The nurse came in the room to give us the discharge papers and remove the EKG tapes stuck to TJ's chest and rib cage. He did point out to me that TJ was bruising where the seatbelt held him securely in the seat of the car. He looks into TJ's eyes and says, "But that's a small price to pay considering it saved your life." Hmm, that's the second time I've heard that tonight.
I recognize TJ's clothes on the chair in the corner, so I walk over to get them. His favorite yellow drum corps tee-shirt is raggedly cut down the center. I find myself trying to quickly roll it into a ball so he doesn't see that it has been cut, as though I want to pretend this whole ordeal has been a dream. A bad dream. But the nurse has already observed my findings and quickly says he will go look for something that TJ can wear.
He comes back with a long sleeve shirt, a huge shirt I note, with the Pittsburgh Steelers logo on it. The minute I see it, I know this is not going to go over well. TJ takes one look at it and with his inherited sarcastic sense of humor says, "What, it's not bad enough that my car is totaled? Now you're going to make a Cleveland Browns fan wear a Steelers shirt." At that moment, I knew everything was going to be all right. Diane was absolutely correct. My son was going to be all right.
We get out to the van. TJ wants to sit in the back seat. I make a mental note that this could be a sign that he is going to have issues being on the road. My social work training immediately kicks in. Years ago after Sarah had her second airway collapse, I became a founding board member of an organization that provides debriefing services for emergency providers that have encountered a critical incident. The research has demonstrated that if a person is allowed to talk about the triggering event within the first twenty four hours, their chance of later being diagnosed with post traumatic stress disorder is significantly lessened. I make the parallel connection that TJ needs to talk about this crash. NOW.
I suggest that we head back to Wooster to see Julie. He says he doesn't need to. Now I'm in conflict. My professional training tells me otherwise, but in my Mom role I don't want to push to hard. It is a delicate balancing act at his age for the mom of being supportive versus being domineering and overbearing. I don't want to be that second kind of mom. So I take the turn out of the parking lot to head south towards Columbus. A few minutes later, he asks if I have his cell phone. I tell him it is in my purse.
"Mom, Stop! Turn around," I am startled by his scream. I'm thrown off balance for a second. Is he sick? Has he discovered he is hurt? "I need to go to Wooster," he says. I smile. In my head, I already knew we were going to Wooster. I'm glad TJ's heart caught up with the plan.
It is well after midnight when we pull up to Julie's dorm. She is waiting for him at the door. I catch the reflection in my rear view mirror as they melt into each other's arms. An immediate sense of total calm flows thru my body. For a young man of twenty, a mother's arms are still protective, but a young loves arms are like therapy. Well worth the hour drive. They invite me in, but I shoo them on their way by telling them I need to go get gas. Experience is on my side and so I recognize they need time alone.
Several blocks down the road I find a gas station still open. I walk in looking for a restroom (for my friends ~ I know you find it shocking I used a public facility ~ a gas station no less), purchase a Red Bull and gas up. I start to tidy the car and throw away the trash into the garbage can between the pumps. Before I pull away I decide for some reason to retrieve the McDonald's bag from the dumpster and keep the receipt. I'm not exactly sure why. I guess because it will always be my remembrance that on February 10, 2008 at approximately 7:26 p.m. our son was involved in a miracle...