May 31, 2012

Napping Saves Lives

My father, bless his heart, whenever he comes to my house for dinner will always end up fast asleep on my couch after the meal. I'd like like to think that it's from stuffing himself with my fantastic cooking. But really, deep down, I know it's not that...mostly because he's been like this as far back as I can remember.

It's not just after meals that he needs a nap, either. When we worked in the same office I caught him frequently with his head down next to his keyboard. Occasionally, he'd be sprawled out on the couch next to his desk. I'm pretty sure he gets up in the morning, gets ready for the day and eats breakfast and then needs a nap. Kind of reminds me of my baby Kira. She does the same thing.

When I was just a girl, my dad and I were coming home from an event very late at night. Dad was drowsy. He's never been fan of sleeping while driving and no amount of talk radio or rolling the window down was keeping him alert, so he pulled off the highway. We were ten minutes from home and he took a nap.

At the time, I thought that was strange...until I found out that the son of a family friend had fallen asleep while driving home one night. He went off the road and lost his legs in the crash. He now gets around with prosthetics. More recently, my parents told me about their long time friend who'd been on a road trip. It was late at night, she was driving and her husband was in the front seat sleeping as were the children in the back seat. She fell asleep at the wheel. Her husband had taken off his seat belt and was ejected. He didn't make it.

When my father pulled over to take a nap just ten minutes away from home, he wasn't just taking a nap. He was really teaching me that bad things can and do happen to good people. To our friends. To us. And even to me. What I didn't fully understand back then but am fully aware of now is that following my dad's example would save not only my life but the lives of my children, as well.

Fast forward about 25 years later. I was driving home from Canada with four of my children in the back seat. It was late, we'd had a long day and I was tired. My eyes were open but my brain already on auto-pilot had begun to partially check out. I became aware of some twinkling lights and my mind became alert in an instant. I thought a policeman was pulling me over. Turns out it was just the star burst effect of the headlights on the other side of the freeway. But something in me had changed. I committed to making it to the next rest stop, which was a few miles down the road. I pulled over and took a nap.

As I was waking up from my nap, I felt good and alert. Confident I could make it home. Just as I put my key in the ignition, my 6 year old started struggling to unbuckle his seat belt. He was groggy. Totally out of it. I soon realized that he needed to use the restroom. I got him out of the car and pointed him toward the men's room. He couldn't move. Just stood there confused. Where were we? Why's it dark out? Go where? I walked him to the restroom door and pushed it open for him. He slowly walked in.

My eyes quickly scanned the parking lot. There were very few cars and I decided to quickly use the restroom, too. I was back to the car in less than two minutes. My son had not yet returned. I wasn't surprised. He'd been very sleepy and I wondered if he was even able to get his pants down. Maybe I should have just taken him into the women's restroom...though I know he hates that.

After a few minutes I started getting worried. What was he doing in there? Maybe I could just crack open the men's room door and call out his name. Though if he was asleep he wouldn't answer. Maybe one of the guys in the coffee booth would go in after him. Or...maybe I could. It was after midnight. How many men could there possibly be in there? Maybe one. Probably none. I quickly assessed the parking lot. All was quiet and my prospect of going in the men's room undetected was high. As my eyes came to the car next to us, which was actually three spaces away, I noticed the strangest thing. My son's reflection was in the car's window. Had he come back without me seeing? Was he really in my car? My brain then understood what it was seeing. No, my son was not in my car. I was not staring at a reflection. He was actually sitting in the back seat of a stranger's car. What?!

This just got very awkward. What do you do when you kid is sitting in a stranger's car? I prayed no one was watching and I walked over, opened the door and pulled out my son, who was still groggy. How does this happen? That car was a hatchback wagon. Ours is an SUV. That car was full of cleaning supplies and junk. Ours is full of car seats and sleeping children. Uh, yeah, he told me they were both black so he thought that was our car.

Of all the things that could have happened that night, I'm incredibly grateful that the embarrassment I felt getting my son out of a stranger's car was the worst thing that happened.

1 Riveting COMMENTS:

  1. Wow. Not even sure what to say...I got really scared for a second thinking that someone was kidnapping your son!
    I'll have to remember your dad's example of pulling over...when I'm close to home I just struggle through, but I probably shouldn't.


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