Herbert Basham, my grandfather and Georgia's husband, was working as a switch foreman at L&N at the time of the oft-told tale of the Great Accident and had been at work that rainy March afternoon when he heard a crash down under the Fourth Street viaduct, where there the train passes over Fourth Street. As he and his co-workers looked down on the accident, they saw that some cab driver had managed to run right into the support post right in the center of the bridge and literally wrapped his cab around it.
They found out later that the cab driver had been high on drugs when the crash occurred and that he ran off after the crash and wasn't heard from again. There were three inches of cab sticking out on either side of the post.
"If anybody gets out of that alive, they'll be lucky," Herbert remembered saying. It wasn’t much after that when Herbert's son, Bobby, who worked as a call boy with L&N, had the terrible job of finding Herbert and letting him know that it was his wife, Georgia, that had been in that accident.
Georgia had been wedged into the cab and the emergency crew had to cut the vehicle away in order to get her out. Her left leg was badly shattered and she was transported to Baptist Hospital, where she remained from March until September.
My mother, Mary and her siblings, who were between the ages of sixteen and seven, suddenly found themselves responsible for the grocery shopping, cooking, cleaning, laundry and even paying the bills.
When Georgia got home in September (Herbert had told the doctors that the family really needed her there with the kids starting back to school and the doctors released her earlier than planned), she was in a body cast and unable to do much.
The family pulled together and continued to take care of things as best as they could. Georgia was confined to bed, so Herbert set her up on the back porch of their south Louisville home (where they had only lived for a little over a year) with a tray for eating and doing what work she could.
For instance, Bobby liked biscuits and when he wanted to have some baked, Georgia would tell him the ingredients and have him get them out and do the mixing as she supervised the work.
In all my years of visiting Granny (Georgia), I never once heard her complain about the wreck or its aftermath (she always walked with a limp afterwards, her left leg being shorter than her right). It didn't seem to be, still doesn't seem to be, in most of my family's nature to complain.
The mostly unspoken ethic with which I've been raised is this: Life is what it is.
You do well or you face setbacks. You're healthy or you're not. You live or you die. It's all just the nature of things and there's nothing inherently wrong with any of it. The important thing is facing whatever life presents you in as gracious and noble a manner as possible.
Wise words that have obviously a ways to go before they sink in to my poor skull.