Every parents’ nightmare

The late-night/early-morning phone call.

Every parents’ nightmare. It pulls you out of pleasant dreams and a sound sleep and your mind immediately goes into overdrive. Let’s face it: that’s the one where someone says “Mom just died,” or “Uncle Frank’s had a heart attack”. At least that’s the way it used to be.

In today’s world, it’s this:



I saw this on my cellphone about 20  minutes after it was sent, and called the only hospital I could think of in Galveston, but due to privacy concerns, they could only tell me he was being admitted. That put my mind at ease – a little. He was alive, and that was the important thing.

We jumped in the car to make the 70+ mile trip to Galveston, and I was fortunate to be driving, as it required me to focus on getting there safely, rather than letting my mind wander and jump to conclusions. I couldn’t take my mind off driving long enough to look at Yvonne, but I knew the look I’d see on her face; the worry; the internal struggle; the helplessness.

Upon arrival at the ER, we were told he’d been moved to a room in the Trauma/Ortho wing, and walked in the room to see him standing there, phone in hand.

He looked up, said “Oh, you’re here,” and hung up the phone.

Family members and friends showed up and shared our joy that he was okay, and even gave Yvonne and Lisa a ride home.

You know how, as a parent, you miss holding your kids when they’re grown up? Just hugging them?

Them allowing you to hold them because the morphine won’t touch the pain isn’t at all what you had in mind, but you take those opportunities where you can get them. So, cradling his head against me, I stood by his bed for an hour, gently picking the grass burrs out of his hair, until I felt him relax.

The next day, we were told he’ll recover completely, which is amazing. He’s suffered a broken neck (fracture of C7) in the crash. Hospital staff told us that 90% of those who suffer a break of C7 (the bone that you feel at the base of your neck) die. Of the 10% who survive, 90% are paralyzed. Let’s do the math: Out of 100 people, 90 will die from their injury. Of the 10 who survive, 9 will be paralyzed. That’s 99. My son was the 1 who walked away.

And I thank God for that.


A dozen or so years ago, my kids wanted to play soccer. We enrolled them in a league where scores weren’t kept (officially), and where every child received a trophy at the end of the season. I loved watching my kids play. Lisa gave it her very best effort every time. She wasn’t the best player on her teams, but she loved being out there as part of a team and constantly encouraged her teammates. Michael was pretty good. Small, fast, quick and agile, he would begin dribbling the ball downfield, gliding between the kids on the other team, break into the open field…and then muff the shot. He was slightly pigeon-toed, and couldn’t get his foot in the right position to kick the ball sharply.

The second (and last) of those seasons, unfortunately, I coached Michael’s team. A parent will be one of two types of coach to his own child. He will either be too easy, or too hard, and unfortunately, I was the latter.

As much fun as they were to watch, watching  Michael play goalie was exasperating, especially for me. The next-to-last thing a kid with ADHD needs, when playing goalie while off his medication, is to be left alone with time for his mind to wander when butterflies and dragonflies flitter past his head, or for ants to march in their precision formations at his feet. The last thing is a dad who’s also his coach.

I would let my frustration with him flow freely. “Michael! Here comes the ball!” “Michael! Stop chasing that dragonfly/running from that bee!” “Michael…” “Michael!!…”  “MICHAELLLLLL!!!!!”

Yvonne was embarrassed by and for me. I’m surprised she continued coming to the games, except that she knew he needed someone who wouldn’t be critical of him. Looking back, I just shake my head in disgust at myself.

So many years later, my kids are grown. I think I have grown out of that phase somewhat, although it hasn’t been easy. As our kids mature, and as they go through the challenges and heartaches that come with young adulthood, I so want to tell them how to fix things. I so want to “take over” and push them through life, but I can’t. I can offer suggestions, ideas, even insights from my own life, but I have to be careful not to get preachy. Now, when they really need it, I need to be less a coach, and more a friend. (Maybe I’ll get the chance to combine those roles, but only if they ask .)

Good parents train their to kids, hopefully, to be conscientious and polite, to be thankful for the good fortune of living in America, but then we have to watch from more of a distance than we’d like as they learn the same lessons we did, and maybe more, in what I think is a much harder world than we knew at their ages. We want to pick them up; dust them off; send them back out there. But the truth is that now it’s all on them.

God bless them as they fly, and give us strong hearts and faith as we stand by, breathless, awaiting their discoveries and standing by to pick up the pieces.

Regarding the 2nd Amendment…

Just saw a Facebook meme on gun-control that says gun-control proponents want

  • Mandatory training classes for people, not guns
  • More thorough background checks of people, not guns
  • Stronger negligence penalties for people, not guns

The meme ends with the thought that anyone who thinks activists are mad at the guns are too stupid to own them.

My question, then, if the activists aren’t mad at the guns, is why the focus of the current POTUS, Court Jester Vice POTUS, former Speaker of the House, Senate Minority leader, Gabrielle Giffords, and every activist on TV is on the guns? “‘Regular citizens’ don’t need semiautomatic GUNS”, “Register the GUNS”, “Ban the GUNS”, “Go door-to-door and take the GUNS” (has happened already in certain locales in California, as highlighted in this link: http://www.infowars.com/gun-confiscation-begins-in-california/), etc.

Not that I, nor most other 2nd Amendment protectionists, would agree to this, but if that is what they truly want, why have the activists not offered something more muted than “ban the guns”, along the lines of the following?

“First-time firearm buyers must complete a state-approved firearm safety course prior to the initial firearm purchase. At the time of the initial
purchase, the purchaser’s name will be entered in a gun owner’s registry.”

Wouldn’t such a proposal be in complete agreement with the stated desires of gun-control advocates? So why hasn’t such a proposal been made?

The most obvious answer, whether right or wrong,  is that the most vocal activists are ANTI-GUN. Maybe they don’t represent the rank-and-file of the gun-control advocacy population, but they take front-and-center-stage whenever the TV cameras are on or a microphone is pointed at them.

And here’s the other big problem with the anti-gun zealots: they fail to recognize that those who are already criminals, hereinafter referred to as “thugs”, have earned that designation due to their demonstrated and repeated disdain and disrespect for their fellow citizens by breaking the laws that are already on the books. You cannot reasonably expect the lawless to obey the law.

CNN’s LZ Granderson has a take on it as well. Read it here: http://www.cnn.com/2013/09/17/opinion/granderson-gun-control-fail/index.html?npt=NP1

Disarming the citizenry is the recipe for both anarchy and monarchy, neither of which particularly suits my palate.

Can’t Help but Think (Part 1)

…in this time following the Newtown, Connecticut grade school attack, that within the concepts of the following words, although spoken to Moses for the benefit of the Israelites, can be found the cure for what ails us as a nation:

Deuteronomy 6

New International Version (NIV)

These are the commands, decrees and laws the Lord your God directed me to teach you to observe in the land that you are crossing the Jordan to possess, so that you, your children and their children after them may fear (revere) the Lord your God as long as you live by keeping all his decrees and commands that I give you, and so that you may enjoy long life. Hear, Israel, and be careful to obey so that it may go well with you and that you may increase greatly in a land flowing with milk and honey, just as the Lord, the God of your ancestors, promised you.

Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.[a] Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be on your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the doorframes of your houses and on your gates.

10 When the Lord your God brings you into the land he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, to give you—a land with large, flourishing cities you did not build, 11 houses filled with all kinds of good things you did not provide, wells you did not dig, and vineyards and olive groves you did not plant—then when you eat and are satisfied, 12 be careful that you do not forget the Lord, who brought you out of Egypt, out of the land of slavery.

13 Fear the Lord your God, serve him only and take your oaths in his name. 14 Do not follow other gods, the gods of the peoples around you; 15 for the Lord your God, who is among you, is a jealous God and his anger will burn against you, and he will destroy you from the face of the land. 16 Do not put the Lord your God to the test as you did at Massah. 17 Be sure to keep the commands of the Lord your God and the stipulations and decrees he has given you. 18 Do what is right and good in the Lord’s sight, so that it may go well with you and you may go in and take over the good land the Lord promised on oath to your ancestors, 19 thrusting out all your enemies before you, as the Lord said.

20 In the future, when your son asks you, “What is the meaning of the stipulations, decrees and laws the Lord our God has commanded you?” 21 tell him: “We were slaves of Pharaoh in Egypt, but the Lord brought us out of Egypt with a mighty hand. 22 Before our eyes the Lord sent signs and wonders—great and terrible—on Egypt and Pharaoh and his whole household. 23 But he brought us out from there to bring us in and give us the land he promised on oath to our ancestors. 24 The Lord commanded us to obey all these decrees and to fear the Lord our God, so that we might always prosper and be kept alive, as is the case today. 25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness.”


Thoughts on the Newtown, Connecticut Shootings

(I began writing this Friday.)

It  has been a somber day. I began the day thinking about my dad, who died 5 years ago today. I thought about his dedication to his God, to his family, and to his country. I  thought about how proud he was of his 4 children and 12 grandchildren, and how proud he would have been to know that his youngest grandchild, my son, would be enlisting soon in the U.S. Navy. (My son, by the way, signed up Saturday for a 6-year term, and will leave for Boot Camp at the end of March.)

Then it became a surreal day, the memory of which will be forever clouded by the senseless deaths of 20 elementary school students and several school employees in Newton, Connecticut.

My prayers will be offered on behalf of the parents who will sit down for dinner in the days and weeks to come and stare at empty seats; who will awaken tomorrow morning and the next and the next and rush to their child’s bed with the heartbreaking hope that they’ve just awoken from a most unimaginable nightmare, only to know that it wasn’t a nightmare at all. My heart breaks for the parents who will pass by their children’s rooms and forever hear faint echos of the laughter of those they will never hold again; those who will forever see their child’s innocent face, beaming, as they run to them and say “Mommy! Daddy! Look what I drew!” I cannot imagine what they’re feeling, and hopefully I will never be able to understand that feeling. I’ll also be praying for the families of the 6 adults who died, as their families will miss them as well, and for the children and teachers who survived. I’m not a big fan of long and eloquent prayers. God knows what each of the effected families need, and who am I to tell HIM what they need?

President Obama, with whom I rarely agree,  remarked on the sense of overwhelming grief that all of America, perhaps most acutely parents, feels today, and that this type of thing has happened all too frequently over the past few years, and that “as a country, we have been through this too many times. Whether it’s an elementary school in Newton, or a shopping mall in Oregon, or a temple in Wisconsin, or a movie theater in Aurora, or a street corner in Chicago…we’re going to have to come together and take meaningful action to prevent more tragedies like this…” with which I agree wholeheartedly.

The conclusion to that thought; however, was ominous: …regardless of the politics.” The events of Friday, December 14, 2012 are already serving as a clarion call for those on the side of stricter gun control laws. A New York congressman has demanded that our nation’s elected leaders “act on our outrage” to immediately enact stricter gun control laws.  However, since the 1981 attempt on President Ronald Reagan’s life, and the more recent Columbine shootings in 1999, gun control laws throughout the U.S. have tended to place more restrictions on ownership, with more frequent similar incidents, and that Connecticut’s are among the most stringent in the nation.

I hate drawing this comparison, but it’s valid: do we blame the carpenter or his tools for poor construction? Hammers don’t swing themselves. Saw blades cut the board, but if it’s too short, was it the saw’s fault,  or did the carpenter simply mess up? Did the pencil misspell the word, or the writer? Did the Titanic’s hull just blow open of its own accord, or was it steered too near an iceberg? How do we prevent the hammer from hitting our thumb, or a board from being too short? How do we prevent misspelled words, or ships from colliding with icebergs?

I can fully understand the New York congressman’s sentiments, but I ask you to consider whether this day would have been any less tragic if the killer had walked onto that grade school campus with a single revolver and killed only 6 children, or if he had used a knife to kill 22, as also happened was attempted Friday in China. Of course not. I ask you to consider this type of story (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BuLgO4wo4xI) where armed opposition to another such psychopath seems to have encouraged an early end, or this one, courtesy of the Huffington Post  (http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2012/07/18/samuel-williams-duwayne-henderson-davis-dawkins-internet-cafe-shooting_n_1682519.html), where a single armed patron turned away 2 armed would-be thieves. These armed, law-abiding citizens refused to allow more victims to be claimed.

And so I ask you to consider whether taking reactionary measures, such as banning a group of inanimate objects, will really solve the problem, or if perhaps the real solution is to be found by honestly reviewing the gradual landslide of changes in our society’s collective conscience over the past 30 or 40 years and developing a plan to reverse those changes and restore our national conscience.