How Could I Not Dream About The Accident?

I enjoy hearing other people’s dreams.  When someone tells me they had a strange dream, I pester  them until they describe it.  Some of my friends know this, and they email me their dreams, whenever they remember them.  This is quite considerate, since it saves me the energy from pestering.  Very often, their dreams have something to do with the activities or T.V. shows they indulge in, something related to their job, or something they are afraid of.  I hear a lot of dreams involving teeth falling out, being chased, falling, and being naked in public, which are all among the top 10 most common dreams people have.   In movies, people who suffer traumatic events have recurring  deams about that one catastrophe.  While I sometimes have a few dreams that fall into those categories (see teeth), more often than not, the dreams I remember do not seem to be connected, in any way, to what I’ve done, or what I’m currently interested in.  Instead, I have dreams about robot conspiracies.  This seems odd to me.  Why am I not dreaming about American Idol, or Vince Vaughn, or dark tornadoes smashing my house to smithereens?  If nothing else, you’d think I’d dream about something scary that happened when I was little.  Something I think about a lot, but have never dreamt about, is an incident that people in my family refer to as “The Accident”.

In 1983, my parents and I were in the car, driving home from Bath Middle School, where my mom was doing her student teaching internship.  My dad was driving our light blue Plymouth Volare, that they had purchased from my grandparents, and owned for 2 months.  My mom was in the passenger seat, and I was in the back seat, sitting behind my dad.  I remember being promised some McDonald’s fries from the drive-through.  This was a pretty big treat, since my parents were somewhat strict about what I ate (They only let me eat sugar cereal once per year, near Halloween.  How excited I used to get about Count Chocula! Note: They gave this strict nutrition policy up by the time my sisters were born).  It was dark out, as we were leaving a night-time event (School carnival? Curriculum night?).  As we were driving, I heard my mom draw a sharp intake of breath and then say my dad’s name “….CHUCK!”  From the way she sounded, I knew something was wrong.  But, I had no idea what it could be.  I was sitting in the back seat, so couldn’t see what was going on up front. My 3 year old brain imagined someone throwing a brick at the windshield.  A few moments later, a huge crash occurred, and our car stopped moving.  I didn’t realize it then, but we had been hit by a drunk driver, who swerved into our lane and hit us head on.  I also didn’t know that my mom wasn’t wearing her seat belt, but I did know that she wasn’t okay.  I couldn’t see her anymore, but I could hear her.  She was moaning.  “Ohhhhhhhh…………oohhhhhhhh”, a horrible sounding noise, over and over.  Her head had smashed into the dashboard upon impact.  I could still see the back of my dad’s head, and from that vantage point he looked okay (I couldn’t see the abrasions across his chest from the shoulder strap seat belt.  With his shirt off, you could see right where the seat belt was, even though he was wearing a thick suede coat when the accident occurred).

He asked me, “Christine, do you have your seat belt on?”.  I answered yes.  I was the only one in that car who was perfectly fine.  Then he asked me again, “Christine, do you have your seat belt on?”  I answered yes, again.  He kept asking…and asking…over and over.  I guess that’s one of the side effects of being in shock.   Scary, but a whole lot better than moaning.  I’m not sure how many times he asked, and I answered, until I yelled at him, “DAD!  I HAVE MY SEAT BELT ON!”  I don’t remember if he ever stopped asking or not.

Smashed car.

After the car had been sitting still for awhile, suddenly the back passenger side window shattered.  3 year old me thought it spontaneously fractured, but adult me knows that the emergency crew used a tool to break the window, since they couldn’t open my door.  A man reached in and grabbed me, pulling me gently through the window. The crew had already used the jaws of life to pry my mom from the vehicle.  I find it amazing that I don’t remember seeing them do this, since it must have taken some time.  I do remember seeing a guy in a blue coat, once we got out.  When I was little I imagined it was the drunk driver, but it is more likely that the man I saw was an emergency responder.  We went to the hospital, but I don’t remember too much about what happened there.  I only had a tiny bruise on my hip bone, and it didn’t hurt at all.

Emergency response team getting my mom out of the car.

My dad did a pretty good job of sheltering me from what was happening, or maybe I was just too young to understand what was going on.  My mom was in a coma, with a contused brain that caused one side of her body to be paralyzed for many days.  My dad met with the neurologist the day after the accident, who said the paralysis and coma could exist for a few days, a few weeks or a few months, but he expected it to go away.  Luckily, the coma only lasted for a few days.  Once she came out of the coma, her short term memory was gone for almost 2 weeks.  My dad remembers visiting with her in the hospital room, then walking out for a few minutes, and upon returning, her acting like she was seeing him for the first time that day.   She remembered what happened up to the day of the accident, but nothing after that, including what was going on around her every day while in the hospital.  My grandma told me she accidentally spilled hot coffee on my mom’s leg and, I imagine, may have been a teensy bit glad that my mom didn’t remember that.

She received 58 stitches across the right side of her head, through her eyebrow; they had to do two rows of 29 stitches, one beneath the surface of the skin, and the other to close up the wound at the surface.  She also had a torn bladder, and a fractured pelvis.  I remember seeing the major bruising and swelling of her right arm. If you know her, you might notice that her right arm looks like she once had stitches there, but she didn’t, the marks are just an indication of how much damage the muscle obtained.  My dad describes her arm as looking like a black man’s thigh.  The driver who hit us, who was driving on a suspended license, got 20 days in jail, plus probation.

Mom was in the hospital for about 2 weeks.   She should have stayed longer, but she wanted to get out.  They had her in a ward with other people who had “head problems” and it was driving her crazy.

Scientists tell us that we don’t remember a majority of our dreams, even when we have them, so perhaps I just remember the bizzaro ones, and can’t recall the ones about the T.V. shows I watch, or The Accident.  As much as I don’t like my bizarre dreams, I guess I’m pretty lucky, not to have dreams about this day.