With the locks on all the doors replaced in the house, we were able to schedule a trip to one of the three schools I was still considering. On the way there, I noted in my journal, “I discovered that I had left my grades at the hotel. Daddy was very mad, of course, but we went back, the interview was fine and they accepted me without qualification. Then two very nice girls showed Mother and me the dorms. But my absentmindedness as exemplified earlier has become a real problem. How can I correct it? Is there a way? …I simply must, for the consequences are too often very far-reaching. Of course if I had not lost the key we would have gone in November. Period. But we went this weekend, and it began to snow very hard coming home; the roads were slick. I still don’t know exactly what happened—we began sliding all over the road, a huge snow plow veered into our lane very slightly. Then everything began to go in slow-motion. Unless you’ve really been in an accident, the feeling is indescribable. I saw the snow plow (truck) coming closer to the side window (I was sitting in front). In those seconds I remember thinking with a mental gasp of disbelief that we were going to crash, and Daddy had never been in an accident and this would spoil it, and what if the side of the car caved in and crushed me, but I knew it just wouldn’t happen. Then the shock of the blow—it dented the right front fender and bumped the door I leaned against. It was quite a tremendous force against my arm, but I felt as if I could keep it from denting in. Then we continued swerving over toward the dividing fence. I thought, what if we go through it and crash head-on into a car over there? Instead, the back left corner got dented. If there had been a car behind us or no divider, we would have been seriously hurt or killed. And if Daddy had not called upon all his years of good driving and experience the car probably would have gone into a spin and turned over. Finally we got it stopped on the right shoulder of the road, the truck in front of us. Now that I think of it, the plow didn’t hit the door, but the shock was so tremendous I was thoroughly convinced that it had. Men got out of the truck and Daddy got out, and they came around to see if I was hurt.... I had received the worst part of it, but fortunately I wasn’t hurt, although one of the men said I was white as a ghost. No doubt. In that suspended moment when I saw the huge orange side of the truck looming at me I felt as if were coming face to face with Death and pushing it away. That terrible bump—I could feel the side of the car near the tire go in as if it were a tin can; and it shook the door so it felt as if a huge force were falling against me. But it was the physical reality of the thing that scared me most.”
At the time, I interpreted everything in terms of the “story” I had been told growing up; my father was nearly invincible and everything he did was right, and the fact that the accident wasn’t more serious was entirely due to his excellent driving skills. Curiously, many years later when my parents had come to live with me after I was married and had four children, and the subject of that accident came up, my father mentioned that he had gotten a ticket for driving too fast for conditions. I remember feeling outraged because I had always assumed the accident was entirely my fault because I had lost my purse. Certainly, we wouldn’t have gone that weekend if I hadn’t, but the police gave my father the ticket, not me! Despite that, as I reflect on it now, the feelings of guilt are far stronger than the belated outrage, but there are also sprinklings of gratitude that we were all spared any serious injury and were able to get home--after having the fender repaired at a gas station--without any further incident.