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My father said that Mommy was still in a coma and my little brother, Todd, was sleeping. We should go home now. So we went out the back way at the Newton-Wellesley Hospital to the physician's parking lot: down the elevator and past the noisy kitchen with its racks of trays, white-uniformed cooks, piles of canned goods, and the steamy smells of institutional stew. The green screen door slammed indelibly into my nine-year-old memory, and the attendant waved to my dad; he probably didn't know we were there on family business. It was all pretty serious.
We found Mommy's car behind the police station somewhere in Newton Lower Falls. I stayed in my seat while my father got out and walked very slowly around the twisted metal. He was calculating the impact forces, visualizing the accident in slow-motion freeze frames, and at one point, he leaned in through the broken glass and ran his hand across the dent in the steel glove compartment where my brother had smashed his face. He went around only the one time, then got back in. "She must have been doing about forty when she hit the pole," he offered as if I were an adult, and we drove out the narrow circular drive alongside the station house. It was a crisp, clear, football-and-pumpkins Saturday afternoon in October.
Jaw broken in seven places.
Teeth all gone against the steel dashboard.
In Newton Lower Falls.