First, before you read any farther than this sentence, get up and go hug someone you love. Look into their eyes, touch their face, hold them long and hard. Go on, I'll wait.
A few hours ago, I had walked in the door after a long Friday with youngsters who know they're almost free for the summer. The house smelled of crockpot goody and I had just put on some rice to go with the soup that had simmered all day. I was looking forward to a bowl or two of soup and then some time working on the stair remodeling.
Then the phone rang.
"Katie's been in a car accident". It was my wife on the phone. Strange how fast your mind can switch gears. Even stranger was the eternity of time that passed before her next statement.
"She's all right, but her arm is sore. I'm on my way there."
I got the rest of the information as I dashed out the door and jumped in the Jeep.
Forty miles away, in the big city, my baby is injured and dealing with the Florida Highway Patrol on her own. I fly.
My wife who was closer to Gainesville, gets there first and feeds me info over the cell phone. She's okay, but her arm has a swelling that needs to be checked out, the truck is undriveable, the airbag deployed, no one in either car was hurt seriously...just scratches, the trooper is processing the scene now.
When I get there, the truck is clearly totalled. My girl is sitting on the base of a street light with ice on her arm. Her Mom is checking her from head to toe. Her boyfriend and his family live nearby and they are there. Emma and her boyfriend, who were shopping in Gainesville are there too. Another family friend has shown up also.
Forty miles away from home and she's surrounded by people who care about her. God bless them.
I roam the scene taking photos of both vehicles wondering how the officer will read this scene. There are no witnesses save the drivers and they both feel they were in the right.
Finally the officer emerges from her patrol car where she had been preparing her report. She calls it a draw...no one clearly at fault. It will be one for the insurance companies to iron out.
This will be expensive. Insurance rates will rise. There will be a replacement vehicle to buy. Lifestyles will be crimped and complicated with the absence of the girls truck. As I write, Katie's in the emergency room with her mom, I came home to call the insurance company. This will generate Dr. bills, tow truck bills, larger insurance bills...things that seem important.
What's important, is that tomorrow, at 6:00pm on a beautiful Florida spring evening, on a smalltown high school football field in the middle of nowhere, I will read the names of the 2006 graduates as they proceed up to receive their diplomas...
...and my precious daughter will be one of them, smiling, happy ...alive.