I went to visit Philip in the hospital. Well, visit his parents is more like it. He was sedated and pretty much out of it when I was there. He got in an accident 10 days ago. He's 17 and, like many teenagers, probably felt nothing could happen to him. After a night out with his friends (apparently drinking, based on his BAC), he went for a drive about 5a last Sunday morning. He lost control and totaled his mother's car.
I saw pictures that Phil took of the car at the lot. No one should have walked away from that wreck. The passenger door was moved to the center console and the car itself was bent at a 120 degree angle. One picture, taken from the rear looking at the driver's side indicated just how much the car had bent: the front end beyond the passenger compartment was completely out of the picture. It was bent at least three feet from where it should be.
I was thinking on the way to the hospital how lucky he was. Not just to survive the accident, but to be given a second chance at life. Not many people can claim that gift. And while he didn't necessarily walk away from the accident (he's been in ICU for going on 11 days now), not a single bone was broken and there were no major injuries. He had head trauma and was put in a coma, but the prognosis is a good one. The doctors indicate its a question of when, not if, he'll recover.
Talking with Phil and Tracey made me more aware of how special it is to be a parent. Here we have children, thinking it's our responsibility to raise them, to teach them how to exist in today's world and send them off on their own when they go off to college and beyond....and then continue with our own lives as empty nesters. But it's more than that. They are our flesh and blood and being their parents isn't just a temporary job that ends when they graduate from college and start their own lives. It's a lifelong commitment, regardless of what age they are and what kind of help they require. I think back at what my parents went through for me and am grateful for the guidance, discipline and knowledge they imparted on me (directly, or indirectly, as the case may be) in order for me to arrive where I am in a somewhat unscathed manner. Sure, I had my share of ups and downs and did my share of stupid things, but, as I told Scotty P. all those years ago in that restaurant in Dayton: I always knew I'd turn out good.
I often wonder just how different my life would be had I made just one mistake too many during my misspent youth. Would I be here typing this while sitting in a nice home, in a nice neighborhood, married to a loving and wonderful wife and being the father of two kids? Or would I be somewhere else, with a limited future and be running from place to place, trying to eke out a living? I guess I'll never be able to know these things and am glad that I don't have to find out.
What I do know is that when I visited Philip in the hospital, I couldn't help see myself as an indestructible young man, intent on proving to the world just how indestructible I was. I hope he uses his gift wisely and is able to serve as a message to those like him that we are all vulnerable to making mistakes, regardless of how old we actually are.