It was a funny morning. Not funny ha-ha, funny peculiar as in "what is the universe trying to tell me?" funny. I went to work and then into town to run some errands. Outside of my local Starbucks, a number of volunteers had set up a table to collect donations to help teens addicted to alcohol and drugs. It just so happened that I had some cash in my pocket from a holiday thank you card given to me by one of the schools where I work. I’ll tell you that teenaged drug addicts have not made the top 10 recipients of my charitable donations to date.
I shell out cash for loads of worthy organizations, but I’ll admit that I prioritize charities that speak personally to my life and the people in my life. I am not currently faced with the hardships of having a teen in trouble. But I had this money in my pocket that had not been earmarked for anything in particular, and there was a population in need right in front of me. So, I whipped out some dosh.
“Thank you so much. Have a blessed day,” said the young man behind the table who was sincerely pleased with my donation.
“You, too,” I said lifting my eyes to meet his. I did not anticipate the exchange. I did not prepare myself for the connection.
I got in my car, turned the key in the ignition and started to cry. I’m not the spontaneous crying type, but I had unwittingly been launched into the not so distant future and forced to visualize my boys traveling a tortured path. I purposefully inhaled and then exhaled slowly, reminding myself that we were still living the innocent joys of childhood.
When I arrived at home, I allotted myself a few minutes to have some tea, check emails and go through the bills. Before I could get my dose of Facebook, someone rang my doorbell. “Hi. I’m just returning this.” A lanky, man in his early 30s handed me my drivers license. It took me more than a few moments to register what was happening. “I found it in town. You must have dropped it. Anyway, I just live a few blocks away, so…”
“Thank you so much! I really appreciate this. I should give you something…”
“I was driving home. It’s really nothing,” he said already at the foot of my steps turning to face his car. He waved good-bye and I offered one more ‘Thank you.’
I wondered if karma could act so quickly after one charitable act as I returned to the kitchen and opened Facebook only to get hit with a series of status updates about the Sandy Hook shooting. The drug-addicted teens had already taken the edge of a quarter to my emotional scratch card, and I burst out crying and couldn’t stop. Keening for children I didn’t know. Torn apart for parents who rushed their kids out the door that morning to get to school for the last time. Physically sick from involuntary images flashing in front of my eyes.
As a mother, I couldn’t help but feel relief for Nancy Lanza, Adam Lanza’s mother. She did not live to face the aftermath of her son’s horrifying atrocity. She did not have to suffer the judgment or anger or pain of her community. She did not live amongst the ghosts of the innocent girls and boys in her class. I doubt Adam Lanza considered the murder of his mother to be merciful.
I know, I know. She owned a shit load of crazy ammo. And maybe she was some sort of gun-packing, ferocious, Mommy Dearest monster. I’m sure we’ll learn all sorts of sordid details about the family over the next few days. All’s I’m saying is, before we blame the mother as is our cultural instinct, let’s remember that no matter how effed up our parents, it’s just not ok to shoot people.
While the country debates gun control, mental healthcare and school safety policies, I think about my boys and how I’m supposed to teach them about fucked up shit without freaking them out. I think about where I’m supposed to store this tragedy in my brain and how it’s supposed to inform my parenting and my life. We’re not supposed to live in fear, but every so often we are reminded how much we are at risk of losing at any given moment. Wait, why is my vodka glass empty?
I say to you that I have no answers or encouraging words to offer. The universe has no profound messages for me, and so I’m flipping off the universe. My boys and I are going to revel in the innocent joys of childhood for as long as we can, and I’m going to put my drivers license back in my wallet where it belongs. I hope the universe can do better for Newtown.
Be good to yourselves.