Thursday, April 26, 2012

A Matter of Serious Consequence

This is G.K., Susanna's husband.

In our home, writing is a sacred human act. We write a lot. We always have. Before the web, we were both prolific journal keepers. I still have an affinity for hand written letters. Our shared love of story and words and expression acted as a catalyst in bringing Susanna and me together in the first place and it continues to help solidify the bond we enjoy now.

It seems everyone enjoys writing these days like no other time in the history of mankind. There's a power in writing that the world is excited to finally experience. All of us are writing to record what we don't want to let slip by unnoticed, to capture things we wish would remain forever, to report and announce what is important to us, to express what we feel that's otherwise intangible, to make each other laugh, to explore our thoughts and the world we experience, to share our love and connect. Much of this writing we do publicly. It's created a conversation that has the power to bring us all together and, literally, it has made the world a better place.

Tonight, I write briefly with a howling pain inside me. I write this to try and wrap my head around it, to let the pain leak out, to warn everyone I can, and to just be able to do something. But it feels burdensome to write about such a horrible event, and I am actually embarrassed to be so public with it. Please, beware if you choose to read on. The topic is grievous, but I feel more strongly that it's a crime in this case to be silent. I'm so afraid to make this seem like it's about me. I don't want it to be about me in the least part. I just want the world to know. I'd walk the streets and shout it in people's faces if I were a better man. That would probably be more sane.

Today, my sweet cousin became a fatal victim of violence at the hand of an intimate partner. A man she had been dating proved himself to be dangerous and she'd become afraid and was trying to avoid him. The unthinkable occurred, in the middle of the day and in public. Without exaggeration, she was a sweet and gentle woman, the mother of 4 children, 30 years old. But for me, she will forever be my little cousin, sitting up against me in the Datsun, sucking her thumb and playing with the lobe of my ear as if it were a soft blanket. That's how I've always remembered her. I loved her. She deserved to be loved because she was human.

In the past, I've heard statistics that seemed too high to believe, but tonight I've found sources that I consider credible, such as the Journal of The American Medical Association. For simple, non-graphic, starters: 1 in 5 teenage girls in the United States reports having been physically or sexually abused by a dating partner. I can't imagine this. 1 in 5...and still so young. 1 in 4 will experience this in their lifetime. 1 in 4. Violence against women is commonplace right here in the United States. Violence in general is commonplace. It's a sickness.

Please, love each other. Please, teach your children love. Please, teach them respect. Please, respect yourself. Please, teach your children to protect and defend these things, and please defend them yourself. I don't pretend this is a simple matter. But I am also certain that we can all develop these powerful tools. We can't afford not to. They are all that makes life worth living. If you know someone who needs help, please be responsible and reach out to help them. If you come from a culture of violence yourself, that's not your fault. Seek out help to change. There are willing resources and it can end with you.

Wednesday, April 25, 2012

For Grammy

A long overdue glance at the perfect Easter dresses. All day, the girls would point to their dresses and say, "Mammy." They knew they were from you and they knew they looked pretty.

 Thank you Grammy. We miss you and can't wait to see you!!

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Just keep bringing them...

I've expressed before the challenges that are often involved in our Sunday Mornings. Today was pretty typical. My girls, particularly Delia, have entered a phase of interdependence with me that is endearing in some moments and a bit stifling in others. The morning was full of dramatic cries of "Mama!" any time I tried to accomplish anything that required both hands and even part of my attention.

We made it through the morning. Lunches packed (church goes 11-2, right through lunch time), quiet books selected and packed, three kids bathed and dressed, one husband shaved and dressed (he did that himself, thank goodness), my own self dressed and brushed and looking as presentable as a nearly 9month pregnant woman could expect.

We climbed into the Pirate Car (more on that later) and shuffled off to church. We got there with enough time to change a diaper, climb the pile of mulch out back of the church, hold the door for a couple of older ladies, and still find a pew in a good location for minimal distraction of others and maximum containment. Whew.

As the meeting starts I often miss the announcements, but today as the man conducting announced the sudden passing of Addie, one of the older sisters in the congregation, I gasped audibly. I couldn't prevent the tears from welling up in my eyes and the more I tried to stop them the harder they came.

My reaction caught me a little by surprise. Our congregation is made up of a large number of older couples, widows and widowers. Many of them have lived in Davis for decades. As horrible as it sounds, it's sometimes hard to remember who's who until you've had some interactions with them. This can be tricky when you go through the three hour block of meetings trying to keep three small children quiet. I have to make a conscious effort to take my blinders off and even notice who else has come to church.

Addie was a quiet but fiery lady. Her comments in the few adult meetings I managed to attend were always thoughtful, yet provocative. She brought us dinner after the girls were born and again when Van broke his leg. She had led a full and interesting life and raised five children of her own.

My church going experience of late is not always spiritually edifying in the traditional sense. I don't sit through thoughtful lessons participating in discussion. I don't even always hear what is said during the meetings I do get to attend. My focus right now is often on helping my children feel and recognize the importance of being there. I try to help them see (in an age appropriate way) why we do the things we do, and understand the basic tenets of what we believe.

It's not an easy task. Several months ago, I explained to Van's school teacher about our church attendance. I wanted her advice on what length of time I could reasonably expect him to focus on an activity or lesson. She said, "A well prepared, age appropriate lesson? Ten minutes." We talked a little more and she finished by saying "That's why a lot of people just stop taking their kids to church at all."


The following Sunday as we herded our brood out of the chapel, I saw Addie in the hall. She looked at me, knowing nothing of the exchange at school, and said, "Just keep bringing them." This was typical of Addie. Our exchanges were rarely lengthy or even numerous, but her thoughtfulness made an impression on me. I felt a keen loss today when I heard of her passing and with it a renewed determination to do just that. Just keep bringing them.