The vibration began from a distance, as it made its way forcefully, fatefully from a source not yet known, and it passed through our house, while we sat watching Suburgatory, laughing and sprawled around our bedroom. It rattled our windows, then our house, and while startling, our first thoughts were of the thunderstorms we knew were to arrive. Still, it felt wrong almost immediately, and I moved to the front window to look out when there wasn't lightning and no rain on the street to be seen. Facebook revealed quickly the horrific news of the explosion in West, and the confirmation over time that the impact went 50 miles or more was unnerving and made me sad to the core.
This, of course, came after the Boston Marathon's terrible tragedy, and we had spent time reassuring of safety in our chosen, remote little cozy town. How we had purposefully been living in an insulated spot, with doors unlocked, in a town where murder and violence occurred so rarely that it seemed negligible, removed from our consciousness. The house shaking from a place where I had coached, stopped off at to grab kolaches, spent time exploring with my family the quaint streets, purchased a van from, had been struck viciously, irrevocably changing so many lives. Where can safety be found in this world?
I have felt much more keenly over the last few years a cautiousness, a carefulness toward my day to day approach, as my children have grown older and began their wandering further away, toward college, further down the street to walk the dog, toward relationships that might bring rejection or joy. We have a hesitation, Amy and I, when it comes to letting our kids go into some activities, some social situations, watch too mature television or movies, play games that are beyond their ages. Some of that is moral judgement, I hope, while some of it, a substantial amount, is a fear about their advancing too rapidly into the dangerous, unforgiving world too quickly. We have to balance that, certainly, with a stoking of the fire of resilience, of character, of integrity, of self reliance. Failure is an option, IF there is due diligence and full effort and focus of mind, body, and spirit. We want to raise tough yet empathetic kids who cry from sadness and pain, for themselves or others, but who dust themselves off, who aren't weak or vulnerable to every day life. We want them to live lives of optimism and hope, yet be aware of dangers and miseries and toil ahead.
In the time that I have been an educator, I have began to see an evolution toward mental health awareness, of help through therapies and medicines. There has been a growing education about suicide prevention, recognizing the signs of depression, an availability of services and institutions. I can't help but want to believe that this is a good and positive movement, but it gives me pause lately to think that encouraged willing fragility over resilience is winning out among too many of the students I have or know of, especially among our young men. Lately, there has seemed to be a prevalence of verbal or written threats made toward self-harm, harm of others, and some movement toward action that has taken hold. I believe firmly in the very precept of mental health assistance, but I can't help but hope that support, that heightened expectations, that care and love and belief will win out over base instincts of self-centeredness, self-pity, purposeful martyrdom.
One night this week I had a nightmare that Amy tells me was of a singular nature to her. I was traveling through a place at night that felt like a Gatlinburg, with tourist spots and uphill strolls, and then into a dark house. I bundled up for bed, but went into the kitchen, where we were staying, for a moment, and then heard Jamie cry out to me from a couch she was sleeping on, "There it is right there, Daddy!". Wanting to move quickly yet feeling constraints of the dream, feeling my feet heavy and a dread going down my back in prickly waves, I moved into what became something like our own living room, and I saw a moving shape, a dark shadow. I yelled to Jamie, "Where!" as it moved out of my vision. I steeled myself, growing angry, then yelled again, "WHERE ARE YOU?" louder and with a vibrato that felt stilted and a bravado that felt uncertain. Amy woke me by tapping rapidly on my back and said that I sounded like I was yelling from a long, long ways away. I didn't go back to sleep that night, feeling that shiver, slowly coming to the realization a simple fact: my subconscious fear that I couldn't protect my children every moment of my life was a reality. That I couldn't even see the dreadful apparition in its face, that it was a harmful spirit, a ghost felt certain.
Last night while Amy was gone out with friends and then onto her parents for a visit, I took the kids to Subway, let them stay up a bit playing games, tucked them in, shut down the house. (Though I didn't wander through the house for a normal drink in the dead of night.) Today, we enjoyed the breeze, went hunting for bows at Antique Alley, made plans to reward them for their report cards, got some hot wings, watched some Princess Bride. Soon, the house will be sleeping, and half are, while I write this.
Tomorrow, we will spend time getting ready for the week ahead, eat a family lunch, take a nap, let time take away pain and fear, moment by moment. I will be reassuring in my normalcy, in my demeanor, in my approach. I hope I will set an example of faith and calm that all will be well. I am more certain this week than the one before that I can't protect my children from challenges, from heartache, from pain, but I can try for as long as I can. I have to accept that while I can't protect them always from outer pain that I can help steel them to their core with strength, belief, will to stand strong when the moment comes when the fear, the doubt comes. I can't suggest that I have any magic formula more than those who got up to take part in the wonder that was the Boston Marathon or who simply went about their Wednesday in West, that I and mine are more deserving of safety or ease from pain. I can only hope for it for all, everywhere.
And, some day, not quite today, hurtfully, I will have to grudgingly admit, that there is no completely safe place on Earth.