Today’s radio program announcer happened to mention seeing a car get hit by a train and the call out was for anyone who had seen this before, came close to it themselves, or knew someone who did, to phone the show.
I almost called in.
When we were small and my dad was in the hospital, we were occasionally driven to see him. My mother didn’t drive; she never learned how. So we caught rides with whoever was going in his direction.
On this one occasion, it was my dad’s parents. I was born late in my parents’ lives. My dad was already forty and my mother turned forty just a few months after my birth. So the grandparents seemed really old and probably were.
The only car I knew my grandfather to have, was a Ford Falcon. Sitting behind the wheel, he reminded me of Mr. Magoo. Any time I got in a long line of traffic proceeding slowly, I knew who was in the front – my grandpa. He wore glasses and didn’t hear really well. My grandmother suffered from glaucoma so her vision wasn’t the best in the world either.
On this particular outing, my grandparents in the front and my mother, sister and me in the back, we approached the train tracks at grandpa’s normal speed of next to nothing. The red lights were flashing and the bells were ringing. The train was swiftly approaching and the car showed no sign of stopping.
We started screaming and there was no reaction from the grandparents. We could see the train as we actually rolled onto the track and with no apparent urgency. We were going to be crushed. I think my grandmother was asleep. My grandfather never saw it. My mother pushed my sister and me into the floor and we stopped shouting and started praying. The train couldn’t stop and we were just gently bouncing over the track. I remember seeing the lights, hearing the screaming whistle and the feeling of the car shaking as we rolled off the track just as the train careened along behind us. It probably missed us by inches.
My grandfather felt the shaking and looked at my grandmother. “What was that,” he asked with no fear about the near death experience that he obviously didn’t realize we had all just escaped from.
My grandmother, arms crossed, little white head bobbing in the sunlight said, “I don’t know.”
They both died without ever knowing the sheer terror they had put us through or that we were a split second from destroying my father’s entire family on their way to see him.
I guess they may have wondered though, why none of us ever wanted to ride anywhere with them after that.
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