As you know, I spent many years in the legal field. My first job as a legal secretary was in Tampa for the State of Florida, Department of Business Regulation, Division of Land Sales. The agency regulated the selling of land in Florida; there were some shady people and companies trying to sell swamp land and doing other unsavory things. There were a lot of complaints about people being misled, scammed, and deceived.
I left Land Sales to work in a respected, politically-connected law firm in downtown Tampa. The courthouse was right across the street. I went there now and then for work purposes, mainly to the Clerk’s Office. Once I testified in a judge’s chambers regarding a divorce case my boss was semi-involved with. This was probably the most interesting job I have ever had. My boss had a carnival operator as a client. He was loaded with cash and quite the character. He wore a gun. I mentioned this to my boss because this made me nervous. His response was, “Well, somebody’s got to represent them.” Yikes!!
A marquee partner at this firm was Sam Gibbons. He represented the city of Tampa in the U.S. House of Representatives for over 30 years. His election win parties were at his home. People from the office, friends, families, and reporters attended. Great fun seeing local politicians and a who’s who of Tampa notables. His niche was advocating for seniors.
After working there for three years, I left to work for a Big 8 CPA firm, Laventhol & Horwath. Lasted about three months. While there, one of the main principals said, “There’s not a mistake you can make that I can’t fix.’ Glad you’ve got me covered. Accounting firms are not my bag. I left there to work for a personal injury law firm.
I definitely started off on the wrong foot here. Part of my job was to come in early to make coffee and then stay late to clean up, without pay as I recall. This did not sit well with me in the least because I don’t even drink coffee. To my way of thinking, this was unfair. So I had enough of that and started thinking about how to rid myself of this unpleasantness. In the meantime, they showed me the door.
My supervisor from Land Sales, Mrs. Baldwin, had an idea. We had stayed in touch since I left the State’s employ. It was the late Seventies. She had recently purchased a house in Woodstock, Georgia as an investment. Woodstock is a suburb of Atlanta, and she knew Woodstock was on the move. Mrs. Baldwin knew her real estate. She told me that Atlanta was an up and coming place. A town that was great for people around my age. I was 25.
The wheels in my head started turning and I thought it might be nice to leave Tampa. It would be an adventure and totally something I never would have thought of doing. That’s what I did. It also provided me a pathway to ease away from Mother. We talked on the phone a lot after I left Tampa. Her emotional and psychological abuse let up some but there were times when things weren’t always copacetic. Even so, we had some great conversations. I so missed them once we became estranged years after that.
Arriving in Atlanta
I spent my last night in Tampa with my best friend, Janine. My belongings were in storage. All that was in my studio apartment was a mattress and a suitcase. Janine and I sat in the apartment and talked, drank a little, smoked a little pot, consumed munchies, and cried a little. It was so hard leaving my high school friend. We still have our friendship. She is one person I can share thoughts and dreams with. She and her husband operate an ice cream truck now. That’s so Janine. She has great stories about kids and ice cream.
I had already made a trip to Atlanta to get things in order. I was going to live with my cousin, Jimmy, and his wife, Evelyn, and their two girls. I had secured a job with a mid-sized law firm downtown. Things were in place and rolling right along. It was 1979.
Getting an apartment
The saying used to be that anyone new to Atlanta would get an apartment on Roswell Road and that’s exactly what I did. I had overstayed my welcome with Jimmy and Evelyn so it was time to move on. They did me an enormous favor by letting me live with them. I remain grateful. My new apartment was on the busline. I had ridden the bus to work while living with Jimmy and Evelyn. I moved a little closer in and was still able to catch the bus.
It was just another morning of getting up and getting ready for work. Once ready, I left the apartment and walked the third of a mile to the bus stop. There were three or four of us standing there waiting for the light to change so we could cross the street. It changed and we proceeded to cross in the crosswalk. Next thing I know I am on the grill of a car. I remember thinking, “What am I doing on the grill of this car? I’m not supposed to be here.”
A car turning left did not see me in the crosswalk. I was in her blind spot. She hit my left hip and I was thrown in the air. When I came down the left side of my head struck the windshield. I rolled down the hood of the car, on the grill for an instant, and then landed on the pavement. She came to visit me in the hospital with flowers in hand. She felt awful. It was an accident.
People rushed to my side. They wanted to do something for me, help in anyway they could. I said I’m fine. No big deal. They wanted to call an ambulance, but I said I didn’t need one, I’m fine. I did feel like going back to my apartment though.
Julie, a girl I rode the bus with, got me situated in bed and said she would come by after work. Later the hospital told me that if I had gotten to sleep chances were slim I would have awakened. That was a chilling comment to hear. Northside Hospital maintains statistics for mortality at the intersection of I-285 and Roswell Road because that intersection has a lot of traffic accidents. I beat those statistics, thankfully.
I couldn’t get to sleep as hard as I tried. My head felt funny. I finally managed to call Evelyn and tell her what happened. One thing I remember was how much difficulty I had focusing in on the phone book. I did not have Evelyn’s work number.
She arrived with a gentleman from her school in 20 minutes or so and they took me to the Northside Hospital emergency room. It was close by. I don’t remember the ride to the hospital or waiting in the ER. The first thing I remember was waking up in ICU.
I was in the hospital six days. I had a fractured skull and a subdural hematoma. This required brain surgery. I have a scar from the top of my head to about the middle of the left side of my ear. I had a few bumps and scratches and a huge bruise developed on my hip. They said it helped that I was wearing a leather coat.
After surgery, I could sleep only on my back because otherwise I would get dizzy or nauseous if I turned my head. I knew I would be having visitors so I wanted to look my best. You know how we women are about our hair. I asked the nurse if she could wash mine. It was pretty icky by this point. To this day I cannot believe that she got me out of bed, walked me to the small sink in the hospital room, and completely turned my head over into the sink. I thought I was going to die. I can’t even describe the feeling. What was that nurse thinking?
I missed about six weeks from work. People would call and ask how I was doing and what was I doing. I’d say, ” I’m just sitting around watching my hair grow back.” Half my head was shaved. Not a problem really though because I had thick hair and could do a comb-over and you could hardly see my half bald head.
Tick, Tick, Tick
I recouperated at Jimmy and Evelyn’s. Not long after I got there and was on the mend, I started noticing as I went to sleep at night a Tick, Tick, Tick in my head. It was hard getting to sleep and annoying but I learned to roll with it. I didn’t tell Jimmy and Evelyn or anyone about this. Evelyn took me to the doctor for my follow-up visit.
He was examining my head and touching at different angles. He asked if I had heard a Tick, Tick, Tick sound. I was amazed. Here was someone asking me about something I had mentioned to no one. The doctor said that was the sound of my skull growing back together. I would not have heard this if the fracture had been in my foot. The fact that my injury was next to my ear allowed me to hear this. Just a fascinating little tidbit about the body.
An attorney when in need
Evelyn told me that when she got me to ER it was crowded. Things were moving pretty slowly. She saw the shape I was in and wondered how long I could manage to sit there and wait. An idea came to her. Evelyn was always on top of everything.
I don’t know how she got the phone number, but she called the attorney I worked for at the time and told him the situation. He actually got on the phone to the ER and said he thought I needed immediate attention. It worked. I was seen pretty quickly and it wasn’t too long before I was in the operating room. Manna from heaven indeed.
My head now
What to say? I think I’m unaffected from the accident and surgery. I had migraines for years but that was hereditary. My aunts suffered from them but back then they called them sick headaches. I had headaches as a child. The doctor who prescribed my migraine medication was unconvinced I was right. Disturbingly, he said that sometimes the sutures inside your head can come apart. That was nice to know.
I don’t believe the accident caused my mental woes. Throughout the years afterwards, several doctors wanted to affix blame to the head injury for my mental state. I disagree with them, but it sure would make me happy if I could blame it on the accident.
If you want to keep your memories, you first have to live them.