On the day after Christmas, it all started with an ominous thud and shattered glass. People often like to say they’d respond a certain way to an emergency. They look at other stories and say “Oh. I would’ve done this…” but nobody can ever truly predict the way they’d respond to something so urgent. When forced to make a detrimental plan in such urgency, the outcome cannot be foreseen.
I was sitting in the living room watching a movie with my cousins when those daunting sounds fled from the kitchen. Our heads turned, and my aunt and I rushed into the room to investigate. As we hurried out of our seats, that’s when everything occurred in slow motion, every movement a blur.
As soon as I turned the corner I could hear my heartbeat pounding in my head. I saw my papa lying still, not breathing, face-down, on the tile floor surrounded by fragments of glass. My senses faded. My hearing and my vision became fuzzy. My mind felt like the kind of static heard on a radio station.
My aunt immediately fell to his side in tears and tried to roll him over. She screamed “help” in a strained voice. My uncles came running to the scene, while my cousins sat crying hysterically on the couch. As for me, I stayed still, merely observing the chaos before my eyes. Utterly useless. My aunt screamed at me repeatedly to call 911. Over and over again she gave me simple orders. But, there I stood, frozen.
My uncle slid right next to his wife and tried to roll his dad over. He quickly thought to check his mouth. Sure enough he found unchewed food. He pulled out a chunk of bacon and got my papa to take a breath. He started coughing stuff up and vomiting on the floor. At that point I just ran outside and buried my face in my hands, tears streaming. People who hear this story typically stop here and say this is where they would’ve done something differently. I wish that were the case, that I could’ve reacted differently.
My dad finally entered the kitchen and called 911. But, he didn’t know my uncle had already called. I stood outside with my aunt at the end of the driveway as we awaited the arrival of the ambulance. We stood there for what felt like an hour before finally we heard the sirens in the distance. We raised our hands to flag them down. Finally they rushed into the house. My aunt tried to stop me, but her grip couldn’t keep me from following them inside.
Trailing the paramedics, I saw my papa sitting up with a face full of nasty bruises. The first words he said to me was “Damn. If I would’ve died, I would’ve given you the house.” He flashed a crooked smile. I was overwhelmed with relief.
While the paramedics addressed his health concerns, they weren’t able to transport him to the hospital because their vehicle broke down at the house. Luckily they accidentally discharged two ambulances. The second one arrived shortly and they carried him off in a stretcher to be tested in the hospital.
Though my papa recovered, my guilt remained. I still bash myself for not being helpful. For just standing there rather than following the simple orders I was given. I try to tell myself that maybe next time I’ll try to do something about it. Next time, I’ll take action.
Unfortunately, no one can accurately predict their reflexive reaction to a crisis. I learned that preparation can never guarantee results. Anybody can claim to be prepared or that they’d be a hero, but in reality that’s not something that can accurately be foreseen. Next time I see a situation where I think I would respond differently, I am reminded of how untrue that really is. While I haven’t quite forgiven myself, I am more forgiving toward others in similar situations.