Yesterday was a wonderful Christmas. Everyone seemed to really enjoy their gifts and had a lot of fun playing games. Once Cal left for the Lamles, Doug, Mom, Cam and Brett decided to play Hearts. Before Meg and I headed to the basement for a round of Missile Command on my Atari I decided to open the kitchen window. The weather was warm for Christmas Day and our house had heated up from all of the afternoon cooking. With the windows open our house began to cool off, which I appreciated, but it also brought an unsettling sound - sirens. I remember telling Doug that it didn't sound good. I even said, "I hope it's a fire." That may sound insensitive, but over the years there have been a lot of accidents on Bowser road. From past experience I have come to realize that those can be quite serious.
As the night wore on we continued the game playing trying out Grandpa's new Wheel of Fortune board game and Meg's Oregon Trail card game. I noticed that several hours had gone by and the sirens continued. At that point I became more nervous. Cal had left just before they started. I texted him and he answered almost immediately. I was glad to hear that Hannah-Marie loved her moose complete with hunting cap. I was also relieved to know that he made it there safely. At that point Mom and Dad headed for home and the rest of us grabbed the Wii remotes for a game of Mario Kart. Mom did text me to let me know that it was as I feared, a bad accident. Bowser road was closed. I then decided to put my phone down and just focus on the game.
I left my phone on the table for the next couple of hours. After my normal defeat at Mario Kart, Doug and I started the 1950s version of A Christmas Carol. I decided to text Cal back as it was past 10 p.m. to see his plans for the rest of the evening. He had already sent me a message. I read it over and over, before I shared it with Doug - "Stephen and Kim Conrad died." I felt like someone kicked me in the stomach. I had just spent the week teaching with Kim. She filled in for one of the 6th grade teachers who was out on an extended leave. We had talked and taught together just like when I volunteered in her room or subbed at Syracuse elementary so many years ago. Kim went Christmas caroling with our students at the nursing home on Tuesday and listened to their research presentations giving positive feedback all along the way. In between class periods she let me know that she really had to get on one of the classes. I wasn't surprised knowing the dynamics of the class, but enjoyed listening to her demonstrate her teaching style with even the most challenging students. I spent the rest of the night sitting in disbelief thinking of our conversations over the past week.
Cal must have felt the same way as he came home shortly after Doug called him to get the details - someone drag racing came up the hill at Crazy Corners in the wrong lane and hit the Conrad car head-on. I couldn't imagine a worse way for their family to end Christmas Day. As the evening turned into a new day Brett, Cal and Meg shared stories and memories from that time period. It was nice to hear them talk. Some of the memories they shared were familiar, some were new. Meg stayed up talking to me the longest. It was well after midnight when she looked at me and said, "Mom, I've been thinking. That could have been any of us." She was right. Life can change in a blink of an eye - what a tragic reminder.