There was a little girl in church today helping her mother usher. We’ll call her Beth. Now Beth was having a grand time helping hand out messengers to people as they entered the church. Her mother, we’ll call her Cheryl, was impressed that Beth was so good at this task. Beth stood at her post, with a stack of messengers in her hand, and dutifully handed one to each person as they approached. Beth delivered each messenger with a big smile. Uncharacteristically, she was very responsive to people when they asked her questions. She just loved all of the attention that the people gave her. She got to like it so much that she got a little impatient when someone lingered at the door with the greeters. She walked up to the tardy party, straying from her post, and thrust a messenger into their hand saying (with authority), “here.” When these people took notice, and paid her the attention she felt she was due, they asked her, “Are you helping your mommy?” “No”, she answered, “My mommy is helping me!”
(Note, I’ve changed the names of those involved.)
I’m in court and I call the next case. I call the mother on the case, and ask to speak to her in the waiting area, outside the court room. The mother is a middle age white woman. She is of average height, with slightly above average girth. She is wearing more make-up than she should. She explains to me that she just got the kids back from foster care. She does not tell me why the kids were there, but I can guess. She seems slightly unstable emotionally. She is worried that she will be evicted from her apartment, as she has been out of work and can’t make the rent. If she is evicted, she believes she will loose the kids again. The kids are there, playing in the corner of the waiting area (the toy area). I try to explain to her that we will try to get a support order for her today; but that it will be months before it starts, and that she should not expect anything right away. All this time, I am having trouble focusing her on the interview. She keeps going off on tangents, blurting out her personal concerns as they come to mind. My normally rushed approach to court is given pause by the thought of their situation.
I send the mother back into the court room and call out the father. The kids are still playing in the corner. The father is at least 50, a late middle age black man. He is the picture of a hard life. He carries himself like a man without any hope left. He is beaten. I advise him that we are here to legally establish paternity and establish a child support obligation. He indicates that he has doubts as to wether he is the father. He has never seen the children. The children are 12 and 10. I tell him I will arrange for a test which will determine wether or not he is the father, and he agrees to take the test. Until now he has paid no special attention to the kids in the corner. He has not seen the mother in the same room with the kids, and gives every indication that he has no idea who they are. As I am about to go into the court room, to get the forms needed to arrange the testing, the younger child approaches the man and asks, “Are you Donny?” The child is obviously biracial. “Yes”, answers the man. “Who are you?” he asks. The boy replies, “I’m Jimmy.” The man’s expression changes, and a look of shame takes up residence in his manner of being. He knows who the boy is. The boy asks, “Are you my daddy?” My heart breaks. I am frozen. These lives seem completely foreign to me, and I am saddened for the loss that they may never realize – because they don’t know how life could be different.
I’m not sure why this case effected me so. It’s not that these circumstances haven’t presented themselves in court before. Maybe it was all of them being present in this one case. Maybe there was something about me that day that made me especially prone. Whatever the case, it had an effect that has lingered somewhat. I wish them all well, and pray that they will make the best of what they have in the future. However, I’m not terribly optimistic.
Picture if you will, a three year old child. . .
A child standing on the arm of a futon. . .
A child standing on the arm of a futon with her knees bent like a coiled spring.
Now picture in your mind this child, under these circumstances, bouncing slightly and saying (with little evidence of restraint in her voice), “ready, set, . . .”
Welcome, to my morning.
When we last saw our hero, he had learned that his wife had been tranquilized following her shortness of breath induced panic attack. It was Tuesday evening. Also remember that Sunday night our hero endured another trip to the emergency room with his daughter. Diagnosis: UTI (yes, our hero too can use fancy medical acronyms).
We now pick up our story where we left off. . .
It was a cold, dark and dreary night. The wind was howling and a sense of foreboding filled the house. (Well, it was dark.)
Very early Wednesday morning our hero awoke to sounds of agony and despair in the night. He leapt out of bed and rushed to the source of the horrible sound. It was his wife, crawling on her hands and knees, desperately seeking relief from her pain. She said she had been up all night violently ill. Pressure marks under her forearms bespoke the position she maintained throughout the night. A night long, not so silent vigil, bent over as if in prayer. (And who knows, some praying may very well have been going on.)
She pleaded with our hero to call her doctor. After making the call, our hero was once again on his way to the hospital. His wife was pumped with fluids, to make up for the night long purge that had taken place the night before. She was shot up with drugs to make her discomfort fade, and our hero’s wife was reacquainted with an old friend – sleep.
Upon awaking, she returned home with our hero. Long shadows running from the sea made it clear that they had not been home for quite some time. Our hero’s wife was just getting settled when the phone rang. It was the preschool, the daughter was ill and wanted to come home. She had been dropped off that morning by her grandmother, the one known simply as mem-may. It is supposedly french, but you know the french – our hero could have spelled it right, but you would have no idea how it really sounds, so we’ll just settle for “mem-may.” She was once again complaining that her belly hurt, and she felt to our hero like a Louisiana summer day – hot and damp. Our hero brought her home and she collapsed in her room. She slept for several hours. When she awoke she was hotter than ever. Another call to the doctor was made when the thermometer said 103.5. Once again, our hero was on his way to see a doctor. At this point, our hero was courageously and single handedly supporting the medical industry.
It was with mixed feelings that our hero learned that his daughter’s fever was gone by the time he arrived at the doctor’s office.
Thankfully, Wednesday night was uneventful for our hero, and he was once again reacquainted with an old friend – sleep.
A little while ago, Beth decided she didn’t like having to wait on us to get her food for her. She is, as you know, a big girl now. She is capable of many things, including opening doors, especially the pantry door. Beth subsequently learned the joys of getting her own food when she is hungry. This lead to Beth getting all kinds of things out of the pantry, including things we wanted her to eat, as well as those we didn’t.
Being the logical, thinking parents that we are, we decided to put a stop part of this behavior, while still encouraging her independence. We merely took the things that we didn’t want her to eat and put them on a higher shelf.
Being the logical, thinking child that she is, Beth figured she could fetch the broom and use its handle (or for that matter anything that might extend her reach) to poke items she is not supposed to have (candy and the like) off of the upper shelves.
While part of me was upset seeing this take place so soon after we moved all of that food, I had to suppress an urge to laugh out loud, thinking to myself, “that’s my girl!”
What can I say, I feel good. Do I need to appologize? I’m not going to. For the most part I have what I want. I have a wife I love, who seems to feel the same for me. I have a healthy daughter, who is a joy (most of the time). My wife and I have steady, stable jobs. We have a place to call home, and a place we feel we can continue to call home for some time. I have hobbies I enjoy. I like my job. I have family and people nearby I can call a friend.
The only threats to my happiness lie within. I fear I don’t let people close enough. And those I do, I fear I tend to drive away. Does it have any basis in reality?
Bottom line: I worry what others think about me. More than anything else, I think that feeling drives my behavior. It’s not such a bad thing, is it? If I’m happy, and all of this is what got me here, maybe it isn’t.
A Gator’s perspective.
“Who cares about college football?”, you may be asking yourself. Well I’m glad you asked.
Imagine college football gameday. Its an image that comes easily to me. You are in a relatively small college town that seems to double in population six weekends every fall. On Friday, the school campus begins to resemble a K.O.A. Alumni and students gather to discuss past glory and the triumph to come. On Saturday morning you awake earlier than normal (for a Saturday), with anticipation not unlike a small child’s on Christmas morning. . . kick-off is near! You make your way to campus as the afternoon approaches. As you near your destination, more and more people join you on your chosen path. You arrive at the stadium, eager to see your school take on one of it’s bitterest rivals. You feel a combination of anticipation, confidence, and doubt; but you won’t admit to the doubt. From the moment of the opening kick-off until the final second has expired from the clock, each play is agonized over until its result is known. The agony of anticipation grows with each play as the game gets closer to its end, but the outcome remains in doubt. Suddenly, from the rhythm of the game arises the “big play.” Pent up nerves are released into the depths of despair, or the heights of exhilaration. Tens of thousands of people screaming in unison are either silenced in that instant, or released into joyous pandemonium as the outcome of the contest SEEMS to become clearer. But more often than not fate is not so easily coaxed from the closet, as the so called “big play” alternately plays the champion for each team, toying with the crowds emotions before the outcome is clear. And when when the last seconds finally tick past, the crowd is left either with the hope that next year will bring better returns, or bragging rights for another year.
That brings me to a little get together that happens in Tallahassee this year. It’s an attractive city to be sure, but it’s not a college town – in the purest sense. I can’t fault the fans. A fine school and a fine team share a north Florida city with our state’s capital. While our rivalry with them is not considered our biggest, it certainly has gotten hotter of late. Our fortunes against them never seemed lower than the “the choke at Doke.” However, a little contest that decided a national championship a few years back more than atoned for that sin.
I am young, my experience is slight, and my knowledge of the history of my alma-matter’s rivalry with FSU is shamefully lacking. But this I know: we have won more often than we have lost. I say this not because we should rest easy on our laurels, but merely that it is easy to do so.
The gauntlet has been thrown down. A line has been drawn in the sand. It’s time to play the game.
In the begining I was alone. I was alone for a long time. People were always around but I couldn’t get close. I walked through life like a shadow, with only my brooding thoughts to keep me company.
And then I grew up.
I met Cheryl and finally made a conection. I went to work and made more conections. I came home and made more.
Now my life seems rich. My prayers have been answered.
July 4, 1997 makes it eight years since my own independence day. It was July 4th, 1989 and I was just starting my first semester at UF. I remember sitting alone atop the Broward Hall parking garage. I remember thinking that I should be happy, that I was free on this Independence Day. In reality, I was free to be alone that night. I was free to worry about my future. I was free to have life’s unknowns weigh down on me like the weight of the universe. It was such a beautiful night, looking out across the campus from high above, the sun spectacularly lighting the evening sky. All around was such beauty, yet such turmoil resided within me.
I look back, now eight years later, and I don’t have that freedom anymore. Then I was moving away from a family. Now I’m on the brink of starting my own.
Sometimes freedom is over-rated.
If talking to yourself is a sign of mental illness, what about writing to yourself? Either way, I’m looking forward to the next month. It’s more than Cheryl can say. The only thing Cheryl likes about this month is it’s the last of her pregnancy – and my heart goes out to her. She has handled all of the discomfort with grace, something I couldn’t equal if I were here (thankfully, barring a miracle I will never to).
Sometime this month I am going to meet my first child – something I have waited almost 9 months to do. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve always thought I’d have children eventually, but I didn’t really think about it seriously until we found out Cheryl was pregnant. In some ways it still hasn’t sunk in – and it probably won’t until the day comes – the one day this month that I am not looking forward to. Oh, I’m looking forward to seeing my child for the first time, but I’m a little worried about what it will take out of Cheryl getting to that point.
I’m sure it will all be something to remember. Who knows, maybe I’ll be able to look back and say it wasn’t as bad as I thought.
I make a lousy optimist.