Grandma Gertie always said there's not a savory dish that can't be made tastier by just a touch of tarragon.

Tsunami and Me

Tsunami and Me
too big to escape now....

Thursday, November 1, 2012

On Borrowed Time

The evening of November 1, 1987, El Dia de Muertos, the Day of the Dead in Mexico and much of Central America, I had just taken my vows as a Peace Corps Volunteer in Belize City, Belize. I'd left Long Beach, California, just six weeks earlier, full of hope that I'd find a new direction in my life. As it turns out, I did.

After the swearing-in ceremony that moonlit night, a male friend volunteered to walk me home to my host family, and we were winding our way up Baymen Avenue in the Caribbean Shores section of town, not far from the place I was staying in King's Park.

Two young men appeared out of nowhere, one wielding a fence post he'd uprooted from somewhere nearby. While one thumped his makeshift weapon against my friend's forehead, the other grabbed my shoulder bag and yanked. The strap twisted around my forearm, and I fell to the ground. He dragged me a few feet along the gravel, growling at me to let loose of the purse. I wasn't holding on. It just wouldn't unwind from my arm. He batted at me several times, the purse finally unwound, and the two of them ran off.

I crawled back to my friend and leaned over him. I saw he was unconscious, but could see his chest rising and falling, so knew he was still alive. His white shirt was spattered with blood, and it took a moment for me to realize that it was spurting on him from my upper left arm.

That's when I realized that I'd been stabbed, and an artery had been severed. I started to run toward the Peace Corps training director's house...we'd passed it a few minutes earlier...shouting for help. People streamed out of their houses. One phoned the police. Another helped me fashion a tourniquet from my slip. Soon we were on our way to the Belize City Hospital, and eventually airlifted to Miami Beach, where we both had surgery.

We recovered, and eventually returned to Belize to carry out our Peace Corps assignments. I was 50 at the time, and my friend a few years older. Nobody had expected us to come back...but we did.

Now, on the 25th anniversary of that harrowing night, I'm thankful for the opportunities those additional years provided for me. I had the chance to travel to the far reaches of the world, to live and work in other countries, to gain a wider perspective during my decade overseas at how fortunate I am to have been born in the United States and to own an American passport.

I had the chance to live in other states upon my return home...Arkansas, Maryland, Washington. I married again, and gained stepchildren and grandchildren and even a great-grandchild. And four-footed friends, dogs and cats. I've also been able to write about my stories have been or will be published in around 75 books.

Each November 1 I eat a pumpkin treat to commemorate that I'm very much alive on the Day of the Dead. When I lived in Antigua, Guatemala, my friend and I would join the throngs at the local cemetery and leave pumpkin cookies on the graves.

I won't be getting to a cemetery today, but I will stop by my local Safeway and pick up a pumpkin pie. They're on sale right now. Maybe I'll buy two and freeze one for Thanksgiving...I've got a lot of celebrating to do and a lot of thanks to give.

1 comment:

  1. What an a amazing tale to tell and what an amazing woman you are to go back. I love-love-love Antigua.