Thursday, December 31, 2009

December, fast-forwarded

The month that I wanted to drrrraaaag on flew by in a furry. I can't believe the time is almost here. It's been a long ten months of work-ups and underway time, I'm begging the next 6 to fly by.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

James' Accident

The evening of Thanksgiving my cousin James and his childhood friend, Anthony, decided to head in to Zephyrhills to catch a football game. There wasn't a good reception at the camp ground so they went to a local sports bar to finish watching a great game. Around 10pm the boys headed back to the park, along a dark stretch of Highway 301. The two lane highway is notorious for claiming lives. In fact, 5 years ago, almost to the date, a close friend of the family was killed on 301. She was just 18.
According to the five wittnesses:

There was a car in front of James going an estimated 15 miles below the speed limit. It seemed as though James was attempting to pass the car. As he was pulling in front of that car he somehow lost control. His car veered in to the empty oncoming traffic lane flipped approximately three times, hit multiple cypress trees and then came to rest along the driver side (on it's side).

The next car passed, then stopped when it realized what happened. After that, Anthony passed everything. The road is so dark, he couldn't see what the car looked like. Anthonly called James' cell phone and when James didn't answer he turned back around. When Anthonly arrived a minute later, the passers-by had called 911. They tried to keep Anthony back for fear of the car exploding, but the 6'3" boy ran to James. James was alive. Anthony instructed him to cover his head with his hoodie and then punched out the back window of the car. He sat with James in the back seat, reaching over the front seat to hold his hand. During that time, James was responsive and very much alive. Anthony asked James if he was in pain and James was able to tell him that just his legs and his arm hurt. It took responders about 30 minutes to arrive. In that particular part of the county, most are volunteer departments and I really don't feel that they are as efficient as a metropolitan department. Say what you will, but I know he'd be alive if Tampa Fire Rescue were involved.

When rescue had arrived, Anthony was forced from the car. At that time, he called his parents in a panic. His parents, called my Aunt and Uncle. The accident was just 100 yards from the park entrance. When Linda arrived James held his hand up. She screamed to him and then the crew started cutting.

The car was so badly damaged it took an hour to remove the entire top of the car and then to remove James. His mom sat in horror as she watched. Once James was in the ambulance, she was informed they were going to the nearest trauma unit. Not five minutes later, they stepped back out and said they were taking James to Zephyrhills Hospital and were "doing everything they can." Linda later told me it was at that time she realized he was gone. Zephyrhills had no trauma unit, only an Emergency Room. The ambulance drove off, lights flashing, in to the dark.
James' offical time of death was 11:45, November 26th 2009. He was 21 years, 4 months and 4
days old.

Days later, the coroner called. There was no alchol, drugs or anything else in his body. The offical cause of death was blount force trauma to his chest and abdomen. He bled to death. Every limb was broken and there were hematomas from his neck to his legs. Just one tiny scratch on his beautiful face.

During the week that followed, my dad and Anthony's dad (Danny) went to Orlando to empy out James' room at his shared apartment. His senior year of college would never be finished. My dad and Danny also returned to the scene to retrieve a laptop and papers and pictures scattered in the ditch. There was also small bible with sticks and glass in it that James kept in the center console. After they were at the scene, Dad and Danny had to go to the impound where the car was being kept. Seeing the car, my dad said he knows there was no way anyone in the driver seat could have survived.

No, Thanks -giving (part 2)

I was so exhausted from the last two days' events I crashed early. Apparently, there were some great football games on so John was up at 11 pm when the first phone call came. It was my dad. My 21 year old cousin, James, was in a horrible car accident.

My first question, obviously, "Is he alive?" My dad could only answer with an "I don't know, we're driving to Zephyrhills Hospital right now." Now my heart starts racing and a million questions make their way to the functioning parts of my brain.

About an hour later, I call my dad back and here's what my exhausted brain hears: "Nell, he's pretty mangled. I'm sitting with him now because Linda doesn't want him to be left alone."

Me: "Oh, ok. Well, call me if you need to."

By now I'm finally in touch with my sister, who is hysterical. "If anything happens to him, I will really collapse. He's my boy, Nellie." My sister and James are close in age and have really hung out through their teenage years. Stacie has just experienced way too many deaths in her short lifetime, including the suicide of her childhood friend Nicole just a month ago.

I do my best to calm her down and tell her to just text me with an update. At this point, I think she's on her way to the hospital to visit. At 1am the house and cell phones start ringing. I told her to text, but she's calling. Weird. I drift back off to sleep.

I call my mom as soon as my eyes open. She's delirious and I can't understand her. I call my dad's cell and reach him. "No, Nell, he's not ok. He's dead. Babe, I thought I was clear last night."

"Uh, no, Dad. You weren't." I'm crying now. Turner is asking what's wrong. How do I explain my tears to him? Oh, my God. The day got worse and spilled in the next...

My family has camped during the week/end of Thanksgiving at the Hillsborough River State Park for 50 years. Immediate and extended family sleep in tents and campers all parked in a row. The kids and adults play all day and I know everyone looked forward to it throughout the year. It was our time to touch base with second and third cousins, great aunts and that lady who is related to your dad's uncle and twice removed (Katie Ogden may respond with an actual answer!). Thanksgiving day we'd scurry around and cook on the fire and tiny electric stoves. Football was broadcast on teeny tiny TVs with rabbit ears and everyone just enjoyed a slower week. The turkeys were usually cooked in someone's home -Mammer (my grandmother) would stay home to make hers and then come out to the park. There were odd pies, sweetpotatoe casseroles, dips, and sauces galore. Any and all Southerners' favorite foods were piled on mis-matched tables in the pavillion by the Hillsborough River. The staff at the park would even ask if so-and-so was coming because they've not yet reserved a spot.

The first time I ever missed a Thanksgiving at the park was college. I was devistated. The first time my family missed the park was when they travelled to Charleston, SC for my wedding. After that, John and I never got to go back. We toyed with the idea this year, but decided a quite weekend at home was needed. I regret the decision and probably will for ever. I know you can't change the past but to see James' smiling face or get one of his signature hugs would have lasted me a lifetime.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

no, Thanks -giving (part 1)

It's taken me a few days to muster up the courage to write this, as well as get caught up with all the other things I'm supposed to be doing...

The kids had been passing around a mystery fever. Wednesday, Eli's got up to 104 so just to be safe I took him to the Naval Air Station clinic (like a mini ER/urgent care). Of course, the fever broke at the clinic and then he was cranky and covered in a head to toe rash. I decided to be safe and wait to see a doc even though I knew it was nothing since he was acting fine, otherwise. We made it back home and I tried to get him to sleep. Something at the clinic spooked him. Maybe it was the bitchy nurse that wanted to be home baking pies or the kid with whooping cough. The poor guy just couldn't sleep. After two hours of consoling, rocking, holding and exhaustion we finally got him down.

My Bon Appetite Thanksgiving wasn't even prepped for. I threw in the towel and went to bed.

Thursday I started cooking/baking/sauce making immediately. I was really on a roll until my beautiful double Kitchen Aid ovens stopped working and LOCKED MY DAMN PIES IN THE OVENS. Seriously? The day was getting better. Eli was still cranky from his missed sleep so I put him on my back and dealt with hair pulling. We had invited a single sailor over for dinner so I could not jump ship. I made John call him and push dinner back a few hours. My ovens were still locked and, unlike the Turkey Hotline, there is no one working at Kitchen Aid on Thanksgiving!

I haven't even prepped the turkey when I realized it was all just coming apart at the seams. Since I'm cookin' a bun in my own oven the smells were all over-powering and I wanted nothing more than a cup of tea and to go back to bed!

Hours and hours later it all worked out. We had a wonderful meal for 16 (?!?!) and all on time. Well, the second time.

Later that evening, John cleaned the house. The dishes were done and I was in a non-alcoholic coma. I thought that was the end of the worst Thanksgiving in the history of this Baggett family.

Boy, was I wrong...