OPINION

Norman: Close calls invoke gratefulness for each day

CHARLIE NORMAN

As I’m now in my 70’s, and I hear of former classmates or friends passing, it gives me pause to be grateful for each day I’m given... being thankful for my relatively good health.  As I ponder these things, I can recall times when I came close, very close to leaving this world. Maybe you too, can relate.

Charlie Norman

Like for instance, when I was in the eighth grade growing up in Odessa, I was a front-seat passenger in a ‘57 Chevy driven by my friend Richard, when were T-boned by a speeding car at an uncontrolled intersection. We had the right of way, but the accident still took the life of an innocent baby girl from the other car, and the incident changed our lives forever.

This was a couple years before I got my own driver’s license, but the lessons therein have stuck with me all my days --- I became a “defensive” driver before I ever got behind the wheel. Because of that tragic accident, I became more alert and keenly aware of other vehicles around me, and how things can/do happen.

So about 2-3 years later, I was by myself just a clipping along in my folks’ red 1966 Ford Fairlane, probably about 35 mph, on a one-way street “singing” along loudly to the song on the radio. I was in my own little, contented world, when I approached a blind-sided light-controlled intersection. Though I had the green light, my peripheral vision caught glimpse of something moving quickly from my left side, and I slammed hard on the brakes as I skidded part way into the intersection --- just as an ambulance sped right past straight in front of me. It was just not my time to go (Job 14:5).

A few years later, I was on campus at Texas Tech, when a massive tornado blew through Lubbock one night in May 1970 killing 26 people. I was safe in my dormitory, completely unaware of the danger, thinking it was only a strong thunderstorm. 

A few months after that, my good college buddy Gordon and I traveled through Europe for about 6 weeks. We had purchased a couple of moped scooters to tool around Merry Ol’ England for a while. As we were riding our cycles about an hour northeast of London, I was blown off the road by a passing bus. The wind current of the bus caused me to flip my bike --- away from the flow of traffic. Fortunately, I incurred only minor scrapes, cuts, and bruises. But it served as a stark reminder of how fragile life can be.

In 1974, I moved to Hawaii and had the privilege of living there a few years, and I got certified to be real-live “Scuba” diver, too. It took a few weeks/lessons to get the certification, which allowed us to be able to legally rent/purchase diving equipment, etc., and be able to go on boat dives.

My friend Jerry and I were then invited by a more experienced diver/acquaintance to go on a venture out into the deep, off the shores of Diamond Head crater on July 4, 1976. We were only neophytes, but this “guide” took us out and down way too far. Because we were both beginning to feel a little anxious the further out we went, Jerry and I started using up more of the oxygen in our tanks than our guide realized. We signaled wanted to go back, but he did not seem to care/understand. So we circled back on our own, eventually shedding our heavy tanks, and swam to shore separately.

The surface waves were pretty strong that day, and Jerry and I got pounded on the rocky lava shoreline as we scaled the cliffs to get our feet back on flat ground, and safely from the ocean that almost consumed us. Cuts and bleeding from the experience, but grateful to be alive... thereafter we only took safer, more manageable dives (Psalm 31:15). I never told my folks of the incident.

Around 1980, my parents and I took a short vacation to Bermuda. While there, my mom and I took a guided horse ride on the beach --- something I’d always wanted to do. I was on the horse right behind my mom, when my horse reared up and caused me to fall to the left out of the saddle. But my left foot was caught in the stirrup as I hung on the side of the saddle with my right foot barely touching the ground. I hung on for dear life as my horse started spinning. He stumbled a couple of time as he spun. Should that horse had fallen on me I would not be writing this today....

In the meantime I had left my job in Hawaii and had started a working for an airline as a flight attendant (for some 34 years). Though there were probably a handful of times over the decades that my life was in danger, I knew not of them. That being said, I was flying on September 11, 2001 and eerily, had much in common with a crewmember who perished that infamous day. I was spared from death then, and once again and gave me pause to reassess my life... its complexities, purposes, and values all the more.

Was I being left on this earth for a particular reason and for what purpose? To try to be a good dad for my 2 kids? A better husband? To help someone in a way maybe only I could? To share a kind word, or tell a story, or write a newspaper article that might encourage someone who needs a friend... even from afar. Maybe those things and more.

Soon, I’ll be writing to tell you about an “endeavor” I’m involved, and it’s in that, I do know one purpose of why the Good Lord’s chosen to give me days beyond today (Jeremiah 29:11). And it all started with the thought of writing a newspaper article about a man I was about to meet.

Charlie Norman has lived in Somervell County since 1994. He and his wife have two adult children, who graduated from Glen Rose schools. You can contact him at chas234@windstream.net.