It was more than eight years ago now. That violent, unholy, faithless night; the night that my daughter was brutally attacked and left for dead. Yes, left for dead on the streets of San Francisco, skull cracked open, pool of blood on the sidewalk. The night she was robbed on her way home from a celebration dinner. The night someone beat her with a bat or a pipe, split her head open, and ran away with her purse. Stole her seventeen dollars, credit cards, cellphone, camera. Probably a drug addict, the police said. They have no morality. They care about nothing but themselves and their next fix.
She was beaten down for no better reason than her impudent belief she had the right to walk down a city sidewalk alone. How naïve, not to better know her place.
Why a miracle came to pass, I don’t know. But it happened. My strong and fearless daughter rose from her unconsciousness. She stumbled her way to a police station nearby. She asked for a tissue; she’d be okay if she just got a tissue. That’s all she remembers. The police said they saw gray matter coming from her head. She was soaked in blood. I picked up her clothing from the hospital days later. Even her shoes were covered in blood. There was so much of it on the sidewalk that the police later got an anonymous call, someone reporting that there must have been a murder for all the blood.
In the trauma center at the hospital, angels in the form of doctors and their medical team performed emergency surgery on her brain. Her skull had been cracked into tiny shards that were driven into the brain tissue. They removed a large part of her brain to get the pieces of bone out. (We saw the x-ray in a follow up visit; a large, frightening, empty place where brain matter used to live.) They told us at the time that the largest pieces of remaining skull bone were cobbled together with tiny screws. Just a few months ago, she had complications and had another x-ray taken. The surgeons hadn’t told us what the x-ray revealed: seven metal plates in her head, holding her skull together.
And her eye socket was cracked where her head hit the pavement. One entire side of her face was dropped, the swollen eye bulging out like a gigantic purple golf ball, neck and muscle distress, ugly black sutures, surgical scar stapled across half her head. The pain that my daughter went through in the first week after the attack was unbearable to witness. Luckily, she doesn’t remember it. I do. I recall the sight of her in that hospital bed, the roller coaster of agony, the sleepless torture of it all. The worry that she might not survive. That she might have seizures; that she might lose language, memory, mental or physical function. The months of painful recovery. Her life as a young adult on hold.
We were so incredibly lucky. Because she lived. And over time, she regained all her strengths and health. She is normal and happy, beautiful and well, a fully functioning human being who has moved on with her life without bitterness or anger toward the unknown person who assaulted her for the sake of her riches, all seventeen dollars of them.
But I am not so forgiving. I am not understanding. I won’t erase the images in my mind. Even loving, well-meaning relations cannot comprehend the terror. It was a violent night, an unholy night, a night to test the faith of even the most devout. And I am not one of the faithful. I have love, I have hope. But I do not have faith.