Tuesday, May 13, 2008


Lois Greiman

I’ve always wondered what I would do in a crisis.

Okay, I’ve had the usual trauma…you know…like when your husband’s horse bites off your son’s ear…that sort of thing. But I’ve been curious what I would be like in one of those split second decisions when I could do something to prevent the trouble-to-come. But recently I found out.

Here’s how it went: I was on a little trip with my 24 year old son, Travis. (Who also happens to be the boy with the torn-off ear--you might see a pattern by the end of this blog.) He had decided to accompany me to the Romantic Times convention because he had made friends there on previous years. In fact he and Heather Graham’s daughter had formed something of a bond and God knows I’m too opportunistic to discourage that.

The convention was in Pittsburgh, so we decided, naturally, to drive. I mean it’s only 100,000 miles or something. And, just as naturally, we decided to camp our way across the United States. It was, after all, April, which is ‘generally’ above freeze-to-death temperatures even here in the northland. So off we went, intending to climb to the highest peak in Wisconsin, Timm’s Hill (I kid you not) as well as to the top of Mt. Arvon, the highest peak in Michigan.. Arvon was supposed to be a half a mile hike, but, with the recent foot of snow the UP had received, the roads were blocked. So what was supposed to be (quite literally) a walk in the park, actually turned into a 14 mile trek through three foot drifts and open streams. We didn’t get back to the car until four in the morning. I think I also remember seeing flesh-eating monsters eying us from the surrounding woods, but that might have just been my hallucinations. Needless to say, we survived the experience, however. In fact, we had learned our lesson. By the time we were back on the road, we had vowed to refrain from doing any more ‘stupid stuff.’

Still, Travis was intent on seeing a particular waterfall and once we arrived in Ohio, I was glad we did. It was a gorgeous spot, a pleasant hike in above-ridiculous temperatures, a spattering of water tumbling gently into an rocky basin. Happy, warm, and content, we trekked to the top, but somehow we lost the beaten trail and found ourselves standing on a nearly level shelf of granite above the falls. There was the tinniest trickle of water running near our feet over the slick rocks. It burbled merrily along, then fell gently down over a 30 foot drop, but suddenly a hear a little patter of sound. I turned to see that Travis has lost his footing. He was down on his stomach six feet from the edge, but in an instant, a heartbeat of time I tell you, he was sliding. And then, as if he were being sucked off the edge, he was gone. For one shattered second I saw him looking up at me from the precipice and then he disappeared from sight.

And what did I do? Did I leap after him and catch him by the arm as any good mother should do? Did I throw myself after him in a vain but heroic attempt to stop his fall? No. I said, and I quote, “Uhhh! Tra! Uhhh!” Then, when that didn’t magically bring him back from the abyss, I carefully picked my way to the edge and looked down.

He was ten feet below me. Somehow he had landed on a tree trunk propped between two rock ledges and was crouching there, one foot on the jagged rock and one on the wood. The water was beating down on his hat and his GPS was hanging from a branch. He looked disoriented and well…wet, but wholly alive. In fact, later, he asked why I hadn’t taken a picture of him.

Taken a picture of him!! I thought the boy was dead and it seemed wrong to snap shots of his broken body. Besides, I had done all I could do to save him. You know… “Uhhh! Tra! Uhhh!”

Crap! I see now that I will never ever, not in a million years, be a star in my own book, not unless all the heroics that are required involve shrieking a few nonsensical syllables.

So, how about you? Crises anyone? What were they? How did you react? And could you, do you think, star in your own action scenes?



Betina Krahn said...

Lois, you do lead an interesting life! I both chuckled and cringed reading your story. . . feeling waaaay too much empathy! The once or twice I've been in a crisis, everything seems to move in slo-mo and I'm reacting like molasses in January. Not sure if that's because I can't believe what is happening or because my reflexes are crappy.

There may be a reason males do a lot of the quick-reaction-time stuff. My late hubby could catch a dinner fork (or sharp knife!) on its way to the floor. He caught things in mid-fall all the time. Me? I have to wait for the second or third bounce!

Or maybe it has nothing to do with sex and a lot to do with being trained to respond fast. . . and physically. Boys do a lot of that physical "testing your reflexes" stuff when competing with other boys as they're growing up. You would never have caught my girlie cousins and I doing such stuff. We were supposed to act like "ladies". . . whatever that meant.

Betina Krahn said...

Oh, and reeeallly glad to see Travis is still hale and hearty. And you have great material to use in a book sometime!

I'd like to do something with one of my sons like that. . . but I think that window of opportunity has closed. Sigh.

lois greiman said...

Betina, it's hard to find time to do things like that. I have to remind myself that the hours are running out and those moments (of watching your son slip down a waterfall) just can't be replaced. So I'm taking a few weeks this summer to climb mountains between MN and San Fransisco this summer. Stay tuned for more misadventures. Yikes.

Anonymous said...

George:I love this blog, thanks for sharing.

Cindy Gerard said...

Lois - you crack me up. Even in times of crisis, you somehow manage to wisecrack your way through it.

I haven't been tested often but I seem to have one of those cool heads.
Years ago, my family was on vacation up in northern Minnesota. Beautiful, perfect summer day. We pulled our boat up to an island and built a fire in the firepit and set a skillet filled with oil on the fire in preparation to fry the fish we'd caught for a good old fashioned shore lunch. Long story short, my father tripped over a piece of firewood, fell right into the fire and into the boiling oil.
Everyone else panicked. He said he was fine but it was apparent that he was badly burned - adrenaline or shock or something was blocking the pain. Even though he insisted he didn't want to, I took him by the hand and led him straight into the lake and made him stay there up to his neck - the water ran about 55 degrees. When the boat was ready to leave, I led him back out, packed him in ice from the cooler and we headed back to civilization. The paramedics said the dip in the lake saved him from third, possibly fourth degree burns from the oil.
Earned my merit badge on that one :o)

Playground Monitor said...

Last summer the DH was trying to load his big ole Harley on the new trailer he'd bought. Apparently he hit the cruise control button and the bike roared onto the trailer and the front tire jumped the edge, leaving him hanging onto the bike that's hanging off the trailer. My response was rather like Lois's. "Uhhh! J...! Uhhh!" There was no way I could lift that bike to help him. So I had to get a neighbor to help. Did I mention it was 9:30 at night? Fortunately the neighbor was awake. That was #2 mishap with the bike (first was breaking the tail light because the foot pegs were extended). He hasn't loaded the bike since. If there's a third incident, that trailer is history. My heart can't take another jolt like that.


lois greiman said...

Thanks frequent reader. I'm fascinated by your pic.

Christie Ridgway said...

Lois! My heart jumped into my throat reading that. I also am inclined to stutter when faced with a sudden emergency. My husband, Surfer Guy, always leaps into action, though.

But HOW did Travis get free from his predicament?

Megan Hart said...

When my daughter (my DAUGHTER! Not my SON!) was five, she decided to tie her Power Puff Girls blanket around her neck, climb out along the outside edge of our upper hallway, open to the living room below, and...yes. Jump.

I heard a tremendous THUMP and came in to find her on her hands and knees on the floor inches away from the wooden arm of the couch. I didn't know she'd jumped off the second floor hall, just thought she'd jumped off the couch.

Later, I said "when did you realize you weren't going to fly?"

She said, "As soon as I jumped."

My son, three at the time, was sitting watching from the top of the stairs. I have no doubts he'd have gone next if she'd been okay.

You can't always catch them when they fall. Or when they jump. That's the hardest, most horrifyingly terrifying lesson I've ever learned as a mother.

Have fun on the upcoming trips, Lois! Keep Travis away from those waterfalls. I told him the world's a better place with him IN it!!


lois greiman said...

Cindy, wow. I'm so impressed. How old were you? Sounds like you're the one for a crisis. Wanna climb some mountains with us this summer? I think we're going to need someone with a good head on her shoulders.

lois greiman said...

Marilyn, LOL, good to know I'm not the only one with that fantastic split second response. Obviously we did all we could to save our loved ones from disaster.

lois greiman said...

Trav found a way to climb up and around, Christy. Mostly unscathed. Maybe a little more cautious, but...naw...probably not.

Helen Brenna said...

OMG, I love these kind of stories, cause they're like our books. You know everything turns out all right. lol.

Megan, your story's amazing!

I tend to react fairly quickly and calmly. The quick part comes from growing up with brothers, and the calm part's from, I think, my mom. She's a rock in the face of a crisis. I think you'd have to be raising 8 kids.

The only thing I can think of is my son falling in a river once, not a deep one at the bank, but within seconds I was in and had him by the arm.

But, no, I wouldn't want to be in my own action scenes!!

lois greiman said...

Megan, you KNOW I can't keep Travis away from waterfalls. He'll say 'let's climb that' and I'll say, 'that would be stupid, let's do it.':)

Megan Hart said...


Well...wrap him in bubble wrap or something, then!!

Actually - you guys have a fabulous time with all that climbing and hiking and camping and stuff. So there's no sense in not doing it just on the off chance you might plunge to the ground and break yourselves! You gotta live!

Me, I can't even watch my kids ski without feeling like I might vomit or faint with anxiety. I don't stop them from doing it, but I can't WATCH it!


Michele Hauf said...

Lois, you crazy mountain-climbing uber-chick! You go girl!

I'm like Betina, I go catatonic. Everything moves very slowly. I'm calm and usually rational. Totally opposite of the hubby who is a reactor, and to an extreme that always has me worried. I'm not sure he'd be rational enough to immediately jump to protection mode if a burglar entered our house.

lois greiman said...

It's different when they're little. Travis is like...supersized now. I'm hoping he's bullet proof.

A couple months ago he said that his girlfriend tried to drag him and she couldn't budge him. I was appalled. I mean...what if he was unconscious and we had to drag him out of a fire or something. I was SURE I'd be able to move him, so I made him lie on the floor and I tried to pull him out of the room. It took me a half an hour. I kid you not. But I got him to the top of the stairs and then I was sure I would be able to push him down if necessary. :)

Man, how bored was I? It was a terribly long winter.

lois greiman said...

Uber-chick!! I love that!

Megan Hart said...

...well, at least you didn't duct-tape your feet and hands together and try to stand up and get yourself free because you saw someone in a movie who was captured by a serial killer and couldn't escape and you simply couldn't believe that *YOU* couldn't escape. Even if you were duct-taped.

Not that I ever did such a thing!!

I like to think in a fire I could move my husband who is also super-sized. But I'm afraid I couldn't. It's a scary thought. I'm hoping I'd get some adrenalin.

Amy said...

I know I shouldn't laugh, because that is freakin' scary, but LOL! Mental note: do not travel with Lois and her 24 yo son.

I like to think I'd be totally calm and in control in a real crisis. But probably not, if we're being honest and realistic here...

As far as moving heavy things, I think the adrenaline spike is what helps you do that.

lois greiman said...

Amy, my daughter and her boyfriend are coming with us this summer. So we're going to be totally sensible. (Mostly cuz my husband will kill me if I let anything happen to his baby girl.) So you SHOULD come along.

Christie Ridgway said...

Megan: I had a scene in one of my books where the h/h were duct-taped together in a certain way and the editor couldn't picture it so my young son and I acted it out and I sent her digital pix. She said she and her assistant were on the floor lauging so hard about it!

Megan Hart said...

Christie -- I tossed my kids out a car window to see how a scene should work.

Okay, I gently handed them out through the window to their father. But the I figured out how it would work in case I did have to ever, for some reason throw them out the window.

I bet those pics were hilarious!


lois greiman said...

So Megan, I mean, I understand that you wouldn't ever duct tape your hands together, but if you did, COULD you get free?

Megan Hart said...

...well, technically, *I* didn't do the duct-taping. And not that I would condone recruiting anyone's spouse to participate in such nonsense. But.


I discovered that, contrary to the movie scenario, I COULD get on my feet and hop to reach a fire alarm rather than wiggling along the ground all along broken glass and rolling on my back. Which is what happened in the movie.

But I did have a hard time removing the duct tape.

All I did was pray the neighbors weren't looking in the basement window...


lois greiman said...

Crazy what you can do with duct tape isn't it? I mean, theoretically.

And isn't it amazing what kids are game for, Christie? Love that about them.

Yvonne Lindsay said...

Before I had kids I was always pretty good in hairy situations...since motherhood, I dunno. It's the emotion that overwhelms me. Example--pre-kids, then b/f's (now dh) grandfather slipped on a wet laundry floor and fell through glass window pane in door, cut from armpit to waist and half way back across his back. b/f grabs him, folds flap of skin back and clamps his thigh hard over the wound and holds g/f cradled in between his legs. b/f's father standing there, holding phone, not knowing who to call (um, doctor, or ambulance. Doctor? Ambulance?) Me, I dial our emergency services leave him to tell them what's happened and run to grab blankets to wrap around g/f and b/f.

Couple of years ago, Miss then-14 had shingles. Got up in the dead of night, came to me and said she wanted a drink of water (what, like the bottle of water next to her bed wasn't any good?) so I take her up to our kitchen, I pour her a glass of water, she sits at the breakfast bar, drinks it and then says she doesn't feel too good and wants to go back to bed. We get to the top of the four stairs and she collapses in my arms. Dh comes to the rescue and we lay her down on the landing. Honestly, she looked dead and was totally unresponsive. I grab the phone, call our local A&E but I couldn't speak when I got through and had to hand the phone to Miss then-16, I totally fell apart. On instructions from the A&E she then called an ambulance.

I can't even pass an accident these days without getting upset. Drives me crazy. Where's the old sangfroid gone?

lois greiman said...

Yvonne, yup, caring sucks. Makes sissies of the best of us. :)

No wonder you married b/f though, huh? Your very own hero!

flchen1 said...

Oh, good heavens, Lois! SO glad Travis is OK! And I'd be a blithering idiot in a crisis--I've often wondered about how I'd respond, especially after reading tales of others' heroics, and I'm pretty sure I'd be wringing my hands and wailing... Oy! No action movies for me, I think!

lois greiman said...

Thanks Flchen. It could have been terrible, obviously. We were out of cell phone range. There were no people around and we were miles from my car. But, you know, since he's okay, it's just a fun story. He's a little embarrassed I think and hasn't talked much about it. I, on the other hand, have stopped strangers on the street just to tell the tale.

Oy, is right.

Debra Dixon said...


LOL! I'm late to the blog today and I have to say your blog and all the comments were a great way to end the day. Even if I didn't add much.

Other than to say, I'm pretty good in a crisis because I'm convinced they are just around the corner and you have to be on guard against the buggers or they'll beat you to the punch.

lois greiman said...

Debra, in a way, I think we all expect today to be like yesterday was. Average, placid. Then, wham! Something weird comes along. Good for you for watching for those tricky little buggers.