Bloomin’ Update 59: Twenty Years To Life


It’s difficult to believe that it’s the first day of winter, WordPress has added snow, the holidays are upon us, and 2017 is coming to an end. For many, this time of year is an opportunity to look back and reflect.

My day of reflection, though, happened on December 12, the 20th anniversary of my car accident.

Oxalis.

On that December day in 1997, while driving home from work on a black ice kind-of-day on Long Island, my northbound Geo Tracker skidded and spun, slipped and slid on a heavily traveled parkway. In seconds or minutes, it became airborne as it tumbled through the trees and shrubs in the median, eventually landing on its side in the southbound lanes and then bouncing onto its wheels.

Jamaican Heliconia.

I don’t remember much of that day. I know that I didn’t land on any southbound cars, and none of them hit me. The blanks have been filled in by witnesses: a policeman who radioed for a helicopter (which was busy with other accidents that day), an off-duty ER nurse (who left his car on the side of the parkway to accompany me in the ambulance and stabilize me), and a former student (who recognized my car and me, and then placed my briefcase and phone in the ambulance).

Bleeding Heart Vine.

I arrived to the hospital with a fractured skull. One fracture was above my right eye, which was swollen to the size (and color) of an overly ripe plum. The other fracture was along the right side of my head. The doctors theorized my brain had smashed against the inside of my skull, fracturing it, after my car came to a sudden stop.

Lantana Esperanta, which reminds me of confetti.

I remember asking a doctor if I was going to die. He said no. I also remember hearing the noises around me, and telling myself that if I could keep hearing those noises, it meant I was alive.

Begonia.

Forty-two staples later, and a tube draining fluid from under my skull, I spent many days in ICU reflecting on my miracle. By all accounts, I should have been dead — or at least severely brain injured. But I was fine. My brain was working. And I was thankful.

My neighbor’s Bougainvillea, which hangs over the fence for me to enjoy.

In the years immediately following the accident, I often gave it a lot of thought — making a big deal on the anniversary that it was my first birthday, my second, my third, etc. Somewhere, the day became lost. Other things, like life, happened — and although I knew December 12 was my date — it never occurred to me until after it had passed.

Valencia Orange.

Until this year. Twenty years.

Copperleaf “Louisiana Red.”

In the first few years after the accident, I would always take a personal day and do something fun. In New York, this usually involved Christmas shopping, present wrapping, or decorating for the holidays. In Fort Lauderdale now, I chose to take advantage of unseasonably cool weather — like a northern spring — in South Florida and honor the 20th by working in the garden, photographing plants, marveling at the vividness of colors, dividing and sharing with neighbors. I chose to celebrate life, my life.

While weeding, I discovered a coconut had started to sprout.

I spent some time dividing a clump of Crinum Lilies, which gave me a whole bunch to share with neighbors and friends.

Twenty years — so much has happened. Nieces and nephews who were children then, now have children of their own. There were losses and marriages (including mine to Joe), gray hair, countless students with whom I worked, heart disease, more gray hair, a blog, retirements, a move to Florida, and so much more. We all have so much more to fill in twenty years.

My neighbor also has Corn Plant (Dracaena fragrans) lining his property. The flowers are heavily fragrant at night.

As I worked in the soil and reflected, there were moments when I would pause to look at the swaying palms before a crystal blue sky, and think of what my life could have become (or not become) as a result of that accident. It was very much like the conversations I had with myself in the days immediately following the accident — if I hadn’t survived, if I had suffered severe brain trauma. Of all those outcomes, I was handed the most positive, the most blessed one.

Bromeliad “Little Harv.”

A friend gave me these Bromeliads, and they seem to bloom just before Christmas.

I was quite taken aback at how emotional I was on this December 12 — and in the days before and after. It was as if I was starring in my very own version of It’s A Wonderful Life. Rather than running through Bedford Falls, I was digging and planting and celebrating. Yes, it’s a wonderful life.

I planted this Amaryllis bulb a few weeks ago — and it’s blooming in time for Christmas.

On behalf of Joe and myself, I’d like to wish all of you Happy Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Holidays, Happy New Year. In other words, be happy. See you in 2018.

28 thoughts on “Bloomin’ Update 59: Twenty Years To Life

  1. A beautiful post! I am glad you celebrate your Life. Life is truly wonderful and it should be celebrated and appreciated every day. … And beautiful pictures, I had to google the corn plant, I do like evening fragrance in the garden 🙂
    Happy Holidays
    *~* Gone Tropical *~*

    • Hi Evelyn. Glad you enjoyed the post and the corn plant. To be honest, I’m not sure why it’s called corn plant. It looks nothing like a plant that produces corn — and the fragrance doesn’t smell like corn or even popcorn! 🙂 But… when in bloom (usually at this time of year), the flowers are quite fragrant at night. Happy and healthy!

  2. Dear Kevin, I have been reading your blog for a couple of years now and have always enjoyed it tremendously. (I am in Munich, Germany). Today you really touched my heart! Congrats, God bless you and all the best for the next at least 20 years! And in the meantime Merry Christmas and a happy and healthy 2018!
    Kind regards from
    Uta

    • Hello, Uta. Many thanks for your kind words. From South Florida to you: Frohliche Weihnachten. 🙂 (That’s courtesy of my high school German lessons.) All the best in 2018 to you and your family.

  3. We are all blessed that you savor your life, that you continue to inspire us with your insights, that you open us to a celebration that only your eyes and healed brain can witness to. Happy rebirthday, Kevin.

  4. My goodness, Kevin. You have really synthesized such a traumatic event in a manner that has enhanced your appreciation for life. I’m very touched to read of your experience and I’m so amazed that you didn’t suffer more permanent physical trauma. Your day of gardening sounds so healing and a perfect way to commemorate a very profound anniversary. And the photos from the garden are spectacular. A happy Christmas to you and Joe, with a special wish for continued happiness in 2018.

    • Debra — I think of you often and hope you are enjoying the holiday season with your beautiful family. The funny part of the whole story — which wasn’t in the post — was the moment that everyone realized I did not suffer brain damage (although some may argue that point). A coworker had come to see me in ICU. It was just two days after the accident, a Sunday night, and I asked her to pull the passes for students that I was scheduled to see on Monday. I then rattled off their names, homeroom teachers, and appointment times — and the whole room was amazed. No damage. The only real lingering effect is occasional head pain, which I chalk up to literally having a screw loose. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year!

  5. Hello fellow gardener. I am so glad you recovered from that frightening accident. It is astonishing how time flies. I can see how your 20th birthday would shake you up— life and health is oh so precious. Here’s to many more years of good health and gardening. Love your blog

  6. What a beautiful post. I remember that time in your life clearly, and how grateful everyone who knew you was that you made a miraculously full recovery. You have touched too many lives in the past twenty years to count!

  7. I am so glad you had each possible “best outcome.” I know how those “birthdays” can oddly fade and surge again. I missed mine entirely this year. And then we just had our own “all best possible outcomes” hospital stay and could not be more grateful for each moment (even the ones, or even especially the ones, with the kids bickering.)
    Happy birth-iversary, Kevin.

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