It has been a most inauspicious beginning to the new year for my family. My new year's day Facebook status read, "Happy New year Friends!! May the joy and peace that passes all understanding be yours in 2014 whatever may come."
It was my thought to encourage and challenge my friends to count their blessings and in all circumstances to give thanks for that which they have, even when times are tough. True joy and peace (that I receive from God) should not be dependent on if we're having a good day, but should be evident through our struggles.
Little did I know that this sentiment would be thoroughly tested in my life almost immediately in the new year. Thursday, January 2nd was a bitterly cold night. Evie had a hockey tournament in Kingston on the weekend so my family and I were planning on braving the cold night to drive to the cottage to stay. However our car battery was dead and needed to be boosted or charged.
I called my father-in-law who came over with his car and charger. Boosting it from his battery didn't work. So we decided to push it up the driveway closer to an outlet so we could plug in a charger and connect it to the battery. The two of us were no match for the snowy driveway and as I jumped into the car to apply the break to stop the car from rolling backwards onto the road, my car door that was open because I was jumping into the car clipped my father-in-law's side mirror. CRACK!! Crap...
I dug out an extension cord, plugged it in and charged the car over the next hour. We decided to postpone our trip until the next morning, thinking that would be the safest option. My Father and Mother in law graciously (considering we just smashed their car window) thought it would be nice to babysit and let Lex and I go have a coffee. I commiserated with Lex about how we just seem to be screwing up again and again. We were so depressed about what we had just done but determined finally to move on and try to be more productive in the days ahead. This was not to be.
We got up nice and early the next day, loaded up kids, hockey stuff, and suitcases. Thankfully my wife had put them all in warm winter coats and gloves; sometimes we just put warm sweaters on, as a long drive in coats often gives the girls a heat rash. The drive towards Kingston was easy going for the first forty minutes or so. We then started to notice cars in the ditch every few minutes. The weather was very cold but also bright and clear so we couldn't understand why there were so many accidents. We slowed right down to be safe and continued on.
A few minutes after Lex wondered aloud why we were seeing so many cars off the road we got our answer first hand. The car started to fish-tail like a pendulum,. small little zig zag patterns at first that got wider with each swing eventually spinning our car a full 360 degrees. I think it would have kept spinning if we had not crashed into and through three posts of the guard rail (taking them all out of the ground and splitting two in half), then for good measure we rolled our car completely over and before coming to a halting stop in the ditch, thankfully we landed tires down. We had hit some serious black ice.
I first looked at Lex and after and after seeing that she was okay turned quickly to the the girls. I think the fraction of a second it took me to look at Lex then turn my head to look back was the most scared I've ever been. I didn't know what to expect but worst case scenarios danced in my mind. The instant after was perhaps the most relieved I've ever been as three sets of terrified eyes greeted me, terrified but alert and no visible signs of injury. Everyone seemed scared but OK. The kids started crying in unison exactly 30 seconds after we stopped rolling, but once we got them out of their car seats and into our arms they soon stopped. Two cars pulled up to help us, one was a actually a family from our hockey team (I cannot tell you how nice it was to see a familiar face), the other car had two sweet grandparents from Cape Breton who offered to drive us to the Kingston arena where we were headed, "Don't worry, we won't leave you" the kind couple reassured my wife as I tried to sort out what we were going to do. I called my brother-in-law, Jason, briefly explained what happened and asked him to come to Kingston and pick up our family (they were staying at the cottage only half an hour from there). So I grabbed what we needed from the wreckage that was our car, loaded everyone up and headed on our way making the requisite call to the police to report the accident, inform them we were all okay and that we were abandoning our car in the ditch because it was freezing. Evie and I traveled with more friends from our hockey team who were a couple kilometers back when we crashed but also stopped to help, while my wife took Noli and Miriam in the nice grandparents' vehicle to the arena.
We actually made it to Evie's game on time for her to play, which I think was helpful as it was a fun distraction for the girls while we spent the whole time on the phone with various insurance and tow truck people. After the game Jason, his son and our family went to get noodles at our favourite place in Kingston and slowly started to process what had happened. After the day of hockey (Evie played in both games that day and beat the Ice wolves) I picked up a rental car in town and then we all headed to the cottage...slowly and extremely cautiously. It felt so good to get inside and know that I would not have to drive again for the next 15 hours at least.
Our family as always was so helpful and supportive the next day. Jason and I spent our whole Saturday driving around searching for my car, where it was impounded and house keys (which I thoughtlessly left in the car). We had to drive all over the place which perhaps was a good...get right back up on the horse! It was odd surveying the crash site.
Meanwhile Kath (Lex's sister) and Lex stayed back with the kids at the cottage. The kids had a cottage perfect day, spent mostly outside sledding or drinking hot chocolate. The children's resiliency and toughness amaze me!
My wife's parents were amazingly helpful and generous as usual. They spent their Saturday coordinating with a locksmith to have my house door's open (lesson learned - always keep your spare key in its place because you just never know...) They have also generously offered to give us their much newer car for free; which doesn't even surprise me (they are very generous people).
We are all back home now and safe. Lex and I have very minor stiffness in our neck and back and arms. The girls have no stiffness whatsoever, and are mostly just sad about not being able to drive our old car again. We are all trying to relax and take life a bit more slowly and gratefully now. We have learnt a lot from this. We have resolved to treat winter weather with more respect, drive even more slowly and if necessary not at all when it seems too dangerous. Our other problems which we perhaps worrying about don't seem very important anymore either. I am hoping for a more calm continuation of the year after 2014 started off with a literal BANG and pray that the joy and peace that passes all understanding continues to envelop my household.