never again

dadTwo weeks ago yesterday, my dad broke his neck. Two and a half weeks ago, he got married.

They were on their honeymoon. They were going for a bike ride. An oncoming car was turning left directly in front of them; he didn’t see it until there was nothing to do but slam on the brakes – and go over the handlebars.

He landed on his head, breaking C6 and C7. His hands and feet went numb. He was scared.

We were too. We were supposed to go to dinner with them. I felt guilty because, while I love his new wife, their wedding hadn’t been easy for me. Their marriage was the final nail in the coffin of my once-family. I knew I shouldn’t feel that way. Things were better now than they’d ever been before. My dad was happier; my mom was, too. But still. It was my family. (Also, as a side note: In my childhood culture, divorce was/is akin to drinking alcohol or eating meat or having sex before marriage. It was a no-no. And we’ve already discussed the fact I’m a goodie-goodie.)

And so I wasn’t sure I wanted to go to dinner. It was out of the way and a drive in traffic. I was tired. I was supposed to go to spin class after work – I love spin class. And we’d just seen them at their wedding.

And so I hesitated. And then I got the call. Elyse, sobbing: “Your dad had a biking accident. He says it’s his neck. They’re rushing him to the hospital.” She was hysterical.


Father and son

And suddenly, I was too. My mind was a blur: So little information, such a turn of events. Such guilt. Here I hadn’t wanted to go to dinner, and now the man who was my hero and role model and life rock was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital.

The things we take for granted.

And so instead of eating dinner or going to spin class or doing a thousand other things we usually do, we spent the night in the emergency room. At almost 1 a.m., my dad was life-flighted to a U.C. Davis Medical Center where they tortured him (okay, tried to fix his neck with traction) before taking him to surgery and fusing three segments of his neck. The neurosurgeon said it was a miracle he wasn’t paralyzed. The next day my dad said it was, too. He said he had “so much to be thankful for.”

And he did. And he does. And we are. And I am. And suddenly I know what’s most important. If anything worse had happened to him . . . I don’t know where I’d be . . . where we’d be . . . what we’d do.

And all I know is that, while his recovery has not been and will not be easy, we are so lucky to have him, and I’ll never again put exercise selfish struggles before family and the people I love. (That includes you, Elyse!) You mean the world to me, Dad. Thank you for being my rock. I want to always be yours, too. I love you.

52 thoughts

  1. Count your blessings Jess. But don’t be too hard on yourself. We all get too caught up in our insignificant daily routines to the point where big picture gets skewed. Everything happens for a reason and your fathers good fortune of not being injured worse was/is an opportunity for stronger family unity. My best wishes to your father for a smooth and complete recovery and all the best to you and your family. Be well and give thanks…

    • Thank you, John. I’m not sure what I could add to what you said, except… My dad has already said he will ride again. I am looking forward to that day. :)

      Happy Friday!

  2. What JMC813 said. But the thing to me is this … these are the moments when we always swear we’re going to do things differently because of the scare that happened. And then months later, we find ourselves going back to the tried and true routine and forget the lesson we think we learned. I do this every time something like this happens. So, my challenge to you … don’t let that happen here.

  3. OMG, so glad to hear u’r dad will be alright. There’s nothing more tragic than losing a family member, an excellent reminder that we should always be present and there for the ppl we love.

  4. You made me tear up! What a great job you did of expressing yourself. And, we are so grateful for the good news out of this situation.

  5. This is my second time on your blog reading your incredible pieces, I guess you didn’t post any since long but I say that congratulation on your new work.

    • Thank you, Lianne. Honest is the only way I know how to write — at least if I want to write well. :) I’m glad he’s okay, too! And I’m glad to hear you felt this was relevant to others, too, if applicable in different ways. That is always the goal when I write.

      I hope you’re having a great weekend!

  6. So sorry to hear what happened to your dad, Jess. But so, so glad and happy that he is okay and that is such a lovely picture of the two of you. He looks very happy to see you.

    “The things we take for granted.” Don’t we all. We are not perfect and never will be. We all have our own lives to lead and at times it can be hard to watch out for others – and ironically we can only do that if we look out for our own selves first. But sometimes, maybe we should just slow down and check in on those who matter to us. Best wishes to your dad for a good recovery :)

    • Hi Mabel, as always thanks for your kind, thoughtful comment. Yes, we need to look out for ourselves, but I’d argue that we need to pay attention to our motives. There is much good that can come from situations we might avoid if we’re thinking only of ourselves. I for one am realizing just how important family is. (To give you an example, I’ve never thought living near my family was that important. That’s what cell phones and Skype are for, right? But what if this had happened when I was in Taiwan or Hong Kong. That would have been sooooo hard. And how many more memories might a make by going to dinner with my dad and Elyse than by going to boring old spin class? Spin class will always be there; my family might not.)

  7. It great to see your father up walking Jess! Great pictures of you, your brother, and your smiling father! All the best to all of you, the Newlywed Dad (LOL), and your family through the recovery and beyond! <3

    • Thanks Professor. Yes, after such a scary incident, it is great to see my dad smiling. Hoping to see him again this weekend for the Super Bowl! I hope you have a great weekend!

    • Thank you, Allwin. He’s getting better and stronger daily, but since I’ve been through something similar (my rock-climbing accident), I don’t want to downplay the hugeness of the recovery that lies ahead.

      It’s good to hear from you, by the way!! How are things?

  8. Beautiful writing Jessy, you bring the feeling we’ve all had before when taking something for granted ~ and you do it with great emotion “the man who was my hero and role model and life rock was in an ambulance on his way to the hospital” ~ powerful and shows the great heart you have.

    Your writing of the expectations of family/divorce/etc… is powerful in the sense it seems you understand how irrelevant all this is as long as you all have each other (and happiness). From the way it looks with your family coming together as it has, you are all indeed very lucky. The upcoming Year of the Monkey is going to be a special one. Wishing you well. 猴年大吉。新年快乐,恭喜发财。

    • Thank you, Randall… I’m so glad my words captured my heart and brought people in and captured those emotions. My dad is still recovering — slowly, day by day — and it’s hard to see: hard to see him struggle and in pain. But he is strong, and we will get through it together. You’re right — the Year of the Monkey is here and bound to be a special one. Happy Chinese New Year to you, too! Thank you for your continued friendship. :)

  9. Dear Jessica,

    My name is Ashlee. I’m co-founder of the Youshare Project, with the mission to connect people around the world through true, personal stories. I recently stumbled across your blog and read the above post entitled “Never again.” It’s incredibly compelling and a wonderful message that I think many people could benefit from hearing. For those reasons, I think it would make a wonderful Youshare.

    If this sounds interesting to you, I would love to email you directly with more information and formally invite you to adapt your story to youshare and share it with the project. You have my email address and website. I hope to hear from you soon.


      • Thank you for replying to my comment, Jessica! And for your kind words about our website :) I just responded to your email. I look forward to continuing our conversation!

  10. Hey Jessica,
    Your heavenly Father is not only watching over your dad but your entire family. May His presence felt, bringing assurance and healing. You and your family will be in my prayers. Stay blessed!

  11. Jessica, your father is extraordinarily lucky. I worked as a medical librarian for 3 years in a rehabilitation hospital for adult spinal cord injured patients. Yes.

    I appreciate serious difficulty of becoming used to your father’s new wife. My partner is divorced. He and I have been together after his divorce over 25 yrs. ago. It was tough on his then teen children. His children are now adults in their 30’s.

    The best is just to find 1 common of interest between her and yourself.
    I’m certain by now, you have been there for your father all along. You have 1 father. I lost mine from cancer a little over a yr. ago.

  12. I’m glad your dad will be fine. Divorce is difficult on everyone. I still have times where I don’t understand it and I’m not a child anymore. What a great pic of you and your dad. The beautiful smiles says it all! Cheers, Koko:)

  13. Your father is incredibly lucky he wasn’t paralyzed. I worked for 3 years in a hospital for spinal cord injured adults who were mostly paralyzed for life.

    Hope you blog more.

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