Why is life so unfair? Why do some good people experience sadness, loss, frustration, illness – a litany of Wednesday’s Child’s woes – while others (some of whom are real rotters) – skip happily through life without a care? Yes, I know that books have been written on this subject, but I feel compelled to ask the question anyway.
Consider this: a toddler – barefoot, sweet, innocent, loving – sees a horse and runs to pet it. The horse is loose and grazing peacefully – facing away from the on-coming child. The unexpected touch startles the horse and it does what a horse is wont to do: kicks in reaction. The child’s skull is shattered; she lies unconscious.
How did this happen? A series of events occurred, and if any one of them had been ever so slightly changed, the outcome would have been different.
1. It is the end of August. The pasture is dry and over-grazed, so the horse is allowed to feed on the lawn. (This was a normal occurrence).
2. The grandmother and aunt sit beside a swimming pool up-hill from the horse. They can see the horse, but because of the rolling yard, they can not see the horse’s lower legs. A row of arborvitae trees stand between the house and the hill leading up to the pool, blocking the view of the horse from the driveway and house.
3. Two neighbor girls enter the yard and ask if they can pet the horse. The grandmother says no, they must never go near the horse because she is easily spooked and might kick them. (The words of this conversation described exactly what would happen moments later).
4. The grandfather returns from picking up the toddler and her mother. The round-trip has taken him about half an hour. (One more car at a stop-sign, one red light being green would have changed the outcome).
5. The mother, child and grandfather get out of the car. Mother heads toward the back of the house to get her bathing suit off the clothesline, and as she does, all three hear the telephone ringing. Thinking the toddler is with the other, both the mother and the grandfather run to answer the phone – the mother to the back door, the grandfather to the front. They meet in the kitchen at the phone, each asking the other where the toddler is. Mother answers the phone while grandfather runs back to find the child, but the child has disappeared.
6. The phone call is from a disabled aunt who has never phoned before. She called the mother’s apartment, getting no answer and apparently being determined to make a call, decided to try calling the grandparents home. The aunt had no particular reason to call, nor did she know the grandparents. The mother quickly says she can not talk right now and hurries outside to find the toddler. (What caused this person to make that pointless phone call? What sparked the idea to also try the grandparents’ house?)
7. Meanwhile, the grandmother and aunt see the horse jump and comment on how they had just warned the neighbor girls about such a thing. Although they had been watching the horse, the lay of the land blocked their view of the toddler approaching it. (Turn the horse so slightly so that the toddler’s approach was not a surprise…)
Seizures and paralysis followed, were treated, and the toddler regained her health and lives a normal life until thirty-six years later when she suffers a grand mal seizure, the apparent result of that long-ago head injury. Following a seizure, a person must not drive a car for six months; in a rural area, there is no mass transit. This grown-up toddler, now a home-health nurse and the mother of a 4-year-old, has suddenly lost the ability to go to work, to earn a living, to get to the grocery store, or to “drive my son to the beach.” She has done only good in this world. Why did this happen to her?
note: originally published August 9, 2006