Almost My Worst Nightmare

First the Steelers lost.

Then Kate ran out into the street.

We had watched the game at our friends’ house on the South Side with a bunch of other people. They live on the corner of 12th and Sarah. We had taken turns walking the kids over to the park across the street.

After the game, we gathered our things and made ready to leave. Two of the guys were standing on the sidewalk chatting, and I walked out the front door with Kate.

We walked down the stairs, and as I started saying goodbye, she went bounding, between two parked cars.

All three of us adults yelled her name, and I know I was running toward her. She wasn’t that far away in terms of distance. Two feet? Three feet? But way too far away to stop her running into the street. The large truck, which had been turning the corner, braked. I don’t know how close he actually was to Kate in reality. Too close.

Kate was coming back toward the sidewalk when I scooped her up. I don’t think I have ever held her that tightly. She was holding me tight, too.

I wish I could tell you what I was feeling, holding my trembling daughter in my arms. The terror and the adrenaline rushing through me still; the relief there, but not close enough yet to be real. I was shaking. I was angry, too, but more than anything I was thinking, “ohmygod, ohmygod, ohmygod. whatif…”

Kate was lucky that driver was paying attention.

I wish I could stop reliving the moment. But I just can’t right now. And I wish I could also stop constructing other scenarios. Scenarios where Kate is not running back, where the driver is not alert enough — or just going too fast — to stop in time.

Have you ever seen the movie Sliding Doors with Gwyneth Paltrow? It came out in 1998, and it was a little indie flick. It tells the story of a woman whose life progresses along two tracks when she misses (or catches) a subway train home. The sliding doors of the title are the doors of the train. When she catches the train, she gets home early and discovers her boyfriend is cheating on her; that life progresses from that moment. When she misses the train, her life goes along as it had been going along.

My body and most of the rest of me is on one track — the good track, where the driver stops and I scoop up my terrified child, terrified myself. My mind keeps trying to go down that second track. Keeps thinking of sirens and hospitals and the worse loss a parent can face. And I’m trying to stop it, I really am. I think that’s part of why I’m writing about it now. Because I can write about it. Do you see?

As Dan said on the ride home, “The worst thing to happen today is that the Steelers lost.” I need to try to stay on that track. I’m trying. I am.