In church services this Sunday, I sat behind Phil. When the choir sang, Phil tapped his cane against the wall, not nearly in time with the music. Children stared in horror as his appearance was enough to put fear into the eyes of most. Phil doesn’t have the ability to speak, unless you call the grunts and screams language. He is a lanky balding man whose blackened eyes seem sunken into a badly scared face, and despite his attempts to gain the attention of the crowd, the congregation forced themselves to look away.
It wasn’t always this way for this man. Back in the late seventies, he was a carefree teen with all anyone could ask for. His parents were quite wealthy, and Phil could have anything at a whim. He drove the fastest cars, he kept with the popular crowds, and he had the finest women.
Phil had an attitude that he was unstoppable. Speed was his friend and he drove like the wind. He was known as the top street racer in the area, and his ’67 GTO was to die for. Neighbors and friends alike warned his parents of the danger he proposed every time he got behind the wheel, but they ignored the warnings and the rants of all who offered. In a time where safety equipment in cars was unheard of, Phil challenged every turn, passed when he wanted to, and had not a worry in the world. He was a selfish, spoiled brat who thought the world owed him a favor, and he was looking for his rewards. He soon found them.
One particularly beautiful Saturday afternoon, Margie and her young daughter were heading to town. She and her little girl had planned on spending the day shopping for their dad’s birthday. Margie carefully drove her little car through the twisty country road,and up the hill towards Hansen Spring, when she faced two cars drag racing towards her; the cars were on either side of the road, and neither made any attempts to stop. Phil was winning the race as usual, when he seen the little car on the same side of the road as he. For the first time in his young selfish life, Phil thought about someone other than himself. He swung his large powerful car to the other side of the road, across an embankment, and over a large cliff. His partner in the race kept racing despite the ultimate demise of his opponent.
When the police and safety crew removed Phil’s car from the ditch, there was little to distinguish who he was. His face had passed through the windshield, the steering wheel crashed through his ribs. His legs were wrapped in an impossible pretzel around his body, and blood covered the finely stitched cloth seats of the GTO.
There were some who thought that he would never walk. There were others who said he would never speak. Some figured that he would not make it through any of the fifty serious surgeries that he had to face. Those doctors were wrong, but only barely.
Phil did survive, if you call the state of his current life as living. He has to have a worker help him with bathroom duties. His face will never again resemble his mother or his father, and speech is something that is heard only through the use of a piece of computer equipment that makes him sound like something from a sixties Sci-Fi movie. Mobility is limited to two or feet on his own before being helped along by his home care worker. I heard that he was married some time after the accident. He had received some sort of inheritance from his parents, but after the money was gone, she soon followed.
Phil certainly paid dearly for his lack of concern for others. He is still paying. I sure wish people would look at Phil and think.