Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Upon Near Death

This week I have come down with a cold so rather than cooking I have been thinking about death - my near-death experiences to be exact. These morbid thoughts make a lot of sense to me because my cold medicine makes me feel like a zombie. What's worse is that I cannot taste food so I haven't really made much effort in the kitchen this week. It seems I am still up for a bit of writing while the reaper peers over my shoulder though.

I suspect my cold was brought on by my 3-year anniversary roses as I am occasionally allergic to flowers. I was once given some tiger lilies that took me down for a few days. After putting the bouquet out on my balcony my health returned immediately. To test my assumption, I have flung the dead roses back to the earth with the faint hope that rose bushes will consume my back lawn like Mississippi kudzu come summer.

At this point in my life I am lucky to be alive as I have actually had five near-death experiences. I don't mean "near-death" in the sense of detaching from myself and seeing the "light." These are more like impending death events that have happened throughout my years. I think this is exceptional because my husband can only claim one. My mother has only ever mentioned one experience as well. I might be making more of mine than I should, but my brain tends towards the dramatic while under the influence of cough syrup. In chronological order, my events include:

1. My family liked to spend summer weekends at the nearby lakes when I was a youngster. We were enjoying a lazy day at Lake Claiborne in Louisiana. I could not actually swim so I was made to wear a life jacket which was beyond uncomfortable because it was constantly riding up to swallow my head. The big inner tube I was floating around on was my only consolation but it wasn’t enough to stop me from flopping about and complaining loudly as most kids like to do when irritated in public settings. I was finally given the “OK” to take the life jacket off as long as I held on to the inner tube and stayed near the sand bar. This was to my satisfaction. I was happily floating under the sun and chatting away to a new friend who joined me on the inner tube. She didn’t know that I couldn’t swim and thought it would be a fun surprise to flip me off the tube. So I was drowning. She was screaming. I remember watching small brownish-green fish swimming around me while holding my breath and trying to mentally will myself towards the surface of the water. This tactic wasn’t working. I was sinking. Suddenly, there was a huge splash and a fully clothed man grabbed me by the arm and dragged me from the water into the bright sunlight. This man had jumped into the lake to save me while fully dressed – I remember jeans, Western shirt, cowboy boots and hat. I felt sorry for him - fully clothed and soaking wet - but extremely glad and thankful that he happened to be nearby. After that episode, mom brought me up to speed by enrolling me in practically every swimming class offered in my small town.

2. The summer after my first year of junior high, my mother committed me to volunteering as a waitress at a charity tea room. She was working two jobs and this was her clever way of keeping me out of trouble without having to pay a babysitter. I didn’t mind volunteering because, when I wasn't serving customers, I spent my time ravaging the cracker bin for all the Pepperidge Farm butterfly crackers. One morning on my way into work, my mother and I were involved in a head on collision because the other driver failed to yield. We crashed into the side of their minivan. No one was injured but I cannot help but wonder what would have happened if the timing changed by a second or two. After learning that no one was hurt, I gave a little shout out to the heavens with a promise not to be so greedy about those butterfly crackers. Previously, I had only offered Melba toast to customers in a bid to keep all the butterfly crackers for myself.

3. In high school, I was riding with two friends in a tiny, red MG. If you have ever seen the interior of an MG you would think fitting three people into this car isn't physically possible but try telling that to high school students. So, I was given the privilege of riding fetal position on the center glove box. While puttering along down the highway, we heard a strange clanking sound so we pulled over on the shoulder to make sure a part wasn't hanging off the old car. Everything was in check so we got back inside and started trying to gain speed on the shoulder to merge when possible. Our overly confident (teenage) driver jumped the gun quite a bit and merged right in front of an 18-wheeler going full throttle. Of course we all started screaming as our driver tried to make the quick decision whether to pull over again or magically increase her speed. The 18-wheeler was barreling towards our soft convertible top. Its headlights were burning holes in my spine. The driver was blasting the horn to warn us that we were about to be flattened. After some frantic upshifting, our driver finally managed to race off and leave that menancing truck in the distance. Whew.

4. A college friend of mine had obtained his private pilot’s license and would take me for short trips to the Florida panhandle in his father’s Cessna. He was in the process of earning his Instrument Rating and needed to clock additional flying time. We were about to set off for Destin but he wanted to check a few items on the plane first. I waited behind with the farmer who owned the makeshift airfield while resisting his offer to taste a fresh batch of moonshine. After being waved over, I ran around the plane to get into the passenger side. In my excitement I almost crashed into the propeller of the Cessna. The propeller is nearly invisible when spinning. I could feel the change in air pressure and immediately stopped to get my bearings then redirected my steps and climbed into the passenger side. Running around a plane is insanely stupid, but I think starting the propellers before everyone is inside is a bad idea also. I spent the rest of the plane ride white-faced and nauseated, but eventually I calmed my nerves while watching the dolphins leaping for the sun as it set over the Gulf of Mexico. I miss the Gulf.

5. My husband does not consider this last one legitimate, but I do. It was early morning on the Massachusetts Turnpike. Fat snowflakes were pouring from the dark sky. I had to get a friend of mine to the airport. We had called the airlines and they insisted the flight was scheduled to depart despite the snowy conditions. While going about 40 mph on the pike my car slid on the snow to spin around and face oncoming traffic while smacking tail end into a guardrail. Although I was shaken, I quickly turned around and continued to the airport without stopping to check for damage – I later learned there was a considerable amount. Thankfully, no one was following close enough behind me to plow into my car during those antics. My husband insists that traffic was going slow enough and if someone had hit me both cars would have just slid in the snow seamlessly. Fortunately, I will never know.

Well, I think it is about time for a neti pot, a nap and, definitely, a knock on wood.

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  1. You're crackin' me up.

  2. it's a good thing that grandma (my mom) didn't know about your near death experiences. HaHa

  3. Why so? Did she have some thoughts on near death experiences? Did she have some of her own?

  4. Ha! She had a near death experience every time one of her children or grandchildren left the house. Worry was her middle name.

  5. I thought I responded to this last week. Odd. Anyway, I am not surprised that she worried so much. My dad alone gave her hell - quicksand, acid burns, war...