My dad was on a business trip in Boston. My mom was working late. I was 10 years old, and I had just moved to Pleasantville, New York the month prior. There were no cell phones back then, so, I watched TV along side my dog, Ralph, until my mom got home. The digital clock read 900PM. I was turning away from the TV show quite frequently to look at it. And then the doorbell rang. There was a man who I had never met before standing in the doorway with Craig Bilotti, a kid from my 5th grade class. The man was from the Pleasantville Volunteer Ambulance Corps. It was his job to explain to me that my mom had been in a horrible car accident, and she wasnt expected to live through the night. Pain. Severe pain. The kind that doesn't go away. The type that is incomparable to what my mom went through, and the likes of which I don't talk about, for fear of doing just that- comparing it to, and thereby belittling, my mother's pain- her physical pain that is. But that man... he made a difference. He was an EMT. But I am SURE that no EMS instructor taught him about how well he handled himself, and me, that night.
As soon as things settled down, my dad joined the Pleasantville Ambulance Corps and became an EMT himself. I'm not sure exactly why he did. Certainly, though, he did it either to pay back a debt, or to help others, or to incorporate within himself the values of the man in my doorway that night, or perhaps all of these reasons. I dont' really think it's important to know which anyway. It's also not the crux of this blog entry to know whether my mom survived, which she did. I have always maintained, nonetheless, that my parents, neither of whom graduated college, are the two of the most intelligent people who walk the earth.
I think somehow they passed that quality on to my children. My son loves hockey, and we all went to a New York Islanders hockey game last night. Here is a dialogue excerpt from my son, 4 (my power ranger), and my daughter, 3 (my princess) as we left after the game:
Me to my son: So do you still want to be a hockey player when you grow up?
Son to me: Yeah. And a lawyer and a firefighter and a paramedic too.
My daughter to all: I wanna be a doctor for princesses and the princesses will save all the world.
Son to daughter: You can't save everyone in the world.
Daughter to Son: Yes you can.
Son: No you can't. Only daddy can. He's a paramedic and a firefighter. (ed.: funny how he left out lawyer!)
(shouting match ensues between them)
Daughter to Me: Daddy, can you save everyone?
Me: No, sweetheart, I can't. But that doesn't stop me from trying. I just try it one person at a time.
Son: Yeah. I'm gonna do that too.
Daughter: Yeah. Me too.
And so, to those who are amongst us, coming to our aid ever so subtly, without flashing lights and sirens, without trauma bags and neck collars, I salute you.