Saturday, May 4, 2013

To protect and to serve ...

It has been almost three weeks since the finish line at the Boston Marathon was bombed. Since that time, I feel as if I have been on an emotional roller coaster, which has finally slowed down enough for me to step out and regain my balance on solid ground.

In my head, I have composed a dozen different posts about how I felt that Monday and the days, and weeks, afterwards. I have tossed and turned in my sleep, I have had nightmares, I am pretty sure I have been grinding my teeth. I wasn’t even in Boston when it happened. I was at work. All of my kids were home, less than a half hour away from the city. It was the start of school vacation week, which I typically dread since it means I am working and they are home with unplanned schedules.

Fortunately, my husband was at home with them all day. When I heard from someone in my office that some kind of explosion happened at the Marathon, my first reaction was that it was probably something minor. I had two more hours till my day was over. I knew this was not a place of worry that I wanted to go to in my mind when I was far from home. But part of my job is to monitor social media, like Twitter, so as more information came in, I became painfully aware that something was very wrong. I checked in with everyone at home. I texted my oldest son who was skateboarding at a town park. The same park I was in when I first heard that we were attacked on 9/11.

I remember that day so clearly. My oldest son had just started pre-school that week. On the first day, I dropped him off with a very long note to his nursery school teachers warning them that he liked to climb things. And that he liked to be outside. And that he may try to go outside without asking. I had special Safety First plastic door knob protectors on every door in our home for that very reason.

When I first saw the Little Tikes log cabin in the nursery school playground I was more than nervous. My daring first-born would no doubt try to climb to the roof, and maybe even try to jump off, and would these teachers be watching his every move like I did at home? I prepared instructions for them to keep an eye on him during recess, especially if he approached the log cabin. And please watch the doors while inside. He might slip out without anyone noticing.

I was a wreck. I had a 1 1/2 year old toddler at home and a baby on the way. I needed my 3 year old to have some time away from home, I could barely keep up with him, but I honestly couldn’t imagine someone else watching him with the same kind of attention that I did. At home I had safety gates everywhere, which served to protect my son from perceived harm and to minimize the square footage of areas that I had to keep under surveillance.

After dropping my son off at school, I took my second born to the park. By the time I got there it was shortly after 9am. It was like a ghost town. I saw someone walking his dog. He said something about a plane crash in New York. At the time I dont think I even carried a cell phone. I wasn’t really sure what this stranger was talking about. My son played in the sandbox for awhile. I was kind of relieved that the park wasn’t crowded. I didnt have to worry about other toddlers grabbing a toy that he was playing with or throwing sand in his eyes. After our time was up, we headed back to pick up his brother.

As the news spread of what actually happened, the world became a very scary place. Even opening the mail became an act not to be done without extreme caution. My third son was born three weeks early. I am not surprised that he wanted out, what with the amount of stress I had internalized. At the time, no one really had any idea of what could happen next. Who could have predicted what happened in New York and in the sky in September of 2001? 

On Marathon Monday, these are some of memories that resurfaced. Memories of feeling helpless. Uncertain. Feelings of disbelief. Why? How? Who? What turns a person into an uncaring soul, capable of mass destruction, who no longer sees or values the spirit in another? 

My brothers are both police officers. Every day they have to deal with the consequences of people who have stepped outside the bounds of acceptable behavior. Minor incidents and major ones. Accidents and acts of intention. Every day they risk their lives to keep others safe. One brother used to be on the SWAT team. He has four kids like I do.

We all know how the week of the marathon ended. My brother and I spent some time that following Sunday at the elementary school park with our kids.

While our little ones played, I asked my brother how he deals with everything he sees. How he can flip the switch from being a crime-fighting cop on the streets to a dad who will sit patiently as his girls perform hour long “shows with their dozens of dolls. He shared that he has developed strategies to deal with his job verses his family life. He tries not to take work home with him. He tries to be present for his kids. He worries about the same things that other parents and spouses worry about. He knows that not everyone acts on their best behavior and that there also are some people who can be turned around, with the right guidance, before something really bad happens. 

I am very proud of both of my brothers for all that they do day after day to ensure that the rest of us don’t have to worry full-time about bad guys.Over the past 14 plus years that I have been a mom, I have acquired a long enough list of worries on my watch-out-for list ...

• choking hazards like marbles, ice cubes, hard candy
• coconut, peanuts, walnuts + other anaphalactic health hazards 
• ticks, mosquitos, kids who bite, unfamiliar dogs, animal fur
• strangers, grouchy people, bullies
• anything on wheels, drivers on cell phones
• swimming pools, undertows at the beach, slippery rocks
• tornadoes, falling trees, climate changes
• access to inappropriate content 
• drugs, peer pressure, impending drivers licences

To be completely honest, I am tired of all this endless worrying. I think I really lost it the most emotionally when I read that two brothers, standing side by side laughing on a sunny day waiting to watch a friend cross the finish line at the Boston Marathon, both lost a leg in the bombing. How many times have I said to my boys, “Stay with your brother! Keep an eye on each other!” I woke up to this news and I sobbed. One of my boys heard me and came running. I couldnt really explain to a 9 year old how I was feeling. How years of worry sometimes pours out at moments of emotional vulnerability. 

I had to cover my eyes. I had to stop watching the news. I had to stop reading the eye-witness accounts. I had to spend some time outdoors away from screen media. I attacked the weeds in my garden. I pruned the wild rose bushes. I felt the sun on my face. I listened to the birds sing. I started to feel better.

I am thankful that people came together to help one another get through this tragic series of events. I am grateful that as a community we have not let what happened defeat us. We look for the good. We help where we can. We raise funds for the victims and their families. We are Boston Strong. And when we are still not feeling that way, we fake it until we do. 

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