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Putting It In Perspective
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I was all set to write about our recent family vacation to San Diego but since I've returned a few things have happened that make talking about a trip where we ate too much, spent too much money, and played tourist seem completely inconsequential.

The past week could be described as emotionally draining.

Most notably, my mother and 2-year-old nephew were in a horrific car accident that very nearly could've taken their lives if luck had not been riding shotgun.

My mother was returning from Valley Childrens Hospital in Madera with my nephew after being up with him all night for a frighteningly high fever. She was nearly home when her sporty Toyota Celica GT drifted onto the soft shoulder where the sand grabbed her tire and spun her right into a tree. The side curtain and driver side airbags deployed and my nephew's car seat kept him firmly in his seat, but gave him identical seat belt rashes on his little neck. My mom was bruised and battered but alive. A miracle, really, seeing as she'd been pinned in the car and the tow truck driver was amazed anyone had walked away from the wreck.

When I received the call from my younger sister I knew immediately something was wrong. There was on odd timbre to her voice and there was a subtle shake to her words. My sister is rarely prone to dramatics so I knew whatever was wrong must be serious.

When she said, "Mommy and Kristopher were in an accident" I felt the bottom drop out of my world.

My stomach clenched and dread fluttered in my chest as I asked, "Are they all right?"

My sister quickly assured me they were, although the car was toast, but I couldn't stop the shake in my hand as I held the phone.

I called my mom. She sounded lost and frightened, perhaps in shock. You'd have to know my mom to understand how that's not normal. My mother is a force of nature. Always has been. She's strong and formidable. She takes no bull and gives none either. She's not politically-correct (and has no desire to be) and sometimes she says things that require damage control later. But that's just who she is. When I was a teenager she had pens made up that read, "Leslie Van Meter...professional sh*t-disturber. You have a nice day!" and she proudly gave them away as readily as I pass out promotional bookmarks. And really, that's the tip of the iceberg. I could spend all day trying to capture in words the true spirit of my mother and not have enough time or paper. She's complex and amazing; stubborn and loyal - and sometimes maddeningly literal - but several things she is not and that is weak, scared or lost.

Hearing those emotions in my mom's voice triggered a fear so staggering in my own heart that I found myself shaking even harder.

The fear was easily identified but I was shocked at the magnitude: I'm a fully-functioning adult with children of my own yet I'm not ready to face the world without my mother somewhere in it.

Even if she's driving me crazy with her stubborn nature.

Even if she's confounding me with her refusal to adhere to logic and reason.

Even when she continues to put red onions in her potato salad when she knows I hate them.

Do you ever stop needing your mother? I don't know. I rely on my mother in ways that I never paid attention to and I suppose, took for granted. So, I guess this is the message I'm trying to share in a long and personal round-about way. We all have people in our lives - mothers, fathers, cousins, friends - who can drive us crazy but try to imagine how empty our lives would feel if they were no longer in it.

That's something to think about, right?

Who are we without our friends and family? It's a sobering often confronted when it's too late to tell them how much we love and appreciate them because they're gone.

Sometimes in an instant - always too soon.

Kim Van Meter is a staff reporter for The Oakdale Leader, The Riverbank News, and The Escalon Times. She may be reached at or by calling 847-3021.