Please Let’s ALL Try to Do Good

It happened last Friday at 6:12 pm. I know this because I was stopped at a traffic light, chatting with a friend on Bluetooth. The police would later ask me exactly what time everything occurred.

I saw it all. I predicted it. I willed it not to happen. But the car didn’t slow down after running a red light and making a left turn, and then the man kept innocently walking in the crosswalk, and then I saw a flash of arms or something dark fly up into the air.

More than that, I heard it, across a huge intersection of city traffic. A thump that made me start screaming, three long, crazy screams. No one could survive that. The speed of the car, the sound of the impact. The air-tight windows of my new car were shut, but the thump was unbelievably loud.

After the screams, I jumped out of my car, leaving the door open, and ran across the lanes of traffic, holding my hand up lamely, a nobody, a single mom on the way to the gym, all black LuluLemon and a white vest with no medical training, not even basic CPR.

As for the two men who leaned out of the car windows and said rude things to me, I excuse you because you don’t know any better. It’s not worth telling someone like you that I didn’t cause the accident, or if you didn’t like how fast I was feverishly calling 911, then perhaps you should have pulled over yourselves and tried to help. I wonder what you told your wives or significant others afterwards: “Oh, I saw a man hit by a car going 30 mph, and he probably died and I didn’t stop, but I DID yell shit at the woman who did.”

As for everyone else who didn’t stop, I hope it’s because you didn’t see the accident in the dark and around the corner, or because I fooled you and looked like I actually knew what I was doing.

As for me, I didn’t do the right thing either. I did manage to turn off the bluetooth on my phone in less than a minute, and I have the records to prove this, despite the ugly man yelling out of his Saab at me. I called 911 in less than a minute, and I thanked God I was standing under two road signs. I was at the exact intersection of two states, and I was able to tell the operator which side of the street I was standing on. I hope to God it was the right decision, and I believe it was. I believe the man got help faster and got to a better hospital faster on the more urban, south side of the street, in the southern state.

He was so young, and conscious. A little bit of blood was coming from somewhere around his ear. One side of his face already had a huge contusion. The windshield of the car that hit  him was completely shattered. I stood over the man and tried to say as much as possible, in the fewest words as possible. I tried to stay calm for him. I sat next to this young man, sprawled on the sidewalk, and tried to think of him as a slightly older version of my son, as he asked me if he was bleeding and told me that his head hurt. I kept wondering how he was still alive. I don’t believe he moved. I kept touching his shoulder, afraid I would  hurt him more, this young man in so much pain.

When an official person (unique to where I live) showed up by coincidence with lights flashing, I told her what happened and ran back to my car. I don’t know why I left, and I feel like crap about it. She seemed vaguely in charge, and I felt at the time that it was my duty to turn things over to people who knew what they were doing. At the time it seemed like I should’t stay; it would be strange or unseemly to seem too interested in the injured man on the sidewalk.

But I was wrong. I shouldn’t I left him.

I drove only two blocks before the police and fire engines drove past me towards the accident.

I was already talking to my friend again on the phone. She told me to go back. To give my name, to find out if the man would be okay. I raced back.

It was exactly eight minutes later, and he was already being put into an ambulance, and I knew I had lost the window to find out if he would be okay. More than that, I knew I left him. I know that I was in shock; I made a poor decision. I hope the “official person” had sat with him and been kind to him, but I know in my heart she didn’t and wasn’t. In talking to her for less than a minute, I knew she wasn’t the kind of person who would sit with him.

I failed this man. And when I called the police station the next day, they told me – unsurprisingly – that they don’t get updates on car accidents, I knew I would never know what happened to this man, so young and tall and polite. So far, there have been no news reports about a pedestrian death, and for that I am grateful. I wonder if he or a family member will eventually call me about the accident. I welcome it, because I want to know what happened to him.

I learned so many lessons: Slow down! Being late is better than killing someone. Never, ever run a yellow light to make a lefthand turn. Even better, slow down at yellow lights. And stop.

At any accident. pull over and try to help. Especially if no one else does so. If everyone who saw the accident on Friday night pulled over, I believe that the young man would feel the force around him. The good. And hopefully someone would know more than me about what to do.

I also learned that life is so short, and even if it seems impossibly difficult at times, it can be taken away from you in a second.

And the most important lesson: Just try to do good.




The world is going mad. We are executing writers, journalists – cartoonists! I think of my children and what images they might see on a television over the upcoming days, and how to explain this hatred and backwardness and violence and evil.

We are Catholic, though not very religious, and my children attend a Protestant school where they are taught two things about religion:

God loves us.

We love each other.

My children believe that everyone is equal, and that all people are the same, no matter what their religion or nationality or ethnicity. Because this is all they’ve known.

I’m not sure how we will explain this sort of hate to them.

The Moving Blues

It’s the little things that bring me back.

The horseradish sauce with the Hebrew lettering on the side of the bottle. I am in second grade, back in the Bronx, eating a Passover seder at my friend Jody’s house. The horseradish has been mixed with beets, and I am mesmerized by the color. Something so beautiful must taste so good, I think, but I am disappointed.

Her grandfather hides the matzo in a cloth napkin, and her littlest brother finds it. He gets a dollar and I am envious. We should all celebrate seder.

. . .

Then I spot the Gravy Master in the back of a cabinet. No expiration date, which makes sense because I don’t think it contains real food. My grandmother Mary, who came to the United States from Ireland all by herself when she was 16, used Gravy Master all the time on her famous roasts. You could smell them as soon as you got out of the elevator at her Yonkers apartment building: roasted chicken, roasted turkey, roasted pork chops – and roasted beef for special occasions.

My grandmother taught me: Take the pan drippings and pour off the fat. Add flour and Gravy Master and make a nice, dark roux. Add water, or chicken broth if you’re feeling rich. Beat the lumps.

My grandmother didn’t have to go through Ellis Island because she had a sponsor. This was special; my grandmother was lucky. Then her sponsor took her to Vermont to scrub floors and didn’t get my grandmother a winter coat. More than 60 years later when I married someone from Vermont, my grandmother shivered and said she would never to step into that state again.

Before that I never knew that my grandmother was a maid.

I miss my grandma Mary all the time. I wonder what she would think of me, getting myself into all this trouble with my bad husband. With children involved, too.

I somehow think she would understand. I’ve never heard the entire story about my grandfather, a handsome and dashing Irishman who seemed to be chronically unemployed and who died when I was a baby. I suspect something dark, but no living person will confirm it.

His secrets died with my grandmother.

I wish she was here to talk with me.

God, A Good Man, And The C Word

Dear God,

Tomorrow is a big day, as you know. My dad gets back his test results. We will know if the cancer has spread or not, and if he is facing a long, torturous death.

If the cancer hasn’t spread, it means that those nasty sky-high marker numbers were wrong. Wrong! In my heart I am sure they are wrong. I have faith that they are wrong. I cling to this faith, this beautiful faith.

Faith is such a funny and old-fashioned word, but so powerful. It propels us forward, fills us with courage, and lets us fight on another day. Without faith, I would have nothing, be nothing. Long ago I would have given up on so many things that seemed so impossibly hard, but finally passed.

But death does not pass.

I know I’m not the best religious person, and I know that I’ve said some not-so-nice things about my religion. I admit it: I make fun of the woman who runs the religious education program and who talks to adults like they are naughty children. I complain about the lack of women priests because I happen to believe that women would make incredible priests. In fact, I think that divorced women would make the best priests, but that just reminds me about all my discontent about divorce and my religion.

I like to think that man created my religion’s rules. You didn’t do it. I know that because many of these rules just don’t Sound Like You.

Maybe I have no right to come back to you and ask for this Big Thing. But God, you made such a beautiful day today. Were you watching when this grandfather took his grandkids out to breakfast? They walked along brick city sidewalks, smiling and laughing with each other, a little boy, a littler girl, and a man, each one with so much to offer the other.

This little boy doesn’t have a good role model as a father. This littler girl will never know the unconditional love of a father. But they have this man, who will give him these things.

I’m sorry I said such lousy and wretched things about my religion. Because when the shit hits the fan, as is happening right now, and I am floundering, and man and science and modern medicine look like they are failing me, I am pulled back to the church of my childhood: silent, solemn, and larger than myself.