If you could redo one moment in your life, what would it be and why? How would it change who you are now?
I have to start out by saying that no matter what, I wouldn’t change anything about my life, because if I did, I’m afraid I wouldn’t be where I am now. I believe that every decision and every action thus far in my life was a vital step to bring me to this exact spot. Now, don’t get me wrong. I’ve got regrets. I’ve got a lot of regrets, but I think those are important because they have shaped the woman I am today. However, for the sake of this prompt, I will describe a moment that I do wonder about sometimes.
As a child, my grandfather was the most important person in my life. I loved my parents and I loved my other three grandparents, but the bond with my Grandpa Walker was stronger than any other. The scene played out one Saturday morning. As usual, I had spent the night with my grandparents and sometime mid-morning, I walked back home to my parents’ house. Minutes after arriving, the phone rang. It was my grandmother calling for help. Something was wrong with my grandfather. “Come quick!” she yelled.
My mom grabbed my sister and me and we jumped in the car for the quarter mile ride back to my grandparents’ house. My grandfather was on the couch just as he had been when I left less than 30 minutes earlier. It was clear he was in great distress. My grandmother was panicking and my mother yelled for me to go get help.
Now, I was 10 years old. My dad and uncle were working and the next nearest neighbor was a half mile away. It was quicker for me to go for help than to call for help as my family lived over 10 miles from the nearest doctor or ambulance service.
I remember thinking that it would be faster if I just got in the car and drove for help. I know what you are thinking. I’m was TEN. But, growing up in the country had its advantages. I honestly can’t remember a time when I wasn’t driving. Before my feet could reach the peddles, my grandfather would put me in his lap and I would steer us everywhere we went. As a 10 year old, I was sort of tall, so I had finally reached the point where my tippy toes could reach and I could really drive a car with an automatic transmission. Although I had done it a few times in the fields and yards, I was never allowed to do it without an adult with me.
So, here I am on this morning as my 10 year old self stood in the road with the the biggest decision I had made to date bearing down on me. I looked at the car, keys in the ignition and pointing in the direction I needed to go. I looked down the road to the neighbor’s house knowing that even for a relatively active child, the half mile was going to be hard. The side of me that feared getting in trouble won, and my feet began to pound the pavement as fast as my little legs would carry me. I made the first quarter mile without slowing down, but I finally had to stop for a breath. After a few seconds I took off again. I remember the stabbing pains in my side and the feeling my lungs were on fire.
I made it to the neighbor’s and luckily he was home. I crashed into his back door and shouted through exhaustion, “something is wrong with grandpa,” and without missing a beat, he grabbed his keys and we headed back. I remember the scene so vividly as we stormed through the back door of my grandparents’ home. My mom was stooped over my grandfather giving him CPR as best she could, but the look on her face said it all. He was gone. The neighbor stepped in and confirmed what my mom already knew.
I can remember not being able to catch my breath. I remember the sobs and most of all, I remember the guilt. Did I make the wrong choice when standing in the middle of that road? If I had taken the car, would we have been able to get back in time to save him? Was being afraid of getting in trouble the thing that killed my grandpa?
Over the next few days I remember hearing the hushed voices of my mother and grandmother telling friends and family how he had died before my mom and I ever got there, of how my grandmother heard him take his last breath before she was even able to call us for help. I heard the doctor say there was nothing anyone could have done and even if he had been closer to medical help, it would not have saved him. But none of those things made me feel better. I was so sure that my wrong choice was the reason he died. And honestly, here I am almost 40 years later and I still think about that day when he comes to mind; I still wonder if the outcome would have been different. My adult brain knows the truth,but sometimes it’s hard to shake the thoughts of that little girl who, in an instant, lost her rock and her best friend.