Thursday, May 27, 2010

Fragility of it all

A man walked into our office today and I would be lying if I didn't say I sized him up as he walked in. Short, early thirties, backwards hat, tattoo visible on the neck. He was carrying a small, plastic jug. I got up to approach the window ready to go in to my overly recited speach about how we're in a hiring freeze and not taking applications at this time, but he started before I could. He asked me if I was aware of the accident that had happened last week on a nearby intersection. I hadn't. He said if I drive that way I can see the flowers that have been left at the site. The victim was his 8 year old son. He's been out of work for the last 6 months and he is asking for donations to help with the funeral expenses. Now, again, I would be lying if I didn't admit that I have some reservations. I suspect that everything is a scam - it goes back to a really bad parking lot purchase almost 10 years ago - so I know the odds are that this guys son didn't really die in a traffic accident and the money in the jug is not going to a funeral. But what if he's not lying? And if he was he was one hell of an actor (and I of all people should know). He had the look on his face that you see in Newseek or Time on the faces of survivors. Those who've gone through a natural disaster or a catastrophic war. The blank stare of one who has absorbed so much so quickly they can't physically process the emotions that are swelling with in. Like so much wants to pour out so rapidly that it all clogs the emotional drain and you just walk around like a zombie for a while. He had that look. I didn't have cash on me, but had I there would have been no hesitation, even with the understanding of scam potential. As a parent it hit me hard. During Gina's pregnancy it was nothing but excitement - yes there was that horrible feeling in the back of our minds that something might go wrong, but for the most part the feeling is, once they get out we'll be in the clear. Wrong! That's when the real fear begins. Everything is terrifying. They won't go to sleep, somethings wrong. They are asleep, is everything alright? What about SIDS. Every eye gooey, every sniffle, every cut, every bruise. ... it's madness. Then god forbid they start walking! Is the table edge too sharp, the floor too hard? Do they have shoes on, jackets? Now they are playing in the front yard - what kind of sicko is going to do what? They're walking to school - like this child - what idiot is going to jump a curb? They are off to college, are they going to make good choices? It's this endless cycle of heartbeats skipped and inhales held. Of course you're a duck on water for their sake. Keep the surface cool and calm, so everything looks peaceful, but inside, under the water everything is turning like mad constantly. It's the most enjoyable thing being a parent, but it's equally the most stressful thing as well. You don't think about that until you're in it, and every tragedy that unfolds with in our line of site only adds to worry pile in the back of your mind. I love being a parent and I'm so terrified of that being taken away from me, of becoming a zombie, the walking dead, wearing a blank stare of one who has absorbed so much pain that the tears can't even flow. I want to cry for him. ... just at the remote possibility that his story was true.

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