As some of you know, in addition to being a humor columnist, I’m also a volunteer firefighter. I don’t write much about that aspect of my life because I don’t encounter many humorous situations when we roll onto a scene. About half of what we do involves MVAs (motor vehicle accidents), from fender benders to multi-car fatals. Because we get a lot of tourists here, most of the situations we encounter don’t involve people we know. But living in a smaller town, you know the possibility exists every time your pager goes off. It just goes with the territory.
At 3 a.m. this morning, we were tapped out for a single car accident into a ravine with two people involved: one out and essentially unhurt, the other deceased. Upon our arrival, I recognized the truck and, minutes later, confirmed that the young man underneath was the son of a family I know. Wonderful people. Loving people. People whose world had just fallen off its axis. The father, who always greets me with a handshake from behind the meat counter at our supermarket, was understandably in hysterics.
As a firefighter, I needed to keep my head clear and disassociate myself from the emotion of the situation in order to remain focused, helpful and effective in retrieving what remained of his son.
As a father, I wanted to cry with him. I also wanted to hop into my engine and go home to my own children, wake them from their sleep and enfold them into my arms, squeezing them until my arms emptied of strength. The fact that I still had that option made me feel both deeply grateful and numbingly sad. The man refused to leave his son’s side next to the wreckage as he wept, his tears falling into the running creek water and mingling with the red, swirling eddies. I had momentary flashes of seeing each of my own children there, and the agony I would feel. I fought those thoughts by purposefully biting my lip to the point of bleeding — anything to keep me from going to that place.
As a columnist, it’s my job to be funny. So after a quick shower, giving long hugs to each of our kids, and an impromptu plead for each of them to always, ALWAYS wear their seat belt, I left for work as they exchanged confused glances. At 8:30 a.m., I wiped my eyes and went to work.
As a blogger, this is the place where my two worlds occasionally collide. Thank you for standing by me as I sift through the pieces. I promise I’ll fit them back together before the day is out.
It’s what I do.
Some days are just easier than others…