seen by a doctor. They actually did not do my surgery until the next day. The first night they splinted my leg and put me in a hospital bed. I did not get much sleep that night. The way they had splinted my leg the splint was rubbing up against my heel and giving it a very bad blister. I never saw the blister, but I paged the nurses on several occasions complaining about the splint and it rubbing. I was extremely polite, partly because that's just the way I was in general, but mostly because I knew I had no other help than the people who were there. After the third or fourth time the nurses had come from my page they agreed to take off the splint and readjust it. When they did they told me I had a very bad blister and they apologized for not adjusting the splint earlier. I was grateful to have the relief from it rubbing on my heal, but to myself I was saying, (to the nurses) "I wish you'd just believed me enough the first time to fix it". >.<
The next day I had my surgery done. I recall counting down from 10 and after that the anaesthesiologist must of done a good job because my next memory is of being wheeled out of the recovery room back to my hospital bed. The challenge over the next several months was my battle with depression as I thought a lot about death and how I could have died. Being immobile as I was gave me a good deal of time to think about things and all the people I loved, who I would miss and the things I wanted to do still and hadn't had the chance to.
A month to the day later on August 17, 1990 our family cat Tiger was hit by a car and killed. It's one of the last times in my life that I remember crying like an absolute baby. I was bawling. I wanted to stop crying and I was embarrassed because one of Heather's friends was over our house when Dad had brought Tiger up to me one last time so I could pet him but I just could not stop crying. I also had trouble understanding how I did not cry after I was hit and yet I was not able to stop crying after Tiger was hit and killed. I came to grips with it all in realizing that it was my depression combined with Tiger's fate compared to my own and realizing how my fate could have been his which caused me the pain and anguish I felt.
It took a long time for my leg to heal properly and I did not get off crutches actually until January of 1991. In December of 1990 my parents sat Robert, Heather, Clifford and I down, downstairs in our basement family room and told us that they had decided to get a divorce. Even at 14 I knew that it was probably for the best considering the tension that existed in the house between them, and yet it still felt like a capper to a terrible year. I had recently been getting over my fears of death and depression from the accident and now I was depressed again that my parents were going to be getting a divorce. Even writing about it now makes me feel a bit lonely and empty. Of course the sadness of those times went away through talking with family and understanding the reasons why the divorce was for the best and that's how I became the happy go lucky Jon Bear that I am today.
People will say that you grow stronger out of the difficult times. I am not sure I subscribe to that as much as I believe that dealing with truly difficult times in our lives helps lend perspective to some of the perceived "difficult times" that are more minor nuisances than "difficulty". I do think that we learn from the really tough times though. Hopefully the difficult times I have gone through have helped me and will continue to help me to be proactive and not reactive to the difficult times that friends and loved ones face. That's where I hope it helps me most. Ultimately it is the love of my family and my friends and sometimes even the help of strangers (whether that be doctors, nurses, the people who stopped to help me when I was hit by a car) that got me through one of the more difficult times in my life. So the biggest thing I took away from that difficult time in my life and others since then is that Love heals best. When the people you love are going through a difficult time the best thing you can do for them is to love them and be there as support for them.