"Oh well...I tried. I'm at Brookbank and 150.
Back to the house."
That was the message I got from Ross Hiller at 10:36am on Saturday as he tried in vain to intercept the ride that had rolled out earlier that morning.
"I'll hit him back after I finish this lap" I thought, having just started my own ride. A lap turned into two, which turned into four hours later.
When my phone rang at 2:30pm, I figured Ross was calling to see if I wanted to get the kids together and have a beer. I knew the moment I heard a woman's voice at the other end that something was terribly wrong.
"Hi, Watts? My name is Liz.... Ross has been in an accident..."
Apparently 20 minutes after his message to me, Ross had been hit from behind by an SUV and was in critical condition.
Running into the hospital in my cycling clothing, an old man looked me up and down and said "the crazy ward is on the 3rd floor."
Tommy, Ross's best friend, was starting to get pissed. Ross was supposed to have been there over an hour ago to help shoot photos for a 5k race to benefit firefighter William Caviness, who had died of a heart attack during a marathon. When his phone rang at 2:30pm and he saw Ross's number, he was getting ready to chew him out for pulling "typical Ross s***". When the woman on the other started talking instead, he knew that something terrible had happened. "Tommy? This is Liz... Ross has been in an accident..."
Tanya had lost her patience a long time ago.... "If you're going you better go!"
She didn't want him to ride anyway... there was too much to do. But she knew he wanted to. That he needed to. So he better get out the damn door NOW so he could get back in time.
As he ran out the door, forgetting the Road ID he always wore, she didn't even look at him.
When she got the call... she came undone.... unable to forgive herself for those last moments when she was just so vexed with this man she loved so much. She wished she hadn't been so angry and had just told him that she loved him and to be safe. And now she was rushing to the hospital, with no idea what was waiting for her when she got there.
Every day, we take so much for granted. And in some ways, if we want to stay sane, we have to. But we can't help thinking that maybe we should have done things differently. And that maybe things would have turned out differently if we had.
If I'd responded to his message, he'd have likely stopped to check his phone. And he wouldn't have been in that very wrong place at that very wrong time.
There's so much that could have happened. But didn't. And now we're picking up the pieces.
And Ross will be picking up these pieces for a very long time.
He has a long road to recovery ahead of him. But he's making amazing progress.
His injuries are pretty extensive. Massive head trauma. Fractured vertebrae. A broken ankle. Full body bruising. A punctured intestine. Road rash.
And yet... as bad as they are.... you can't help but know that they could be worse. And that Ross is amazingly lucky.