Her expression was that of a frightened seven-year old girl as she sat there in the front seat of the car. The look was one you’d expect to see on a youngster’s face who was sitting outside the principle’s office. Starring forward she never moved her head as I passed. The police car behind with its lights on signaled all was not well.
When first I saw the police car and the vehicle in front of it, I was nearing the intersection of two four-lane city streets. At the traffic light there was a long left hand turn lane that could probably hold a dozen cars with a concrete barrier around it about ten inches high. Just before it was another similar, but smaller, turn lane for the same direction that might hold two cars before they turned into a business parking lot. This too had concrete separating it from the other lanes.
At first glance the car with the “frightened girl” in it looked to be okay, but as I came beside it I saw a blown out tire and a broken front wheel bent sideways. The entire vehicle, with the exception of the passenger side back wheel, was up on top of the concrete barrier. The driver was barely tall enough to see over the driver’s wheel and I suspect she mistook the first small turn lane to be the beginning of the larger one. She had run smack dab into concrete barrier and her car bounced to be almost completely on top of it.
The person driving the car was not actually a seven-year old girl, but an elderly woman I suspect had entered a portion of her second childhood sometime back, or at the very least had failing eyesight.
What touched me about the scene that was in my view for no more than seconds was the thought that came to mind: “I bet this is the day she loses her driver’s license”. Make no mistake; I am all for getting people off the highway who can no longer operate a vehicle safely. It was my empathy for her and the realization that one day it might be me who loses his right to drive that etched the moment in my psyche. Assuming it is my good fortune to make it to an advanced age, it will still be twenty-five years or more before age-wise I catch up with the elderly woman.
Life has taught me that two decades and a half can pass in what feels little more than three blinks and a sneeze. Twenty five years ago I was thirty-four years old and it feels like that should be only six or eight years ago. But it is not so.
If the old lady driving the car is an unsafe driver she should lose her license. Yet, I can empathize with her as age has already taken some things from me like the inability to read without glasses or being as physically resilient and capable as I once was. It is not lamenting the older portion of life that is before me that caused this subject to be top of mind this morning. Rather, being exposed to the little old lady’s accident served as a wake up call to appreciate every day and all that is within each one.
Aging as an adult either makes you humble or pisses you off. Sometimes it does both. For me being upset is usually momentary and the humility that follows rings true and lasting. There is where my gratitude is rooted; a strong base of humility that grows richer with time.
For all I have been and all I will be; for every experience encountered and each one that is my destiny to yet go through, I am thankful. Gratefulness is to life what fertilizer is to a plant; it enables stronger and more resilient growth.
When I can look Life in the eyes,
Grown calm and very coldly wise,
Life will have given me the Truth,
And taken in exchange – my youth.