Big brother's OK, and that's all that matters

My big brother is a big believer in love. Down for a visit from his beloved Orcas Island earlier this month, we sat together on my couch the evening he arrived discussing life and love.

"I try to be open to and embrace all the love that comes my way. Because, as you well know, it can all be over just like that," he said, snapping his fingers.

Less than 24 hours later, he was involved in a head-on collision near Gold Hill.

It happened while he was heading home to my place after spending the afternoon visiting our sister. He was excited to see his big Sis. And that she took him to Costco. They don't have any big-box stores on his tiny island. A gallon of maple syrup and a few big bags of pita chips, and he was set for the winter.

He never saw the other car, and they didn't see him, until both vehicles were right on top of each other. It was too late by then. I guess that's why they call these things accidents.

The crash reverberated throughout the newsroom via the scanner as the voices of police and paramedics detailed the accident. Call the wreckers. Both vehicles totaled. One victim transported via ambulance to the hospital. Injuries not life threatening.

Thank God.

We hear snippets of these dramas on a daily basis. When I first started in the newsroom, the tension used to make me hold my breath. We never hear any victims' names. The anxiety of knowing only pieces of information was excruciating for someone with my level of codependence and curiosity.

"What happened? Why did it happen? Is everyone going to be OK? Can I help?"

Nearly 10 years later, I listen only for certain words and try to let the rest wash over me. I had no idea this particular scene involved my brother until our sister called me. "He's OK ... but ... ."

He wasn't OK. Not really. And he still isn't. The myriad injuries to his body, mind and spirit should heal in time. Mercifully, he is alive. Thankfully, so are the other two victims — a husband and wife — involved in this accident.

I drove us home from Sis' that evening. Just being in a car is excruciating for my brother right now. He keeps hearing the crash. Feeling the pain and fear.

Offering ice packs, heating pads and freshly baked chocolate chip cookies about covers the gamut of my healing-arts skills. My car-guy beau, The Englishman, offered more practical assistance. He brought his hauler over to drag the wreckage out of the impound and over to my cottage for eventual salvage.

My brother had warned me the driver's side front end had "been crumpled." I thought I was braced. But the sight of his mangled car caused me to burst into tears. The whole front end is smashed to smithereens. Tires are sideways. Deflated airbags dangle from the dash. I know newer cars are designed to break apart and absorb the shock of impact. Still, the wreckage speaks to the sudden violence of any serious crash.

My mind flashed through a dozen memories. My gentle brother had already survived one near-fatal accident as a teen — a fire in our home. He has always been the best of big brothers, patiently putting up with a pesky little sister 11 years his junior. I felt so lucky to still have him with me. And sad that more tragedy had happened in his life.

As the days following drifted slowly by, people called to check in and offer their tales of crashes survived. Seems there is a lot of this going around. The knowledge offered little comfort. We stuck close to home. My brother still didn't want to drive anywhere.

He kept apologizing for "ruining" my vacation. He also kept hobbling around doing little chores and other kindnesses while I ran errands or otherwise had my back turned. Silly, sweet and wonderful fellow. He is alive. Nothing else matters.

Yesterday my brother arrived back on Orcas, thanks to the chauffeur services provided by our beloved nephew. He called to let me know of his safe return.

"I love you," he said.

Reach reporter Sanne Specht at 541-776-4497 or e-mail

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