22 March 2013

Lucky To Be Alive

St Benedict, his day too; Wikimedia Commons
Get ready. March 23rd is Near Miss Day. 
Upon which I will ignore asteroidal implications and hagiography. 

The wacky list of days to celebrate expands at horrific pace. National Tooth Fairy Day? Hug a Vegetarian Day? Multiple Personality Day? I'm still getting over Feral Cat Day. In the face of arbitrary lunacy, why not personalize it? Lucky to Be Alive Day.

Why do our memories select certain events to stand out? Not necessarily the biggies like births, weddings, divorces, funerals. Not like when you and your sister were there at the same time and place and completely disagree about what happened. Or famous, like—where you were when Princess Diana died, or “9/11.”

What I mean are unique personal moments, yours alone to celebrate or mourn as the case may be. Memories that deserve anniversaries. Some return to haunt us, triggered by the sneaky unconscious. Some of my clearest memories are my near-death experiences. I must remember because because no-one else does. Or if they did, would tell it differently.

One of my earliest was when that little bully Georgie Barton* pushed me into water over my head in the lake; held my head under! We were about ten years old. The creep thought it was funny to see how long I could disappear. He probably tortured cats too. To this day I attribute to him and his heirs forever the fear of putting my head underwater. So as time went on it was ordained I would never persevere past the first few scary scuba lessons. Some satisfaction was mine much later: as an adult he reached an unimpressive 5'7” down at whom I could peer coolly from my superior height.

Then there was an unforgettable date with this guy I was briefly pinned to. Pinned? Oh, maybe it's a Manitoba thing.** Anyway, the highlight was a chinese food dinner which for those days and times was très exotique. How to impress a girl. I totally impressed him when he learned the next day I'd been rushed to hospital unconscious later that night (fortunately my university roommate obeyed my semi-coherent plea for 911 before I went into a coma). Seafood allergy. Never gonna happen again! It pays to cross-examine the waiter before ordering. Took a week to normalize after the surreptitious shrimp bits did me in. Guy and I became unpinned. The way I tell it, it wasn't my swollen face that ended it ... it was meeting his impossible, pretentious mother.

Racing crew at Mosport. The time the fatally heavy top of the race car trailer slipped its inexpert moorings and crashed down, missing me by a hair. Sparing me decapitation. Team 22 Formula B has a lot to answer for. A couple of people did notice and casually tossed me a few lame attempts at macho humour while I sagged gasping for air. Hyperventilating for an hour, actually. My dramatic brush with death was sadly out-rivalled by Jackie Stewart's captivating performance in the Formula 1 Grand Prix.

The time we went to Newfoundland doesn't really count cuz the entire famdamily was involved, but a Near Miss in its own way. The long ferry rides from Nova Scotia are scary enough for anyone with hydrophobia or overnight claustrophobia, whew. But I'll never forget hearing that our ferry, the William Carson, sank a year or two later from hitting pack ice. All passengers and crew were rescued after a long, cold ordeal.

Most notorious of all was the earthshaking New Motorcycle Incident. And here we have collusion, the way I see it. Without doubt it led straight from the muddy pileup on a local dirt road to divorce. I'm told I didn't lean the right way in this practice run. OK, so it wasn't my collarbone that got broken. It was tough giving up those beautiful matching leathers but what would I do with them, being reduced to running a boarding house 24/7 (that is not a question).

Memories of a sort, morosely indelible as they may be. BUT my life is not merely a series of escaping untimely ends. I also celebrate moments of privilege and sheer joy. Another time. It's worth remembering the Near Misses that make living all the sweeter.

* Do I have to say? Name changed to protect the guilty.
** Manitoba also has Sadie Hawkins Day too, or used to, a practice perhaps long superseded these days.

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