It was a little over four years ago that my middle son and I were in a car accident, on a evening very much like this one, and like so many winter Seattle evenings: dark, driving rain, heavy, fast traffic. Turning left across two lanes of traffic, I was hit broadside by a white van. The impact spun my car around nearly 180 degrees, sending it towards an unprotected embankment, which would have been a drop of about 20 to 25 feet straight down. If my son hadn't screamed in terror, seeing what was ahead, and if I had not at that second put both my feet on the brakes with every ounce of strength I had, there is no doubt we would have gone over. Our car stopped four feet from the edge of the embankment, the front right wheel and quarter panel destroyed, askew. No one in either vehicle was injured, another piece of very good luck which I may, at least on our part, say happened because we were traveling in a Volvo and my son was sitting in the middle back seat.

No one was hurt, the Volvo was repaired and sold, the insurance companies paid what they said they would, and I got a new car.

And since then, every single day, sunny or rainy, busy or not-so-busy, some little subconscious voice pings in my head as I am getting ready to turn left against traffic, saying, "If you mess this up, or if anyone else messes this up, you and your kids could die here and now." The days go by; there have been no more accidents. There's no real reason to believe it would happen again. I often make the same turn at the same place where the accident occurred, in the same conditions, same time of night. I turn, nothing bad happens, and I go on down the road.

But...you know? It's still there, expressed in the floating anxiety, the tension in my jaw and shoulders, the vigilance that I feel if I choose to notice it. I think there's nothing much you can do to wipe out some kinds of trauma, and it doesn't seem to matter if it was a big trauma or a little one. Some things stick, and the best you can do is acknowledge it and try not to let it get you down.

It is good to see now, at the exact spot where my car skidded to a stop, there is now a black chain link fence, anchored by very sturdy poles.