Keeping our house clean is a ways off, but we’re getting better every year. We moved in to our little house, our lovely little house with the beautiful back yard and the elementary school and ball fields across the street when our youngest was just a few weeks old. Our big boy wasn’t yet two and we were in what’s referred to in the parenting manuals as the ‘hot mess’ stage of the transition from newborn to whatever comes next. Recently born, I suppose. That day was magical despite how incredibly taxing it was. We were in a house. After decades of apartment living we’d managed to get into a house. An adorable little house on a picturesque street in a small town with great schools. As far off into the future as we could see this little house would be the perfect place to live.
We’d tried to pack for weeks, but the little one and the toddler at home made it a challenge. We did pretty good, but we paid the movers to do a bunch of it for us. We didn’t have the money, but let’s face it, we’d just sunk our next thirty years into a very cute home that we didn’t realize was so cozy (small) having lived only in apartments to that point.
Here we were, overwhelmed, overjoyed and overexcited with a newborn and an almost 2 year old moving into our first home on a gorgeous day in mid December. On an average day with our kids it would have taken a lot to get through to us, to knock us sideways from what we were enmeshed in, but on this day, the day we are moving to our family home, no chance.
It was December 14th, 2012.
The day a man walked into an elementary school a couple hours away from us and murdered 20 six and seven-year-olds and several of their teachers.
This past Sunday in the midst of our family morning we remained detached from the world at large and somehow didn’t know that another terrible thing that haunts your thoughts and never leaves your hearts had happened. There was no disturbance in the force field we’d built around this home, one that is wholly in our minds and unshakeable in so far as we can never imagine something senseless and tragic and angry and violent ever happening here. Then I ran out to run some errands, buy some fruits and veggies, pick up some mulch to beautify our little slice of heaven we love so much and I turned on the radio and I learned what had so tragically happened in Orlando.
I felt nothing other than sorrow. For the people, their families and for us.
All of us.
I suppose it’s our turn. Our turn to say that the world, this beautiful blue marble where cosmic coincidence has resulted in a wondrous and vibrant diversity and richness of life, a magical reality unique in the cosmos, is going to hell in a hand basket. To claim with certainty that we know the path we are on is unique in human history and march defeatedly into a future of bleak, stark destruction of all that had been so wonderful so recently. Before we came along and fucked it all up.
I feel like we are on the edge of a cliff when I’m feeling optimistic. Most of the time I feel like we are in the fall, hurdling to a life ending thud that will spell ruination not just for us but for all those that will come after. The anxiety and fear that courses through the world at this time is so overwhelming that it makes it’s way inside. It is so pervasive, so insidious that it permeates even our personal boundaries, even our skin. On days like today it hits us in the gut and punches our hearts and feels like it’s growing in strength and we, shrinking.
How much of this is being 42. Do wild eyed 23-year-olds see the brighter future? I’ve worked with so many of them, since I was one, and I know they are out there, doing far more than I ever did or could to make the world better. Undeterred by all our hand wringing inaction. Is it just that now, now that I’m a dad, do I not identify as much with the victims of these crimes and instead identify more with the parents of those victims? I might. Parenthood has made me so much more capable of empathy when it comes to other parents and to kids. The fact is I see those victims, some of whom were older than me, but most were younger, much younger, and my heart breaks for how they spent their final moments, ripped from love and joy and exuberant expressions of it and destroyed by anger that was based on fear, so far as I can tell.
Whatever it is that makes me feel it, whether it’s the same feeling my parents might have had when they thought it was all going sideways 20 or 30 years ago or when their parents harbored feelings that the world had lost it’s way a generation before that and so on and so on or whether it really is true, it’s hard for me to shake the unease I feel about this world and what it seems is happening to it.
Sunday morning–while the world reacted and I cleaned out the filth that had somehow been allowed to fester undetected and undeterred from the back of the fridge, something beautiful happened. I saw Karen and Charlie snuggling and talking while laying on the trampoline in the sun. Charlie, the boy who was not even two when we moved here is now five and for twenty minutes he layed in the trampoline, cuddling up to his mommy talking about his friends and his world. Trying to figure out if they could live in the trampoline, whether they would need a fridge and where they would put it. I was so delighted that I was able to sneak up on them and get some pictures.
As much as I fear everything that’s happening these days, and I truly do, I also see many many people doing wonderful things to help other people. It so surrounds us that we don’t even notice it anymore. If you pick your head up and really look for it there is so much good in us, so much kindness being exercised in great and small ways everyday.
For now we can’t avoid the painful reality. Nor should we. As sad as it is that this national, global mourning we engage in is becoming ritualized, it doesn’t mean we should ever, ever let it slip past. No. We must mourn together to heal as much as we can, to show communal and human love and compassion for those who will never be able to move on from this day of tragedy or the many that have come before or the ones that seem will inevitably come in the months and years ahead.
When we are done living and breathing this tragedy, when life goes back to everyday sameness I know I’ll never stop appreciating those moments. The ones we’ll look back on in thirty years when we will be empty nesters missing the kids who could never ever visit enough to make us satisfied, when we look back at this time and are able to remember when the world couldn’t reach us, when we constructed fantastical worlds with the imagination and freedom of five year old little boys hoping to live the rest of their days cuddling with mom on the trampoline while daddy was cleaning the fridge.
Photo:Joe Medler/Henry Burrows/Flickr
This essay originally appeared on Developing Dad.
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And thank you for sharing this!