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Friday, October 14, 2005

The Accident

Amy’s Visit, Part 1
The Accident, Part 2
Recovery, Part 3

It was such a lovely fall day that on their way home they decided to go for a drive.  Livy said to Ray, ‘Is there something you want to tell me?’

Ray looked quizzically at Livy. ‘No,’ he said hesitatingly.

‘After all we have been through, and you questioning me about Edward, don’t you think I have a right to know about Amy?’ Livy asked with an angry edge to her voice.  Daniel could feel her tense up and started to fuss, so Livy tried to comfort him by showing him his toy dog. He just waved his arms and batted it out of her hands onto the floor of the truck.

Ray didn’t say anything for a moment. He really didn’t want to tell her about Amy.  He felt embarrassed that he and Amy had almost got to the point of consummating their relationship without being married. He was the one to stop them, and Amy was not happy with him, and decided to leave Ray and Wilson and look for work and a new life in the city. Now he just wanted the situation to disappear. He could feel Livy’s eyes on him. ‘Uh, well, I guess since I felt a need to know where you stood with Edward, it is only fair for you to ask me the same question of Amy.’

Ray was not comfortable with this at all. He just sat there driving the truck with a sad look on his face. So many memories were coursing through his brain. Memories he wanted to leave buried there. But beside him was his wife, the woman he loved, expecting an answer to her question.

They were on a side road, one over from their farm. They had driven here many times, and knew that over the next hill lived a cousin of Hank’s. It was a beautiful drive because the area was much like their own road, farms and rolling hills. There was a ridge through the area so the road had a big hill on it. The hill had been pretty steep at one time, but had been cut down a bit to make it easier to travel on for tractors hauling wagons or other farm implements. The cut created banks on either side of the road.

As Ray approached this hill, deep in thought, he knew he had to move closer to the right side of the road just in case there was a vehicle coming the other way. Just then he heard a sound coming from over the hill that he could not identify.

Meanwhile, Hank’s cousin, Jack Stewart was in the field on the other side of the hill. It was Sunday and he was not out doing his fall ploughing, so he and his son John were checking the fences to see if they needed any repair. They were both distracted from their task by an unfamiliar noise seeming to be approaching them. It was not long before they saw a late model car being driven too fast racing by them leaving a cloud of dust behind. Jack just shook his head and said to his son, ‘Young guys out for a joyride, I suspect.’

A few moments later they heard a crash in the direction of the hill. Jack reacted quickly. He told his son to take the truck and go up to the house and ask his mother to call the sheriff and ambulance, and to bring some blankets. Jack climbed over the fence and ran up the hill to see if he could be of any help.  The two vehicles crashed on the crest of the hill, and were now locked together in a mangled mess. As he approached the car, he saw that the other vehicle was a truck.  The car was closer to him, so he checked the occupants of it first. There were five young men in the car, three in the back seat and two in the front. He could tell by their haircuts that they had been or were in the service. The three in the back seemed to be okay, but a bit shook up, and were getting out of the car. The driver looked like he was in pain, and was gripping the steering wheel, and it looked like the front seat passenger had hit the windshield. He told the young men to check on their friends while he checked on the occupants of the truck.

He could only see one person, the driver, who was sitting up but slouched over the steering wheel. He approached the truck from the drivers side and became alarmed when he saw that it was Ray Singleton. He knew him well as he was a neighbour, and also was his cousin Hank’s brother-in-law.

Jack saw that Ray was gripping the steering wheel in much the same way as the driver of the car was. Jack said, ‘Ray, can you tell me what hurts?’

Ray was in a lot of pain, but between gasping for breath he managed to say, ‘I think I might have broken ribs.’  As he winced in pain, he said, ‘My wife and son,’ but pain overtook him and he could not say more than that. No more needed to be said, and as Jack ran around to the other side of the truck, he feared what he might find.

He opened the door and found Livy crunched forward half off the seat, her head touching the dashboard, and on the floor lay Daniel. Jack could not see any blood on Livy or Daniel, but knew that since Livy had hit the dashboard she might have brain or back injuries, so did not want to move her. By this time Jack’s wife and son had arrived and they were able to get Daniel out of the truck, wrap him in a blanket, and place him on the floor of their own truck. They knew that shock would soon set in, so took some of the blankets and covered Livy, and used the rest of the blankets to help support her in the awkward position she was in.

Jack looked at his wife, Anne, and with that look there passed between them a silent understanding that it did not look good for Livy if the ambulance did not arrive soon. The town of Wilson was lucky in that they had a full service hospital, a small one by city standards, but it served several counties where the main industry was farming.

Anne stayed with Livy, their son John went to check on the car occupants, and Jack went back to check on Ray. Between bouts of pain all Ray could say was, ‘Livy?’ Jack said, ‘She’ll be okay.’  He felt that Ray didn’t need to know more just yet. Ray, wincing with pain, said, ‘And Daniel?’

‘Oh, he’s fine,’ Jack said, ‘Looks like he fell off Livy’s lap onto the floor, but we checked and there’s no blood, and looks like no broken bones. Babies are pretty resilient, and besides he was wrapped in a blanket.  He’s just fine, Ray. Anne wrapped him up well, and put him on the floor of our truck.’

Ray painstakingly turned his head to look at Livy, and was shocked to see how she was positioned. She was bent forward, head touching the dashboard, and had lots of blankets around her. He saw Anne standing at the open truck door beside her.  He tried to read the expression on her face, but another wave of pain overcame him and he had to close his eyes.

The sight of his wife made him cry out, and he called to her, ‘Livy!’ before racking sobs overtook him, ‘I’m so sorry, Livy!’  Ray was in pain from his ribs being crushed, but now an emotional pain came over him that more than matched his physical pain. He tried to get out of the truck. Jack wouldn’t let him. He then tried to slide over the seat to be near her. Jack told him, ‘Ray, don’t, we’ve got her stabilized.’  But Ray tried again to get to Livy, but this time his own physical pain stopped him.

‘Ray,’ said Jack, ‘The sheriff and ambulance will be here soon, we’re not that far from Wilson, so they shouldn’t be long. Stay put, don’t move, Ray. Anne is with Livy, and I have to go check on the guys in the car.’

Ray asked Jack if there were injured people in the car, and was told there were five young men. And Jack said, ‘By the look of their haircuts, I’d say they all were or are in the service.’

‘Oh, God,’ Ray said, ‘They might have just come back home alive from fighting a war, and now could die in an accident.’

It seemed like an eternity, but the sheriff and two ambulances finally arrived. They remarked at the good job that had been done of putting blankets around Livy to protect her. They assessed that the car passenger and she were the most seriously hurt, so they very carefully lifted her out of the truck and into the waiting ambulance. They checked on Ray, and he since he could walk with help from Jack, and didn’t need a stretcher, they put him in the same ambulance with his wife. Ray asked Jack to contact Hank and Martha.

They had already checked on the front seat passenger of the car, and he was taken care of next because he would likely be suffering the same type of injury Livy was, but on him they saw blood. Since the driver of the car could walk and sit up, but was doubled over in pain like Ray, he was put into the same ambulance with his friend. The other guys were shook up, but fine. While the sheriff and deputies did their job of questioning the other three occupants of the car, and Jack and his family, the ambulances headed for the Wilson Hospital.

Ray held Livy’s hand, and between waves of pain kept telling her how much he loved her.  At the hospital they were taken to separate examining rooms. It was determined that Ray had cracked ribs, not broken, so they taped him up and gave him pills to help ease the pain. Dr McCutcheon recommended that he stay in the hospital overnight for observation. Livy’s injuries were harder to determine because she was unconscious, and could not tell them where it hurt.

After talking to the police, Jack had called his cousin Hank and arrangements were being made for the care of Daniel. Hank and Martha would take him to their home. Hank said that he and his sons would do Ray’s chores that night, but since the kids would be in school the next day Hank could do them by himself, but they would have to find someone to continue with Ray’s chores, and the rest of the fall ploughing.

After they were both examined, Livy was moved to a ward room, and Ray was allowed to be with her. He was glad of the opportunity to sit with his wife. He wanted so badly to be able to communicate to her how sorry he was about the accident, and to apologize to her for not telling her about Amy. The last words she had said to him were not loving ones but words of anger and frustration.

Livy was in a disturbed dream-like state. The last thing she remembered was her angry words at Ray about Amy, and trying to pick up Daniel’s toy dog from the floor of the truck, then a loud noise, and then blackness. She had no concept of time, but she could hear people talking, but she couldn’t understand them. It then felt like she was being lifted and moved, and pain shot through her body. There was a throbbing pain in her head, and she was shaking as if she was cold, and the only spot of warmth she felt was her left hand.

Since Hank and his sons were doing his chores, and Daniel was taken care of, Ray sat with Livy in her hospital room, holding her left hand.  At 8:00 that night the nurse came in to say that visiting hours were over, and he should return to his room because he needed sleep, too.

Painful as it was, as soon as he could roll over and get out of bed the next day, Ray went to Livy’s room. He was very upset when he saw her lying there so still. As with all head and spine injuries, they had to put restraints around her head, arms and waist so that she couldn’t move. He sat down and took her left hand in both of his, and held it ever so gently. She made some sounds, but her eyes remained closed. A nurse came to the door and had started to say that he shouldn’t be in there, and realizing it was Ray walked away quietly.

Ray stayed with Livy, holding her hand, until Jack came in the mid afternoon to drive him home. He really should not have been sitting up, but wanted to be with Livy. Ray asked if they could go to Martha’s so he could see Daniel, and Jack obliged. Being a small close knit community, word spread about the accident, and help was already on the way. Jack told him that Rev Case’s nephew, Stephen, just newly discharged from the army, would come over and do the chores and plough the fields. Ray didn’t like this at all. He’s the one that should be doing this, but just then a pain shot through him and he thought better of voicing his thoughts.  

While at his sisters spending time with Daniel, Martha invited him to stay for supper. Martha expressed concern about Daniel’s feeding. He had been breast fed, and if they bottle fed him now he would not go back to the breast. The doctor said that there was nothing that could be done, Livy was unconscious, and on pain medication, so it might be best just to make the change to bottle feeding him cows milk. After supper Hank took Ray home, and Ray felt every bump on the road. Stephen wasn’t expected till tomorrow, so Hank did Ray’s chores before going home to do his own.

After giving what little help he could to Hank in the barn, Ray went into the house. It was quiet. Too quiet. Ray wanted to just sit and cry. He missed Daniel. And he missed Livy so much. It had been a long time since Ray had had to come into an empty house. It had become their home, and Daniel and Livy filled that home with activity, laughter, and love. Instead of crying, he decided to sit in the swing on the veranda and read the bible. He found some solace in the swing that Livy had given him, and in his communication with God.

Every movement Ray made caused him pain, but since his ribs weren’t broken there was no reason for him to be in the hospital. When he went to bed that night, it took him a while to get out of his clothes and into his nightshirt. It distressed him that Livy was not there. He gingerly climbed into his side of the bed, but by morning found himself sleeping on Livy’s side of the bed. The smell of her hair was on her pillow, and that gave him some comfort.  Hank brought Daniel over when he came to do chores, and that made Ray smile, but his ribs were too sore for him to hold him long.  

Stephen was to arrive that morning, so Ray sat in the swing reading the bible, thinking of Livy, and waiting for him. He did not have long to wait, but the first car to arrive did not bring Stephen. It was his closest neighbour bringing him a casserole. Ray shyly thanked her, and tried to tell her there was no need. She expressed her sadness about the accident and prayed for a speedy recovery for them. It wasn’t a steady stream of neighbours, but by early afternoon Ray had a couple of casseroles, pies, and cakes. He was not used to people bringing him food, except  Mrs Pratt’s weekly cakes, so it embarrassed him, but he knew they meant well, and he accepted the food graciously.

After Stephen arrived, Ray gave him a tour of the barn, and they drove back to where he had been ploughing to show him where to start. Stephen offered to drive him to see Livy, but Ray said, ‘No, that’s okay.’  Stephen said, ‘Mr Singleton, I insist.’

As Ray entered Livy’s room he could see no change in her. She was lying very still.  Her bed was near the window, and the sun was shining on her face. He sat down beside her and took her left hand. She stirred, but did not open her eyes. He stayed with her for a few hours, holding her hand and talked softly to her about Daniel, and all the help coming from Martha’s family, and the community. Tears came to his eyes as he spoke of their neighbours and all the help that they were receiving from them. Before leaving, he read some passages from the bible, and prayed.

Stephen took Ray home, and they had some supper, and went out to do the chores. Since Stephen was raised on a farm it did not take him long to understand Ray’s routine.  Ray was glad of his help and company. That night he showed him the bunkroom where he would be staying while helping out.

After the morning chores the next day Stephen drove him over his Martha’s to visit Daniel, and later Martha drove Ray to the hospital.  Stephen would go and plough the fields for a few hours before coming to the hospital bring him home.

In Livy’s hospital room Ray sat in the same spot, held her hand, and told her of the days events, and Daniel, and read passages from the bible. Besides Ray and the nurses, Livy’s was visited by Rev Case and his wife. There were other visitors, but the nurses discouraged them from staying very long. Already in the few days Livy was there, her room became filled with flowers, mostly from people’s gardens. Ray smiled, Livy loved flowers, and he wished she could see them.

That day Ray could see changes in Livy. He felt she was sensing more. When he arrived, he saw that Livy was able to move a bit, but sometimes it caused her pain and she would cry out.  He held her hand and talked to her. And then she opened her eyes. Ray was so happy to be there to see it! She had a puzzled look on her face. She was disoriented and didn’t know where she was.

Livy started crying, and was saying something about the warmth leaving her. He didn’t understand what she meant. He thought it was because the sun wasn’t shining in the room at this time of day. He reached for her hand, and held it in both of his, just as he had done for the past few days. She gasped. The warmth had come back to her! And she realized that it was from Ray holding her hand! She began to cry. He wanted so badly to hug her and hold her in his arms but couldn’t, they were both in so much physical pain.

‘I’m sorry,’ she finally was able to say, her voice low but thick with emotion.

‘Its all right,’ he said.

‘Ray, no, its not all right,’ she whispered haltingly, and had to pause, to take a breath, before trying to go on.

‘Livy, don’t try to talk now. This can wait,’ Ray told her gently.

‘It doesn’t matter to me now,’ she whispered, still crying, ‘I really don’t need to know,’ and after struggling to catch her breath continued, ‘Its none of my business.’ Ray could see she how much she was hurting. He wiped the tears from her cheeks.

‘And if I hadn’t persisted,’ she said, and tried to pass a hand between them, ‘Maybe none of this would have happened,’ whereupon her distress increased.

Ray caught her meaning. ‘No! No, Livy, my darling, the accident wasn’t your fault. Oh, sweetheart, don’t give it another thought, it was the other drivers fault.’ He couldn’t stand it anymore. He wanted to hold her so badly, and comfort her, but the only way he could do that was by words of assurance and love, and that was easy to do because he loved her so much.  He whispered words of love and encouragement to her until she was convinced that the accident wasn’t her fault.

She asked about Daniel. Ray laughed. He said he was probably getting more attention at Hank and Martha’s and would likely be sad to leave. At this, Livy tried to laugh, but it hurt. And Ray told her about Daniel being bottle fed, and how Martha said he probably would continue with the bottle. As he said this, Livy could see him blush. It wasn’t the realm of men to talk about breast feeding. Livy was tired, and so was Ray, and Stephen had come to get him. Ray didn’t want to leave, but Livy needed her rest, and so did he. The doctor had told him earlier that she might be able to go home in a week, and that made Ray smile.  That was the first good news about her that  he’d had in the last few days.

To be continued ..........