Friday morning wasn’t fun or easy for anyone watching the news. No sooner had we turned on the TV that we heard about the mass shooting at a midnight screening of The Dark Knight Rises. The questions “why?” and “really?” hung in the air all day.
As a mom, I was left to field questions. TGG, who was less than 2 weeks away from turning 8 at the time of the Columbine Massacre and who was not-yet-eleven on September 11, 2001, once more came to me, wide eyed and heavy-hearted. I would have said “buck up, buddy!” if I didn’t remember clearly the events that unfolded at the Munich Olympic Games when I was not yet 8 years old. One never learns to not ask “why?” One becomes a parent and one is asked for an answer…
The boys had planned (quite enthusiastically) to see the movie on Saturday morning. J was, of course, oblivious to the goings-on. There are times when one thinks “well, he’s blessed that way,” and at other times one thinks “he isn’t even savvy enough to see something like that coming.”
TGG was horrified, and scared. On the one hand, I am glad he still has the ability to be scared and horrified. On the other hand, I -as a parent- have to push him and remind him that life, while precious and ephemeral, has to be lived…existing is all well and good, but living in fear is crippling.
On Saturday morning they went to the theater. They watched the movie. Ever vigilant, of course, in case some other person thought “oh, well…let’s copycat this violent act.” We were relieved to see them come home, and then our hearts crumpled because it made us realize that there are 12 families who will never see their loved ones walk in through the door after going to a movie…
I don’t know how to handle this. It doesn’t get easier because your children are older or because they don’t understand. It is horrific and senseless, and the more one hears about the person who felt compelled and empowered to walk into a theater and start shooting, the more one’s heart crumples.
I understand weapons. I’ve fired guns. I learned to respect them. I felt powerful and I was humbled by the experience. I made sure that my kids know they’re not toys, and while I respect the rights granted by the Constitution of the United States, I also understand that people no longer respect each other to the degree that is necessary to value life.
That’s my take on it…
Sally Ride, the first female U.S. astronaut to go to space, passed away today. She was only 61. She died of pancreatic cancer 17 months after being diagnosed. Sally Ride was a personal hero. She was an amazingly intelligent woman, and she was brave and blazed a trail for many girls who, until she arrived on the popular consciousness, wouldn’t have dreamed it was possible to go to space “with the boys.”
My mother in-law, another personal hero, died from pancreatic cancer fourteen years ago a few months before her 67th birthday.
She was a wife, a mother, a home-maker. How can two such different women be my personal heroes? It’s very simple: each in their own fashion proved that one can do what one puts one’s mind to…each blazed a trail in her own way. Sally Ride proved that you can be smart and bold, and do what the boys do…even if History leaves you a longer wait-time to make your mark. My mother in-law proved that what I now do is an honorable and worthy job. I am thankful to Sally Ride for making being brainy a worthwhile pursuit, and I am grateful to my mother in-law for raising an impressive man who respects what I do.
The world can be a horrible place. Friday morning proved that. The world is also full of possibilities, and it is up to us to put as much as we can in to make it better. I will never go to space except in my imagination, but I am helping J explore the world and getting him in touch with all its possibilities.
Let’s not let people who feel less than respect for us crush us into a corner. Let’s not be afraid. Like I told TGG Friday morning when he curled up on a chair (looking all of 8 years old) “we don’t know when our number is up, but we can just sit and wait to grab a ticket…we have to get on the ride and do all we can so that we leave the world different, and preferably better, than we found it when we got here.”
To Sally Ride and my mother in-law: thanks for making the world better, for the example. To all the families and loved ones of the people killed and wounded in Aurora, CO…this has changed us, and we carry your hearts in our hearts.