In late summer of 1984, my mother, members of my extended family, and I took a much needed beach vacation to Ocean City, MD. It was a typical group vacation for us in those days: we were all crammed into one or two rooms in a semi-moldy motel a block or two from the beach; we spent most of our time roaming the beach or boardwalk; and we ended each day with a group meal, usually a place like Phillip’s Crab House or something like it. Nothing fancy, or complicated, or overly expensive. Just us, a beach, bikes, skee-ball, and some crabs. Those were simpler times.
In 1984, the movie Gremlins was “all the rage” and my mother thought that little, cuddly, Gizmo was the cutest thing she had ever seen. We had seen the movie together and she, having a penchant for sci-fi/horror ate it up. I loved my mother and determined to get her a little stuffed Gizmo that she could cuddle up to at night. A shop along Ocean Boulevard (?) – whatever the name is of the major artery running through OC, I honestly don’t remember – was selling them cheaply. So one morning I stole away from the motel on my bicycle while the rest of the family was getting ready for beach and breakfast to acquire for her the little token of affection. The trip across the eight-lane fast-paced strip of traffic went fine, as did the purchasing of the toy. It was on the return trip where I ran into trouble, and a situation I have never been able to explain.
I crossed the first four lanes of northbound traffic and made it to the island median dividing the highway without incident. I was so excited to get the toy to her and see her face. There was a lull in the oncoming southbound traffic and I decided to “go for it.” I was thirteen, strong, under my own pedal power; I could make it across the four remaining lanes before the distant traffic was upon me. What could possibly go wrong?
Suddenly, with two lanes left to go on the rapidly moving highway my handlebars fell forward and collapsed into the front wheel. Some screw had given way, or some bolt had come undone, and I had no control over the bike. I instinctively hit the brakes and stopped abruptly straddling the second and third southbound lane of traffic. I was perpendicular to the oncoming traffic and I was an unavoidable target. The impending cars were just feet from me. I could feel the wind and heat rushing at me and hear the horns blaring. I was going to die.
Without explanation my stationary bike wrenched from its position and shifted parallel to the speeding cars. My body was bent over the front of the bike, and my hands were still on the broken handlebars that offered me no steering capability. It was as if someone or something ripped the bike off the macadam at the last possible moment and placed it back in the only way that cars could swerve to miss me. In an instant about six cars whizzed past me (without slowing) and were dust on the horizon. I looked behind me to see where other cars had been stopped at a red light, so nothing was coming for a moment. I put my feet on the road, coasted to the safety of the sidewalk, got off the bike, sat down by the road, and wept.
I don’t know what happened that summer day in 1984. By all rights of logic I should’ve been killed. I did nothing to save myself, the whole thing happened too quickly, and I had absolutely no control over the motion of the bike after the handlebars broke. I had to awkwardly walk it back to the motel for my brother to fix. Did God’s hand reach down and turn the bike to save me? Maybe, but why? Was He trying to tell me that He exists? Was He trying to keep me alive to do something for Him later? Did He break the handlebars in the first place to create a scenario where I would need saving? Or was my intentional desire to live so great that somehow I used the power of my thoughts and/or connection to Source to alter both reality and the laws of physics. I don’t know, I don’t know, I don’t know.
What I do know is that I was “given” a second chance that day. I should’ve died, but I didn’t. I should’ve been a tragic statistic; instead I was a miraculous survivor. I’ve spent much of my life trying to work through that series of events and I still have no answers. All I know is that I am grateful that I’m still here when I shouldn’t be. And honestly, I don’t know why I’m telling you all this, except perhaps I just needed the reminder myself that things could be much, much worse. But by the power of grace, or God, or intention, they’re not, and I’m still here, and trying and often failing to make the world a better place one day at a time. And if this story helps you to find something to be grateful for today then perhaps I’ve done my job for now. I’m grateful you took the time to read this. Be alive and well.
Oh, and by the way, Mom loved the little Gizmo toy, and never really understood what happened to me that day. I guess that’s just another way those pesky, elusive gremlins operate on our lives.