Monday afternoon was a gray and dreary day in the Tennessee Valley. The rain began after lunch and never stopped. I love those kind of days most of the time, especially when I’m able to stay home. They beg for hot chocolate, with equal amounts of cocoa and whipped cream in my oversized mug. You KNOW how much I like my whipped cream;).

In spite of the weather, “the game must go on”, so Thomas had football practice. It’s nice to be a kid and actually have “permission” to play in the mud (although, as it turned out, most of their practice was indoors). Why is it his practice pants get dirty no matter what kind of practice they have? But I digress, and this isn’t about that, so I’ll move on.

He was one of the last teammates to be picked up, I had made a stop by the grocery store on my way. It was one of those “quick trips” that turned out to be ANYTHING but quick; it honestly looked like the weather savants had predicted “snow”. In the south, just the thought of snow sends people scurrying en masse to the supermarket, frantically picking up the requisite bread and milk (evidently when it snows, man CAN live by bread alone). Check-out lines were streaming into the grocery aisles–even the self-scan lines–and it required aeronautical skills to maneuver your own cart through the human-connected-to-buggy obstacle course. OF COURSE, their was a young mother with one of those oversized, negative-turning-radius race car carts, two daughters riding, one son walking, middle daughter crying, loudly and inconsolably. While that’s enough to send many over the edge (including me), I pitied her, and by “her” I mean mother AND child, they were both equally miserable….the mom, sheepishly muttering both frustrated excuses for her children’s behavior and menacingly ordering them to settle down. No threats or bribes work at times like that, and I wanted to hold her daughter to give that mom a break (she was getting enough evil glares) and pre-empt the hide-tanning her daughter was probably gonna get in the car.

Finally, I was released from supermarket hell prison, goods intact (yes, bread and milk were among them), and headed over to get Thom. He called me when I was a block away, and we discussed exactly where the pick up point would be. I figured he’d be standing outside waiting on me, but he wasn’t; I was slightly irritated because 1) the afore-mentioned grocery fiasco, 2) I needed to get home with groceries so we could inhale a quick dinner before the 3) meeting that was to begin at my house less than an hour from now.

The way only a kid who has nowhere to be can amble along, he managed to collect his bookbag and equipment and find his way to the car. I bit my tongue before saying something smart about him taking his own sweet time; he’s always so eager to tell me the latest and greatest of his day, and I knew that my sarcastic remark would’ve been more about what preceeded getting there than him being on “kid time”.

He immediately began enthusiastically recounting his day as we turned out of the parking lot into steady traffic. And then t i m e s l o w e d d o w n.

Ahead of us was a car, not going over 30 mph due to the traffic and road itself. We watched a lady pull out of a cross road and ram the front of the car and passenger door, pushing the car across the road (in the face of steady, on-coming traffic) and into a ditch. The lady has been at a complete stop, and yet still, her airbags inflated, her front bumper was ripped totally off, the man’s door and front right engine were smashed in…his car immediately began smoking and you could smell a toxic smell, I imagined it was freon or something. He jumped out of his car rubbing his head, she opened her door, and walked slowly in shock towards him. Two other drivers, one apparently a nurse, were out of their cars quicker than those in the accident, one calling 9-1-1 and the other waving me to move ahead and get out of the way (he wasn’t so nice).

I debated stopping anyway, despite the man flagging me on, but there were so many by this point scurrying around, I reluctantly accelerated past….I wasn’t even sure about what I had just seen. It wasn’t a “spectacular” accident but it was surreal watching it unfold. Thomas was immediately recounting his version about what he had taken place…and all I could think was…

It was HIS side…8 seconds sooner, and she would have hit us…HIM. Would the impact have hurt him? Broken bones? Worse?? What if he IS too small for the front and side airbags, would they have helped or hurt? Would the timing have been that those in the on-coming lanes would have front-ended us, too? I reached over and touched Thomas and said, “That would’ve been you…it could have been YOU!” and he said, “Mom…it wasn’t. I’m fine…don’t worry.” And I prayerfully said and meant, “Thank. God.” I was thankful for his delay in getting his stuff together and not being at the curb waiting. “Thomas time” kept us safe.

In an instant I was reminded that life is short, but oh, so sweet…and it’s intended to be LIVED…and I can never tell the people in my life “I love you” too often.

And then we got home and told our little tale and ate our sandwich dinner and had our meeting. Business as usual. Nothing extraordinary (well, until the lights went out, but that’s another story….).

Carpe diem little or carpe diem big, but whatever you do…….Carpe! Diem!

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