Multi-tasking. When I worked outside of my writing business, I heard that word all the time. Co-workers used it. My boss used it. Other parents used it. It became such a buzz-word that I think it's pretty much lost all meaning, as buzz-words will. I even decided to not multi-task for a week. My promise to myself was to do one thing at a time...to be completely present...in the moment. I lasted one day. At the end of the day, I declared it to be impossible to think of or do only one thing at a time. Life is too busy and time is too precious.
But on Friday, I learned a new lesson. My son was in an accident and I learned that when it is needed, you absolutely can focus on one thing at a time. It started with a phone call.
I was out watering the flowers in the playhouse window boxes. I heard the phone ring but finished my watering before going inside to check my messages. It was my daughter's voice.
"Mom, Michael* has been in an accident. Call me back right away." She said. She then hung up abruptly. I picked up the phone and dialed her number, but instead of her voice or even her answering machine, a recorded voice came on. The voice was cut off but said something like, "mergency...hold for an operator."
It's a mistake, I thought. So I hung up and dialed again. I got the same message. This time I pressed zero for the operator. After listening to some elevator music for about ten long seconds an operator came on and asked me what I needed. I was baffled and could barely hear her over my heartbeat. I fumbled around with words, "My son...accident...daughter left message." She then connected me with my daughter's phone. But I got the same message again.
"Oh God." I said aloud. "Oh God...oh God...oh God."
She must have activated something because he'd been injured, or worse. I paced for a few minutes and then saw her coming up the steps. I waited behind the glass door. She started to talk about my son and his car and...
"Where is he?" I said. I didn't want to ask how he was for some reason.
"He's fine Mom." She said. "He's waiting at a farmhouse off of the highway."
It was then that I broke down. What was pent up adrenaline burst through my body, and I began to sob.
"I should never have let him take that job. What was I thinking?" I said.
"Mom, it's not your fault." She tried to console me.
"Yes it is. I let him take that job. I put him on the highway every day. It is my fault. He's my child. I should have said no. I should have made him take the pizza job instead..." I sobbed.
My poor daughter tried to reason with me but it was impossible.
Michael was 30 miles out of town and my husband drove us out there. All the way out, as my daughter ate pizza and my husband talked to her about her job, I could only think of one thing...What if...
What if he'd been injured?
What if he'd been killed?
But my list of "If only's" was longer...
If only I hadn't let him take that job...
If only I had the money to pay for a car for him he wouldn't have needed the extra job...
If only I'd made him go to bed earlier...
If only...If only...If only...
Tears kept filling my eyes when I thought of all the scenarios that could have happened. But they didn't. He was fine and when I threw my arms around him, it was the best feeling I'd ever had. It was even better than when I held him for the very first time. Because this time, he'd been given back to me.
Michael was working on an orchard thinning apples. He took the job because he bought a car that ended up being a lemon and he'd racked up $900 in repair costs. He was burning the candle at both ends...and he was on the highway, going 60 miles an hour when he fell asleep. He awoke mid-turn in the gravel. He hit his brakes but the car didn't slow. He pulled the emergency brake and still didn't slow. He went over a bank and ended up in a wheat field. His car still worked...but as he drove the front bumper fell off and he ran over it. So he wisely decided to go to the nearest farmhouse where he called home, not leaving a message for fear of scaring me. He then called his older sister and she scared me instead.
At the farmhouse, I thanked the woman who'd welcomed my son. I hugged her and cried.
"We've seen lots of people wreck off of that road." She said. "He was lucky. Usually they flip their car."
Grateful, I took my baby home. Finally, I was breathing. I even managed a smile.
When we got home, it was kind of eerie. A sponge lay on the kitchen counter...I'd been wiping off the counter when I listened to my messages...I'd been multi-tasking of course.
During the moments following the phone call, it was impossible to multi-task. A good dose of adrenaline made sure of that. But now, I just needed a nap.
The next morning, Michael had a sore neck and back and we'll probably make a trip the doctor tomorrow just to be sure he's ok. But for now, I'm thinking...perhaps I need to mono-task more often. Perhaps I need to enjoy watching a movie with my kids, and not with a book in my hand or the computer in my lap. And when I go for a walk, I'll stop to watch a duck, dunking under the water for some morsel on the bottom, instead of walking quickly by.
Moments. In a moment everything can change.
Moments. Moments are worthy of our attention...especially when family, friends, and the beauty of life is concerned. Moments...Take some time to enjoy life today...one moment at a time.