“So how are you?” I ask and she starts out slow, uncertain. But one detail leads to another and she’s frustrated because she can’t go out and she’s always been independent and she loves to go, go, go. She’s got all these aches and pains, they won’t let her take the collar off or get up out of her chair, but what’s hollering going to do to help cracked ribs and damaged vertebrae?
I ask what she remembers, and it’s the details again, the mundane, that she tells me.
How he came with her that morning, stayed warm in the car in the pharmacy parking lot while she walked children across. He needed to get out, anyway. And then they would go to BiLo. She needed a few things for the baking she wanted to finish up; he needed lottery tickets.
I saw him that morning, the day I ran to the intersection where the old woman and the child were hit. He was standing frail and hunched between the handles of a walker, oxygen tubes running down from his nose, by the edge of the road. He didn’t see her get hit, she says, and we’re both glad.
And she remembers how she chatted with the child, pushed the button for the pedestrian light, how it didn’t take long for the light to change and how she told the girl it was time to walk.
But she doesn’t remember the truck, or seeing it coming down on them, or pushing or pulling or dragging the child out of its path — the child tells her that part of the story later, when they’re both home and when she’s trapped in the chair, waiting for old bones to mend.
She does remember how the doctor leaned over her, said they were taking her to Pittsburgh.
She said no, she didn’t want to go.
She remembers him telling her it was better there, they would fly her.
But she doesn’t like to fly.
And I’m amazed at how we cope with things like that — How we remember the details that have no significance, other than to anchor us to the normal, to something we know, when everything else is going wrong. It’s the little things, like lottery tickets and pushing buttons, that we remember.
Now she’s taking it one day at a time, she says. She’s got a picture the child drew for her, and a gift and an angel, and has a teddy bear named after her. The child credits her with her well being.
And when you look at what could have been, she guesses they were lucky.
But when I ask if she’ll go back to helping children across that intersection, she surprises me.
She’d like to, she says. She worked there 50 years, and she liked it. She’ d like to go back.