Our Story Begins:
That Terrible Call
The phone rang at roughly 3:30 in the afternoon.
As a parent, you know immediately when something’s wrong. I’ve had the same kind of phone call just this week . . . and a few weeks ago.
I got that first call from my college-age daughter who was coherent enough to say, “I broke my foot” and then broke off into a mix of consonants with no vowels that were interspersed with sobbing. That one was terrible because I’m miles and miles away and the only thing I can do is set up a doctor’s appointment, tell her to get a friend to drive her to the hospital, and get her situated. Then I wait by the phone for updates.
It starts with “dad…” in a quavering voice and you can tell. You can tell that the tears are welling and the panic is starting in that little part of your chest, just below the heart, in the middle of the rib cage, causing your heart to race and your head to start to swim. Clarity turns to a grey fog and reality seems to have gone awry.
Nothing prepared me for this week, though, when my middle daughter made that call. She never got past the “dad” and tears. The next thing I knew my daughter’s best friend was on the phone.
“Mister Manoucheri . . . Hannah hit a kid on a bike.”
You panic when you first hand your kid the keys to a car. It’s a lot different when you’re that teenager getting the keys to the car. For the teenager it’s freedom, a place to be yourself and see friends and get away from the confines of the stifling rules of home.
For the parent it’s the knowledge you’re handing your kid the keys to a one ton missile moving at speeds humans themselves cannot traverse without mechanical help.
Your first reaction is that same panic. When the tears are starting you ask “are you okay?!” The friend says “the windshield on the car is shattered but I think the car is fine.”
I didn’t care about the car. I asked if they were okay. I asked if the kid she hit was okay. Anger mixed with confusion mixed with panic and you try to realize getting angry isn’t going to help at all. They called you for calm, not for panic. You have to be the stable one even though you want to scream to high heaven. You tell them to call 911, get the police there, and even though the kid you hit says he’s fine…make him call his parents!
In the end an officer from the California Highway Patrol said my daughter did nothing wrong, the kid was on the road illegally, weaving into traffic, jumped out in the road right as my girl was next to him. She did everything she could. Drove half the limit, slammed the brakes, too. But it’s not about placing blame. We made sure the boy was checked out by an EMT. The CHP did a full investigation and gave us report numbers for insurance. The boy was not hurt.
When I got to the scene my daughter walked up to try and give me an explanation of everything that was going on, but I didn’t let her.
I reached up and held her in my arms. She stopped talking. She relaxed all her muscles . . . and she cried. Her arms came up, and held me tighter as she let the hurt, shock, horror, and even – and it feels wrong to say this, but it’s true – relief wash out of her and onto my shoulders. This could easily have been beyond tragic.
I had my own emotions . . . but I’m her Dad. I deal with those myself. For now, you shoulder this with them.
What about you? Have you dealt with “that” call?