Meaningful Matters: MJ Turns 50, 27 Years Since Mom and Dad’s Acccident

For much of the sporting world, if not the entire planet, today is important because it’s Michael Jordan’s 50th birthday.

For me, though, the day has a different meaning.

That’s because 27 years ago today my life was permanently changed by my parents’ near-fatal auto accident.

Mom and Dad had spent a pleasant day shopping in New Hampshire and were returning home when it happened.

A snowy road.

A car in the opposite lane with a snowplough on the front.

Mom and Dad’s car skidding and swerving into oncoming traffic.

The snowplough hit Mom’s door.

Her seatbelt saved her, but the only reasons gave her even a 1 percent chance of living was that they were already out on the road, heard the collision and responded immediately.

My brother Mike called me at Stanford, where I was a junior, to tell me what had happened.

In a decision which I will be eternally grateful, our neighbor Sandy Spingarn pushed me to come home to be with my family.

I did.

Dad looked frail and small in his hospital bed, but was able to talk.

Mom, on the other hand, could not.

Among other wounds, she suffered busted ribs, a broken collarbone and a massive head injury.

She was in a coma for several days.

The first I visited her in the hospital a respirator was breathing for her. The doctors had cut a small hole in her a throat and inserted a tube.

I listened to the inexorable hissing and wanted desperately to rip out the tubes that snaked in and out of her body.

So much has changed since then.

I have gone from a college student to a middle-aged man who this year will turn the same age as Mom was when the accident happened. I have married a strong and loving woman, and am father to a young man who is now the same age I was then.

A teaching career is behind me.

My writing passion continues to emerge and grow.

Mike is a successful lawyer who married in October 2011, and last October he became the father of Matthew, a beautiful boy who is just starting to roll over and laugh.

Jon, our youngest brother, has become an internationally acclaimed photographer.

After splitting in an acrimonious fashion, Mom and Dad have gradually put that behind them.

They share laughter and joy in our development and our children.

These two-line summaries give only the broadest of strokes of what we have done in the more than quarter century that feels both a lifetime and an instant ago.

The lessons I have drawn from the accident have changed over time, but the core is basically the same.

Savor life’s gifts.

Treasure the people who matter.

Live from love.

This morning, I called Mom, as I do nearly every day.

We talked for a few minutes about dreams she had had the night before and my plans for the day.

I’m glad you made it, I told her, and even more grateful that we’re still here.

Me, too, she said.

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9 responses to “Meaningful Matters: MJ Turns 50, 27 Years Since Mom and Dad’s Acccident

  1. Bette Orovan Adelman

    Jeff, this is such an emotional tribute and part of a family history of which I know so little. I’m sorry we didn’t have more time to talk when we met last year in Champaign; I can only hope that some day in a chance meeting somewhere we might be able to recapture time lost and get to know one another better! My fondest regards to your mother and to Jonathan, whose smiling face I recall with great delight.

    I read and enjoy your blogs very much.

    Bette Adelman

  2. Fran & Ralph Lowenstein

    Beautifully written Jeff, and we share in the sentiments expressed.
    Aunt Fran & Uncle Ralph

  3. I wrote a long comment and cannot get it posted because of password problems and name problems. I will try again. I came back because of your love and my love for you. I got better because I knew that if I didn’t, you would never have the freedom to create your own lives you. Then I would never have the pleasure of reading your blog as I do today. Love, Mom

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