Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Love part one

I know, it's been too long.

I've been busy.  But I've also been avoiding writing on this blog.  Usually I share the funny little ordinary things that happen in my everyday life.  Sometimes I share my emotions; how my dogs can drive me crazy, how disheartening and discouraging a drought can be to anyone whose livelihood depends on farming, the frustrations of home-ownership and living hours away from my family.  But I usually don't bare my heart and soul, reveal the things that make me cry, or share much below the surface of everyday emotions.

But this blog is about my life: as a librarian, a shepherdess, a dog-wrangler, a city-girl in the country, a wife, daughter, and friend.  And something scary happened in my life.  One of those "step back and appreciate what you have" kind of things.  An event that gives you perspective, makes you wonder what life would be like if things had turned out differently, makes you question luck and timing, makes you want to say "I love you" everyday to everyone you love.

Here's what happened: the story that brings tears to my eyes every time I have told it this last week and a half.

On Friday, August 10, I woke up early to catch a train from Macomb (20 minutes away) to Naperville (my hometown and a suburb of Chicago) about 3.5 hours away.  I was going home for the weekend to go to my family's annual steam show and threshing bee (which I wrote about last year here.) I took the day off of work to be there and Joey was going to drive back with the dogs (and give a ride home to my cousin) in the evening after he got home from work.  My mom picked me up at the train station around 10 am and we went to get my bridesmaid's dress fitted for my friend's wedding in a couple weeks.  We went out for lunch and then made our way through the countryside to meet my dad and sister at the threshing bee.  After a few hours at the bee, Joey called me from work.

That day he was driving the semi truck from the town where we work up to Peoria, about an hour and a half away, to pick up a load of cattle feed from a plant up there and then drive back to deliver it to the farm.  Most days, he can only make one trip because the line of trucks waiting to pick up feed is hours long.  He called me around 3:30 in the afternoon because he was bored and frustrated that he had been waiting for hours.  He knew by the time he got his load in the truck and dropped it off that he would not be home and ready to leave for Naperville until later than he wanted.  I was tired from waking up so early to catch the train and wasn't making much conversation.  He was frustrated with me so he said, "well, you're not really talking so I'm gonna go, bye."  I didn't really think much of it, I knew he just wanted to get home.

After leaving the show, my mom and sister and I stopped by my grandma's house to say hi and then made our way back to my parent's house.  As I was driving, I could hear that my phone was ringing but couldn't answer it because I was driving and my mom couldn't figure out how to answer it.  I heard the tone that meant I had a new voicemail.  I waited a few minutes until we had pulled into my parents' driveway to listen to my voicemail since the missed call was from a number I didn't recognize.  After the first few seconds of the message my heart sunk to my stomach and I started to shake.  It was a nurse from a hospital near our house saying that Joey had been in an accident and that I needed to call her back.  Before I could call the hospital, my phone rang.  The caller id said "Joey" and I was hopeful for a second until I answered the call and it was not Joey on the line, but his boss instead trying to describe the accident to me.

He had been driving back from Peoria with a full load of feed when the semi that he was driving flipped over onto the driver's side.  He had been going about 10 miles an hour around a turn, made the complete turn and was beginning to drive up a hill when the whole thing tipped over for some reason.  His boss said that the paramedics thought he was o.k. but that I needed to call the hospital.  I called the hospital back immediately and the nurse told me that the were just about to put him on the life-flight helicopter up to Peoria because they did not have the specialists and equipment there to run the tests that he needed.  That's when I lost it.  Life-flight?  The nurse reassured me that he was stable but they wanted to run some more tests on his neck and back.

My mind went into overload with the possible outcomes.  I was terrified and I was almost 3 hours away from Joey.  I was still sitting in the car.  My mom ran in the house to grab an overnight bag and my sister went in to make some peanut butter sandwiches for the road.  I didn't know what to do.  I just wanted to be there with him as soon as I could.  I went inside and tried to get directions to the hospital on MapQuest.  My hands were shaking, my sister rubbed my back and hugged me while I bawled and tried to type in St. Francis Hospital.

Within minutes, my mom and I were back in the car, my dad had just gotten home and he squeezed me and kissed me through the car window and reassured me that everything was going to be alright.  We picked up Joey's mom on the way to the highway and started to make our way back to central Illinois, to my poor husband.  About 20 minutes into the ride, the helicopter medic called me to let me know that they had arrived safely and that Joey was about to see some more doctors and receive medicine for the pain.  I asked him if he could tell Joey that I was on my way and he promised he would.

Joey's boss' wife, Brenda and our friend's dad, Bob, made it to the hospital before I did and called to let me know that they were there with Joey.  Brenda reassured me that he was doing alright but she wanted me to be prepared for when I saw him because he did not look good.

When we finally got there, he was still in the ER but I was allowed to go in a see him.  He was laying on a bed, hooked up to monitors and IVs.  His left eye was blue and swollen shut and the sheets around his arm and shoulder were bloody from were they picked out shards of glass from the shattered window.  He woke up when I came in but he was on some pretty powerful medication so he was pretty out of it.  I kissed his forehead and told him how scared I had been and how I had tried to get there as fast as I could.  He told me he cried when the emergency room nurse asked him if he had a wife and if I was on my way.

A nurse came in and handed me a bag containing his "personal belongings": a pair of jeans that had been cut off of him and a similarly shredded pair of boxers, and a still intact belt.  No shirt.  No favorite baseball cap.  I cried again when I saw the blood and bits of glass on the back of what used to be his jeans.  I wondered why they even bothered giving these back to me.

 I'll end the story here for now, as it is already getting too long, and I am tearing up in the library. I wanted to tell the whole story, as much as it is painful to keep remembering how scared I was, it is important to remember how lucky he was as well.  And to remember all the important people in my life and the friends who gave us their prayers, phone calls, and tuna noodle casseroles. I'll share the rest of the story soon, but don't worry, Joey is home and recovering.


  1. Many blessings to you both. There's nothing like a brush with the fragility of our permanence to make us remember how much we have to be grateful for. And how and who we really love.

    I'll light a candle for you.

  2. Oh my god Whitney. This story scared me to death, it's pretty much my worst nightmare. I am SO GLAD Joey is back home and safe, and I hope he will be ok!! I'll be thinking of you guys. Ben is walking through the door right now, I am going to give him an extra big hug!!

  3. I'm holding you and Joey both in the Light. So glad he's going to be okay! Scary indeed, but I'm glad you're able to take this lesson and move forward, always remembering to tell your loved ones that you love them. Good reminder to me too.