Thursday, September 10, 2009

One "BANG" too many

A third grader sat in the school gym transfixed by what he was seeing on television. He was young but somehow he sensed, he knew, that he was watching the world change. There was a "BANG" in reality as well as a "BANG" in history and a tower tumbled. Everything was hazy. Nobody was thinking clearly. Certainly nobody had a handle on how the events of this day would effect the future. For days nobody could tear their eyes from the tube. Commentators commented. Analysts analyzed. Wise men and women spoke words of wisdom. And yet a real "Humpty Dumpty" had fallen and we were all pretty certain that he could never be put back together again.

The following years proved those thoughts to be true. At the moment of the BANG it seemed as though every American was united. We linked arms and faced the future as one. But all to quickly that fell apart. Unity gave way to ugly. Bravery turned to bickering. It continues to this day.

I remember that third grader all to well because he ... was me. My "BANG" was a bullet. It tore from the sixth floor of a school book depository building in Dallas Texas, and penetrated my "tower," the brain of the President of the United States, and left him dead in the back seat of a bullet proof car that, ironically, had its top down leaving him open to the wind ... and to the wicked. I watched my teachers cry. I watched my parents sit in shock, mourning the murder of a man whom they had never met and yet trusted. He had recently, with steely eyed resolve, faced down the hated Soviet Union in what has become known as "The Cuban Missile Crises." We had walked to the edge of the annihilation of the human race and this man had led us back. He got us off the brink. And then he was murdered and then his brother was murdered and we learned never to trust again. Oh, and don't forget to hate. Hate those who don't think like you do because they are probably hating you and planning your demise.

There is a fading freshness in our country these days. In a few hours we will experience the anniversary of another "BANG." Other third graders sat in class rooms staring at televisions and thinking the same things that I thought. And by now the memory fades. Somebody emailed me a massive amount of 9/11 pictures today, shots of the Twin Towers as they collided with their fate. I admit that I was shocked all over again. I have not spent the past eight years staring at the helpless bodies of men and women leaping to their death from 100 stories in the air to avoid the torch of jet fuel and office supplies. Since that horrible day I have walked the side walks around that site. My feet have trod land that was, not too long ago, coated with dust and ash and metal. And body parts. Just like the back seat of a limousine on November 22, 1963.

For me it has been 45 years and 8 years, depending on the "BANG." I remember them both as though they were yesterday. And I mourn what happened to those people. And I mourn what has became the unfortunate and possibly inevitable results to our country. Many, many people will hurt tomorrow. Oddly, I want to be one of them. Because if I hurt it means that I remember. And I don't want to forget. I cannot afford to forget. On a day when we are torn apart by debates over health care, two wars where close friends of mine came oh so close to death, a mega-recession, and countless other things that divide us, I want to remember why it matters.

Why does it matter? It matters because, no matter what you might have been indoctrinated to believe, the United States has for many, many years been the world leader in .... goodness. Yes, goodness. We don't generally blow-up other peoples stuff unless they have already blown-up our stuff ... or seriously threatened to. Complain all you want about a "first strike" mentality. I wish we had blown the living tar out of Japan before they ever got close to Pearl Harbor. And if you have a brain you do too. Then my dad could have stayed home with his future bride and not traveled in uniform to Europe causing him to (in his own words) "go to bed every night remembering the eyes of the men I killed so that they wouldn't kill me." I hate that my dad had to live his life that way. But I'm grateful that he was willing to. We are the country that sends our soldiers to protect and liberate people that we don't even know. We send food, clothing, and medicine to take care of citizens of countries that can't take care of themselves. That is, to me, a strong definition of "goodness."

Okay, so that's how I feel on this night before 9/11/09. About a week after 9/11 I asked my family to please write down their memories of that day. I wanted to be able to read it myself and give it back to them years down the road. We tend to forget how we felt ... really truly felt ... after the passing of time. One of them actually took the time and wrote the mini-essay. I came across it after we moved. It shocked me. I realized there was pure fear in those comments. And I wonder if that fear is still there. Or has it simply been relegated into the hearts of those who visit National Cemeteries and stand over the graves of their families soldiers who found themselves in the wrong place at the wrong time and wound up giving everything to keep us from another 9/11. I can't answer that question.

I can only hope we can find a way to stop the bickering and fighting and return to simply being good. Because honestly, I feel it slipping. And that scares me more than 11/22/63 or 9/11/01.

Tuesday, September 08, 2009

Bill ... The Man ... The Myth ... The Legend. Sideways.

Okay, I know he's side ways. But I'm not spending the $39 for the software to turn him around. Get over it! Bill York is THE MAN at any angle!

Monday, September 07, 2009

Paisley Rae

I watched my new granddaughter sleep today. She sleeps the sleep of the blessed. No twitching, squirming, dreaming, no kicking, twisting, or any of those other oddities that seem to disrupt the sleep of the more "mature." She simply ... slept. She was all nestled in safely to her little seat. She could not fall out, be stepped on, accidentally smacked or other less than delightful occurrence. Her mom and dad take great care to make certain that she is safe and protected from a rough and rowdy world. (And a rough and rowdy family!)

I've been Paisley's grandpa now for a few weeks. I have not written on this space about her at all, though she graces the pages of my private journal at length. It's not that I don't love Paisley. It's not that I don't care about her. It's just that she's an unknown quantity wrapped in flesh. This is a good thing! I find myself staring at her and wondering what her voice will sound like. What her eye color will wind up being. Will her hair be curly? What color will it be when it is fully grown? And her smile. Will it be all toothy and child like or will she fast forward to a more adult smile before her time? Hey, it happens. And we just don't know.

One day this week our family had gathered for lunch at a restaurant near her home. As we came out Paisley was strapped into her car seat which was then buckled tightly into her car. Everybody was standing a bit away from the open door. She was completely safe. I wandered over in that direction and stuck my head in and looked at her. Her eyes were closed. Her eyes at this age are most always closed. Suddenly, without warning or provocation, she began to cry. It was one of those real cries that start in the gut, explodes through the throat and then begins to quiver as her lungs run out of air. I leaned in closer to her. I brushed her forehead with my cheek and gently whispered, "Shhhhhhh. It's alright. Shhhhhh. Grandpa doesn't know what's wrong but he loves you and he is here. Shhhhh." And. Well. She stopped crying. I stopped whispering but I continued to brush my cheek against her forehead. When I finally stopped she began crying again. We went back and forth that way three times. Her lovely mama came over and I stepped back. I'm sure she addressed the real issue and Paisley once again slipped into her deep sleep.

I've thought a lot about those three moments today. I saw her again over lunch. We didn't speak. You guessed it, she was sound asleep. Babies need a lot of sleep. She will certainly be a strong young lady if getting her fill of snoozing is any indication. But as I ate my lunch and looked at my granddaughter I found myself dreaming about afternoons pushing her on a swing. Morning's at McDonalds eating that kids breakfast Happy Meal. Evenings singing to her, "You are my (nickname to yet be decided) my only (nickname yet to be decided.) You make me happy, when skies are gray. You'll never know dear, how much I love you. Please don't take my (nickname to be decided) away!" I sang that song to all three of my kids when they were small. And I'll sing it to all of my grandchildren. Why? Just because I can. Not because I sing well. I don't. Not because the song is creative. It isn't. But simply because it says what I want Paisley to know. I want her to know "I love you." If that requires this croaking old voice to sing, then sing it shall.

Paisley. I love you. Thanks for making me smile today. I can't wait to REALLY meet you. Until then, well, if you need somebody to run their cheek over your forehead and whisper, "Shhhhh" you just let me know, I'm here for you, baby girl.