I will forever remember Christmas 2019 with a thankful heart, and gratitude to the Man upstairs.
Last Friday, my wife had to drive to a couple of towns west of San Antonio for meetings related to the recent formation of the local Economic Development Corporation. The meetings were set up to learn how those communities operated similar organizations.
She travels the route between Rockport-Fulton and the San Antonio/Austin/Houston areas quite often due to her job at the local chamber of commerce. But if truth be told, I wasn’t all that keen about her making that trip to the Hill Country because she had to make the round trip by 3 p.m. in order for us to load up my car, and drive to her mother’s house in Bryan for supper that evening. The next day (Saturday) we drove to Galveston to visit the home of our youngest daughter and her family (i.e. – it made no sense to drive two vehicles halfway across Texas).
We do our level best to visit our daughters and sons-in-law’s homes at some point each Christmas, and this past weekend was phase one of that mission.
I was packed and ready to go, and had just woken up about 2:30 p.m. (after being up all night putting the weekend edition to bed), when my phone rang.
When I saw it was my wife, I figured she was calling to make sure I was awake.
The voice on the other end was far from calm. She was obviously very distraught.
The first words out of her mouth were, “Honey, I’m okay.”
I knew she had been in an accident.
When I kissed her goodbye that morning, as we passed each other in the driveway, I told her to be very careful because the weather was bad and it didn’t look like it would let up any time soon. I told her regardless of how much effort she had put into the formation of the local EDC, it wasn’t worth “killing yourself” (said tongue in cheek) especially with the family plans we have this week.
It basically rained continuously during her trip.
On her way home, between mile marker 39 and 40 on IH-37, about eight miles from the State Highway 881 turnoff to Sinton, she hydroplaned and lost control of her Honda Pilot.
She was in the inside lane on the divided highway, traveling south, spun around at least twice at full speed on the asphalt surface, crossed the outside lane, ran off the freeway down the grassy berm, miraculously in a relatively straight line, then spun around at least one full time in the grass, and came to rest, wheels on the ground, far off the highway.
The Christmas miracle was she ran off the highway without hitting another vehicle while spinning out of control, she left the roadway on the right (not median side) between an overpass and a culvert, and somehow her SUV didn’t flip at least once, if not multiple times.
I left the house as soon as she called.
In the meantime she called 911 … and the recording said the number was not working. She then called the phone number on the back of her driver’s license.
Several Sheriff’s deputies came to her aid, but couldn’t free her vehicle from the mud. A wrecker driver finally got to the scene (there were almost 20 calls that day for vehicles losing control on that stretch of highway), and drove her vehicle out of the muck, then along the fence line to an area that wasn’t so steep, and back onto the highway.
I turned north on IH-37 and she called, saying she was about to start driving home. I looped around and we met at the SH 188 exit.
I gave her a huge hug and a kiss, and after making sure she was okay, said follow me home.
She asked, almost apologetically, “Will you drive my car and let me drive your car?”
It was still raining pretty hard, and I didn’t even think about the fact she might be a little wary about driving her vehicle.
We swapped cars and headed back to Rockport. After a short distance I noticed she was no longer right behind me.
I called her (hands free, of course) and she said not to worry, she was driving really, really, really slow.
I can’t say that I blame her after what she just went through. The drive that normally takes us about 45 minutes took her more than an hour.
Sunday night, before I left for the office to get this edition to press, we talked about how different this Christmas could have been had the outcome been different.
Life happens, and any life can change at any given second.
It’s a family tradition, passed down from my parents, to open the “Jesus Gift” after all other gifts have been opened Christmas Eve.
This year there will be a little more “thanking” in our prayers.
Our Christmas week could have been a lot different than the planned house full of happy kids and grandkids.
For what it’s worth, for what should be obvious reasons, give your spouse (or any family member) a hug or a kiss whenever saying goodbye to each other. At the very least, don’t leave being mad at each other.
I don’t even want to think different this week would have been if my wife had been seriously injured or killed, like so many others, in almost identical situations.
Honey, Merry Christmas, I love you more than ever.
I wish each of you a very Merry Christmas, as well.
Until next week, have a good week.
Mike Probst can be reached at email@example.com.