Tuesday, January 18, 2022

Torn Memories

A way I describe my memories is through what I call the "associative memory system." Think of it much like an interwoven spiderweb and everything is connected. This can play out several different ways with one being that the Olympics are a great organizational tool for remembering where I was when they were. However, while dates are good mile markers the biggest tool are physical items and while my girlfriend assisted cleaning out the guest bedroom yesterday, I came across a piece of clothing I very well might've died in.

Seeing it instantly brought me back to Marshalltown 2007. I was race directing and flagging a kart race at the now gone Iowa International Speedway and I've got to tell you, seeing the clothing allowed me to remember that the day before I gave my shortest red flag ever with about 20 seconds worth of red flag conditions in a practice because a herd of deer were galloping down the backstraight. However, I could hear my words in the driver's meeting as I hoped it would be a safe weekend, "Okay everyone, we had a red flag for deer yesterday and as we come to races today let's keep that as the only red this weekend. No one wants to be the cause of a red flag." A big case of irony was about to play out.

I held the clothing in my hands. I could see the cut lines from where the paramedics and ER staff had cut the suit. This clothing was my race suit, and I would often race just the final race while someone else filled in on my duties. I had had one practice session and the track was exceptionally bumpy but had a fun mix of corners. Anyway, racetrack talk aside, during the race I was doing great considering lack of practice compared to everyone. There was one corner that I loved; it was a high banked bowl hairpin. Throwing a kart into that corner was a rush and lap after lap I attempted to make a pass for fifth in the corner. I was so focused on the battle that I didn't really notice the diminished braking power I had. Perhaps it was only a couple corners that I had warning, but as I thought about another attempt at a pass going into this hairpin my brain had a hard time registering what was going on in my world.

"Should I throw it out?" has been a question I've asked many times. Because my memories are so tied to objects would I be able to "move on" from the feeling of helplessness that I felt in the couple seconds after not realizing what was going on in my world? It's hard to describe what it is like to expect one thing and have it not happen. When you press the brake pedal in your car you know you're going to slow down. But what if you don't? Then what? That's what I was faced with and I turned the wheel hard left trying to spin and avoid the kart in front of me. 

Sliding into the hairpin I almost had it spun. The good thing was I didn't collide with the kart in front of me, but the bad news was that I went into the hairpin flush which sort of acted like a point and shoot slingshot. 

Memories are funny; I've found that remembering the good times is almost impossible but the times when we are pushed to the extremes, well, those moments can live on forever. 

The next two seconds or so went on for what seemed to be months and months. Every regret, hope, idea, and dream I ever had was played out as I stared at the hog fence in front of me. This hairpin corner didn't have much run-off which meant the solid objects that could be hit were rather close to the track. I had enough time to think about the second bit of irony that I had asked the track owners to put the plastic barriers often used at kart tracks in front of this semi-solid fence. There was a gigantic stack of them just out of line of sight as the fence was getting closer and closer. Then, I made contact.

Hog fence, which I'm 99% sure is what I hit first, was in panels of a much thicker metal than a chain-link fence. The pits were on the other side of the fence, so they didn't want any karts making it through the fence hence the overly strong tactics, but at the same time it made for a sickening impact as I struck it, breeched it, and made my way into the chain link fence.

My memories are fragmented greatly after the impact. One thing I firmly remember is a man by the name of Noe running full speed at me. His pit was the other side of the fence but that's all I can remember of the world until my memories pick up with me screaming. I wasn't choosing to scream, well, my conscious self wasn't; think of it like waking up from a dream during the day. The fence had done a number on my head, hand, and lower legs and there was no doubt to anyone that saw it that I was taking a trip to the hospital.

I had no lasting injuries from the crash. The concussion took about a month and my hand couldn't fit into my bowling ball for about a month as well, but all things considered I was lucky. Lucky? The luck factor is why I keep the suit. It may be sort of morbid to keep a suit I almost died in, but here's the thing; that weekend I had forgotten my helmet at home. My helmet was much like a karting helmet with no protection given under the chin. I had to borrow a helmet and the helmet I had used that day was from someone that had given on oval tracks in stockcars which had an extra lip under the chin. The first place of my upper body to connect with the hog fence was the lip and had it not been for that the fence would've made direct contact with my throat. Survival, in that case, would've been unlikely.

There are all sorts of items in my house that may look like junk, or something oddly irrelevant, and then there's a race suit that has been cut wide open. While seeing it may bring up a recall of staring at a fence in the most helpless of situations it also reminds me that I had something else in store for my life that I couldn't possibly imagine. So, if you know a person on the spectrum, be on the lookout for trinkets, knickknacks, or what you might consider junk because it might be the connectors in their memories of perhaps a favorite day, a day that was transformative, or in my case, an item that reminds them of just how lucky they are.

No comments:

Post a Comment