I was dreading this trip. The last time we drove to East Berlin was for the funeral, only a month or so ago, but driving those roads again makes me ache for Kitty, who I just can't wrap my head around not ever seeing again. I even asked Sam if he wanted to go without me, just with my mom and grandmother to visit his cousins. Of course he said no, and truthfully I don't think I could send him off in a car to another state without me anyway.
So uneventfully we go the the assisted living, open Mother's Day presents with my grandmother, see the renovations and the new puzzle room on her floor. Back in Mom's brand new car, the four of us ride quietly. I sip my big Diet Coke in the backseat and think of Kitty, while Sam taps away on his Nintendo next to me.
At the crossroads, we stop and my grandmother exclaims "Well, how fast he going!?" And then, a deafening crash, the vehicle spins, the car is flying down the embankment and straight ahead, I see a tree. I am punched in the left side of my head by the airbag, stunned into silence as the window glass shatters. The air bags cast a sick red glow inside the car. Mom swerves and avoids the tree and we stop, tires stuck on the rocks.
"Is everyone ok?" I hear myself say. Sam begins to cry, to wail, he is terrified. Mom is bloody and crying; she looks backward at me and seems so small and frail. Mom-Mom is shaken. Sam unstraps himself from the car seat and gets out onto the rocks, sobbing. I get out as well, open the front door. Mom-Mom can't get out, and neither can Mom, whose door is smashed, its lock torn clean. People start coming to us, drawn by the siren of Sam's sobs. I settle Sam on the hill at the roadside, call Randy to tell him we have crashed several miles from his house. He will come to us, but I am too confused to explain where we are.
The EMT units arrive, the State Police arrive. I hear a new term, "t-boned," which is what we have been, by a red truck going 60 mph. I can't reach Eric but leave him a message: there has been an accident, we are all alive, Sam is ok but scared. Everyone is drawn to Sam and me by his continuing wails. Several EMTs asks Sam questions; I know they are assessing his mental status but I don't tell him he has Asperger's, don't want his terror dismissed as a special-needs quirk.
Mom is shuttled quickly into the first ambulance. I catch the word "flight" and wonder if she is being flown to a trauma center. Mom-Mom is strapped to a guerney in another ambulance, and Sam and I are deemed well enough to ride along with her, though still as patients. Sam is horrified by the lack of seat belts in the ambulance, and clings to the stuffed animal the EMT gives him. I answer the medical questions and hold Mom-Mom's hand, though she is in good spirits and, Garp-like, thinks it's exciting that she is getting her first ambulance ride in her mid-80s.
Hours at the hospital later, there have been CTs of heads and necks and xrays of shoulders, elbows and hips. Mom has a minor head injury and superficial injuries, but the rest of us are ok. Eric comes to get us and takes a circuitous route back to Baltimore, thankfully avoiding the accident site. Randy stays with Mom-Mom, and gets a call that my cousin Ryan has just been crowned Prom King. The car is of course totalled. The EMTs tell my mom they are amazed there are no serious injuries, looking at each other and saying in unison, "air bags." We learn that without the airbags my mom and I would likely be dead.