wings and things

My son, the honest actor

Earlier today I put Ming on a train to Perth because he has applied for numerous roles in various films, including a music video. It’s mostly “extra” work so not paid but I admire his tenacity in trying to get ‘out there’ as an actor. One of the roles requires him to be a scruffy guy at a strip club; another requires him to be a sophisticated guy at a strip club; and the music video requires him to be a NeoNazi in a story about how a young son murders his Nazi father.

Yes, well, mmmm. Anyway, Ming will be staying with various relatives and friends for the next four days and nights. Tonight he will be staying with my eldest niece and her husband (you know, the beautiful people).

The following night, he will be staying with one of his best friends, and for the last two nights he will be staying with relatives from Anthony’s side of the family.


Ming hasn’t gone off for many adventures like this and I just realized that I have never been alone on this farm for as long as four days (one or other of the ‘boys’ would be here), so it feels very strange.

The brat’s interests are music and drama (both of which he is good at, but, even though he has some formal qualifications, these are very difficult industries to get into).

I am hoping so much that he might simply be noticed.


Before I dropped Ming off at the train station, we went to our lawyer’s office to give him a gift of red wine and he invited us into his space to have a chat. It wasn’t like our previous chats because, now that the court case is miraculously over, we could just be ourselves without the professional distance. I wanted to hug the lawyer (as I had done just after the verdict last week), but I restrained myself.

Ming was told previously that one of the repercussions of the accident was that he might have to do community service by accompanying the police to schools in order to talk about his/our extended family’s experience. We were told last week that this was no longer a necessity but Ming still wants to do this and I support his decision.

In a way, this will be another unpaid acting role but, this time, it will be the real thing. Ming told me this afternoon that he continually replays that night in his head, with ‘what if?’ questions a never-ending dream sequence, and with the ‘why?’ question still hanging its head in shame.

The fact that all of the children who were injured are okay now, in a forever way, spurs Ming on to wanting to warn the rest of us to be more protective, corrective and vigilant – AND to dispel notions of easygoingness when it comes to children, because you just


The Verdict

Good news! In fact it is the best possible outcome and even the lawyer is gobsmacked. Today, in court, the police reduced Ming’s charge of “five counts of dangerous driving occasioning bodily harm” to “one count of dangerous driving” and they deleted “bodily harm” from the charge (this was the most surprising thing since the accident did cause bodily harm).

The penalty is a $500 fine plus courts costs, and Ming loses his driver’s licence for three months. Considering he was facing the possibility of a $15,000 fine, a two year suspension of his licence, and maybe jail time, this is absolutely amazing!

Thank you so much for all of the comments on yesterday’s rather melodramatic post (which I have now edited into something less melodramatic ha!) I am also deeply grateful for the support and prayers of our family and friends, the character references for Ming, and for your patience with my moodiness.

And to God: thank you for restoring my faith, and my breath, and for the fact that we didn’t need the $4000-per-day barrister after all!

Tonight we are celebrating my eldest niece’s birthday and she was sure it would be a double celebration with good news for Ming. I wasn’t so sure and my optimism was limpy.

Then, this morning, at the lawyer’s office, when he told us that there was still no answer from the police and said it may well be another adjournment, my optimism tripped over and fell. “It’s like the Samuel Beckett play, Waiting for Godot“, the lawyer said, and Ming guffawed while I tried to smile. An hour or so later, Ming and I were sitting in the court’s waiting room rather listlessly when the lawyer came out of the courtroom itself and beckoned us in, whispering, “Godot has arrived”, then he went to talk to someone else. I looked at Ming with wide eyes:

Me: What does that mean?
Ming: Duh, Mum, the charges have been reduced!
Me: But why can’t he just say that?
Ming: Because he likes to speak in metaphors.
Me: But are you sure?
Ming: Yes!
Me: Well I need to hear the actual words.

And half an hour later, I did. Yeeha!

It’s over.


Court case

Tomorrow, Ming and I go back to court for the third time since the car accident last October. (For those who don’t know, Ming lost control on gravel whilst taking four cousins and a friend on a bit of a joyride on the back of his new ute/truck, and all five children were seriously injured.)

Since then, all involved have been through different versions of hell, but, with the five children healed now, life is beginning to resemble the joy of before-the-accident instead of the trauma of after-the-accident.

Ming (now 20 – he was 19 at the time of the accident) has, over the ensuing months, taken full responsibility for this accident and now awaits tomorrow’s decision from the police as to whether the charge of five counts of dangerous driving might be reduced to one count. Obviously my whole family, including the injured children, are hoping for that latter but Ming and I are now prepared for whatever happens.

Actually no! Ming is prepared, but I am terrified. If the charges against him are reduced he will plead guilty – easy – but, if the charges are not reduced, his lawyer wants him to plead not-guilty in order to negotiate further.

Several times, over the months when the children were in neck and spinal braces, and leg, arm and wrist casts I despaired and sometimes became uncharacteristically angry and, in retrospect, my family coped very well with my unfocused aggro.

I only expressed anger towards Ming once because I knew how traumatized he already was. It was a few weeks after the accident and he and I were in the car and I said, “But why, Ming – why did you take the kids for that joyride – WHY?”

At that hint of blame in my voice, Ming began to scream, then sob. Since that day, he has been calm and taken the whole legal process in his stride, whereas I have been on tenterhooks. Obviously his remorse goes without saying.

I don’t think I can go on with this tonight but glad I have written some of it down.

Wish us luck tomorrow in court!


“Totally and utterly stupid.”

Yesterday morning Ming and I went to our third appointment with the lawyer and were told that the first court appearance next week will simply be a reading of the charges and an adjournment until the end of February. We were also given the video of the police interview conducted the night of the accident. Ming has been told to watch it with a notebook in hand in case he wants to change or retract anything he said.

We were going to watch it together but after he went to bed last night, I decided to watch it by myself just in case I had an emotional reaction. The interview began after midnight, the night of the accident, and went for 80 minutes and was conducted while I was waiting with my friends in the foyer of the police station. My mother was with me for the first part of the night but when my friends arrived I told her to go to the hospital which she did. By that time I had stopped sobbing more or less and Ming was finally released at 3am.

During all of those hours I had no idea how the children were and I had no idea what was happening with Ming. These were very dark hours. After the police station, Ming and I went straight to the hospital to see the children and families (except for one nephew who had been flown, with my brother, to Perth from the scene of the accident).

Well now I do know what was happening with Ming during those earlier hours. Two policemen sat on either side of him at a round table and he was questioned about every detail of the accident. Every now and then Ming’s voice caught on a sob as if he had been crying previous to the interview. He answered all of the questions honestly and politely and if he didn’t know, or couldn’t remember, that, too, was noted.

When asked to talk about each of the children, his voice went soft with emotion and a couple of times he sighed before he was able to go on with a steady voice. At no point did he attempt to make any excuses or defend his actions and when asked to state his own opinion of himself and what he had done he said, with no hesitation:

“Totally and utterly stupid.”

I am glad I watched this without Ming because of course it brought back the horror of that night and of course I cried a lot. But now I will be able to watch it with him calmly and help him make notes, although I didn’t hear him say anything but the truth so I don’t really think there is any need to add anything.

He has been charged with five counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and obviously he will plead guilty. We found out last week that the car insurance will not pay which is understandable but still a blow. I haven’t told Anthony this; in fact I told him the exact opposite because he sold some very precious shares that he has had for decades in order to buy Ming the ute on his last birthday.

And to top things off, the lawyer said that the barrister he has obtained for Ming charges $4,000 per day! I nearly fell off my chair at this almost incomprehensible amount of money and I have no idea how we are going to manage except that tomorrow I turn 55 and can access my superannuation so in that sense we are very lucky. I would have been panicking otherwise. Now I am just a bit shell-shocked!

This has already been a very long and hard journey in terms of the initial shock, the injuries and slow recovery of the children, and finally now the court case which may go on a bit – I’m not sure.

For many in my family there have undoubtedly been days of utter hopelessness and waiting so long for various splints and casts and braces to come off has been a test of endurance, not just for the kids, who have been magnificently brave and stoic, but for their parents, siblings, my mother, Ming and me.

Now, for Ming and me, there is a different kind of waiting – for the eventual sentencing. I had thought this would all be much faster and I’ve been kind of holding my breath, waiting for it all to be over, for Ming to take his punishment, and for all of us to be able to move on into our various next chapters.

Totally and utterly stupid.

Because there is no point in holding my breath – and I have been doing this for too long now, both metaphorically and physically. Breathing will become the focus of every new day and breathing will get us through the next few months of whatever and, best of all, despite the accident, we are all still breathing.

And for this I thank God, the ambulance attendants, the hospital staff, my family, but most of all I thank the five children injured for their heroism, generosity of spirit, humour, and love to Ming, me and each other.


Police Matter – Dangerous Driving Charge

It was disconcerting to receive a forwarded email from Ming’s lawyer, with the police charges outlined, while he was still in hospital. I read through the document in my hotel room with my heart in my throat of course because the bare facts of what happened are stark and frightening for two reasons: 1. They are a reminder of that terrible night; and 2. They are damning of Ming – well of course they are, as they should be.

But to have to read the email heading (above) over and over again, in my several days of communication with the lawyer, stops my breath every time. My family have all provided character statements for Ming and the children are all recovering well however full recovery is still in the distance, both physically and psychologically and this, too, stops my breath.

The court date has now been set for mid-January so finally we will know what will happen to Ming in terms of his sentencing. I hope there will be leniency but, if not, we will just have to wear what comes next and it really doesn’t matter to Ming compared to his relief that the children will all eventually be all right.

But, as his mother, my hope is rather fragile and frantic that the judge will see that he is filled with remorse and will never ever do anything like this again. Ming has agreed to accompany the police to schools in the new year to warn other children and teenagers of the dangers of what he did. His message will be simple and now it is mine: never, ever, drive with people unsecured in the back of a ute (truck). Never!

Note: We were told in the hospital that the main reason for discharging patients early was because at Christmas they were inundated with emergency admissions of car accident victims.


Dangerous driving

I haven’t written about the car accident for awhile because I have been too anxious and shaken, and have not wanted to publicize details that might seem like an invasion of privacy. So I haven’t posted photos or named the children for this reason and will not do so now.

For those who don’t know, eight weeks ago today, Ming took his little cousins and a friend for a ride on the back of his ute (truck), then lost control on gravel about 2 kms from home. I do not want to replay the horror of that night or talk about the details. Instead, I want to say how grateful I am that everybody is recovering well despite multiple fractures including spinal and that yesterday we got the good news that two of my nieces got their neck braces off and the one nephew will hopefully soon be able to walk again (but I don’t know how soon). The friend is recovering well from her badly broken arm but her best friend, my niece, will still be in a neck-to-waist brace for many weeks (she is the one who told me to stop inboxing her, beautiful brat!)

My whole family continues to support each other, with humour, empathy, a couple of arguments, reconcilations, renewed love for each other and enormous mutual support. So I am very proud to belong to such a family – my mother, brothers, sister-in-laws, and the kids – where forgiveness and generosity are so natural.

Ming has now been charged with five counts of dangerous driving causing bodily harm and tomorrow we see the lawyer and barrister who are taking his case. My family and friends have provided many character references for him that will hopefully help but we still don’t know the court date.

In Australia there are three levels of driving offences – careless driving, dangerous driving, and reckless driving, so Ming is in the middle. Of course I am terribly worried but I didn’t realize how worried I was until the wash of relief that all of the children will be okay – even my niece who is still in the brace and oh how I wish I could wear that bloody thing for her.

On the cusp of what if? it is difficult NOT to imagine how much worse this could have been. Yesterday, at another family get together, the children all said how haunted they were still and my heart breaks that they have this memory. I guess it will stop any of them from driving dangerously.

Ming, despite being very open about everything else in his life to me, is strangely silent about the accident and seems to just want it to go away. I understand that and I also understand how reading the character witness statements upsets him. Despite his shock and remorse and anxiety about the kids, he has that attitude of moving forward. I don’t understand his resilence any more than he understand my lack of it.

Dangerous driving is dangerous driving so please warn your younger loved ones that a joyride of this type is not worth it.


The dangers of driving on gravel

It is nearly two weeks since the night of the accident in which my son was driving with four of his cousins and one friend in the back tray of his ute/truck. My family has learned so much from this, including the extent to which we love and respect each other. Responsibility for allowing the kids to go for a little ride has been shared and discussed, hugs have been exchanged, forgiveness has been a constant source of comfort to all I hope, but self-forgiveness is not so easy – not for me.

Even though I was the only one inside the house and didn’t know that my son had taken off with the kids for a second little ride, I should have already had a rule in place that this was absolutely forbidden. After all, it is against the law to have unrestrained passengers in the back tray of a ute. If I had had this rule in place, this wouldn’t have happened. Why didn’t I have this rule? Because it never occurred to me that my son would do this; he is such a cautious driver and has the reputation of driving like a granny! When they all came back from the first little ride and I realized they had been off the farm, I said to my son, “don’t do that again will you” but I should have said, “YOU WILL NOT DO THAT AGAIN!” If I had said that, this would never had happened. We are all struggling with our own ifonlys, but these two are mine.

What matters here is that, despite all five children sustaining serious fractures, with one still in hospital for some time, the longterm prognosis for all is full recovery, physically. Psychologically and emotionally, I think their recovery may be more complicated but as the young are so resilent, I hope and I pray that they will all unremember the terror of that night. For those in my family, who drove crazily around the outskirts of this country town, after my son’s panicked phonecall, looking for all of them, when they were only 2 kms away, the memories of our fear and horror will take longer to fade.

My son did a slow U-turn on bitumen, and was heading home again when he hit gravel and accelerated a bit, turning the steering wheel from left to right, just slightly, to give the kids a little thrill, and that is when he lost control and the ute fishtailed (I think); he tried to control it by braking, and steering it back, but nothing worked even though he was going less than 40kms.

If he had been speeding, hooning, drinking or a reckless person, this could have been worse. If he had coerced the children and snuck away for a little joyride, against our wishes, this could have been worse. The fact that everyone survived, and will recover, is the thing I tell myself each morning when I wake up to the horror of that night on constant replay.

When driving on gravel, be aware that your tyres only have half the grip they would on bitumen.
When driving on gravel, do not accelerate suddenly, even a little bit.
When driving on gravel, do not brake suddenly, even a little bit.
When driving on gravel, always go very slowly.

Nobody in this family – my beautiful family – will ever hop into the back of a ute again. Nobody in this family – my beautiful family – will drive without caution on gravel roads from now on.

My heart leaps with joy that everyone will be okay longterm, but his post is primarily to warn people of the dangers of driving on gravel, especially in a ute, and to never, ever, let your children get into the tray, no matter how much they want to, no matter how short the ride.

I am so sorry.