Monday, December 24, 2012

Wake Up Call

I was up again this morning at an ungodly hour. To be honest, I can't be sure that god wasn't up also but if he was it was either because he wants to be first on line at the bagel store because those are, as we all know, the best bagels EVER, or because he hasn't gone to sleep because last night's poker game just finished up. Either way, it was earlier than I would have liked. I have to wake up early for two reasons: first off, I have to make sure that I am done with my morning ritual (shower, dressed, sacrifice a goat) before I start to wake the children up and push them towards getting ready, and second because we have but the one bathroom upstairs and I want to get in and make it uninhabitable well before anyone else runs in, locks the door and starts any hygiene/fashion ritual which would keep me from flossing.

As I showered this morning, I started thinking about when this morning torture would end. I started computing a few things. I figured that when my younger (who can memorize the lyrics to any song she hears twice but cannot remember how to spell the word "family") enters college I will finally have the luxury of sleeping a bit later and being able to wake myself up in the morning and get to work on my own schedule. Doubtless, this will involve waking at exactly the same ungodly hour as I do now, but it will be on my own terms. We could shorten this time by taking our vast holdings, liquidating them, and adding a bathroom so that I have a fortress of smell-i-tude which is all mine, but that would still require that I go from room to room waking and shaking every morning so it would not solve everything.

And please do not speak to me of such other expedients as louder alarm clocks or personal responsibility. The elder can sleep through anything which isn't the subtle buzz of a device indicating that someone, quite possibly a boy, wants to say "wussup" and the younger has inherited the ability to sleep 18 to 19 hours a day and still wake up angry at having been interrupted.

But how long will it be for #2 to shuffle off to SUNY Buffalo or the like so that my mornings can be less about them and more about me? Five and half years.

That's it. 5.5 years. And that isn't very long at all. Let's think about that, shall we?

Five and a half years until my second is in college. We have lived in this house for 13 years. In under 6 years, I will be in the same decade as I am now. Probably at the same job. Possibly driving the same car. Watching the same TV, and knowing that the Mets will have to wait for next year, again. Five and a half years is a blink of an eye. It would be just enough time for me to conceive of and write a poem like Tintern Abbey if it hadn't have been written already. It is enough time for me to go on strange new missions, to explore new worlds and alien planets, and enter syndication. Five years ago, I was doing exactly what I do these days -- wake the kids off and stumble to my job. This isn't like a period of time which will redefine my existence by moving me into another phase. I'll be the same. It isn't much time at all.

And in that short moment my second will be entering college, I expect. Now, maybe we'll enroll her in our own "College of living in the basement" but I doubt it. She and her sister are quite sharp and I expect them both to qualify for admission to some our nations most seemingly-select schools like Harfard or Yail, or maybe even (dare I dream) Ruggers. In five and half years I will have an empty house, with my new, private bathroom mocking my selfishness. I miss them already.

It isn't that long and I shouldn't be shooing them out so quickly. I can't wait till early tomorrow morning so I can tell them I love them while trying to steal their covers away.

Tuesday, December 18, 2012

I am Adam Lanza's victim

We have heard from the mother. We have heard from the psychiatrist. But you know who hasn't had a voice? The victims. I would never deign speak for them or even myself but I want to try to give them a little bit of voice.

I am 25, I am 6, I am 40, I am 83. I am a child, a parent, a sibling, a friend, a spouse. I am a teacher. I am a student. I live nearby. I lived nearby. I am from far away. I am far away. I will wake up crying for 6 months. I will wake up screaming for the rest of my life. I will not wake up. I will have scars. I will have to explain myself to everyone I meet. I will never grow up. I will listen while every argues how and why this happened. I won't understand why people fight. I will stay silent as others tell me what I will feel. I will be silent because I will never feel again.

I will look at an empty room. I will hear stories about people I have never met. I will bear an impossible burden. I will never go on a date. I will never go beyond this feeling of pain and fright. I didn't have a chance and I never will. I don't care who is to blame. It is my fault. I will recover. I will never recover.

I don't want to hear about other people. I can't be comforted. I will never be normal. I will shake and cringe. No one will ever get to know me. I will be in the eyes of everyone you see. I will be everyone and I will never get to be anyone. I am angry and I will never forgive. I will forget in time and I will try not to forget. I will be a picture in a book or a name on a screen. I will be an ache. A fragment. A reminder.

I don't care about the gun control debate. I don't care about parents and professionals. I can't care about anything right now. I am on all parts of the political spectrum. I don't understand what people are talking about. I won't ever get to vote. I have no past, present or future. I want to stop crying. I want to start crying. I want people to cry with me and for me. I want the cameras to record and I want them to turn off, or at least away. I want to hug and be hugged. I want to punish and I want to sympathize. I will never get married or have children of my own.

I am a victim. I am lucky. I am guilty. I am alive but I am dead. I am dead but I will live forever. I am already gone.

Sunday, December 16, 2012

Why I have nothing to say

I don't have a stance on things. I have many opinions but very rarely do I fall on any particular side of a subject and assert a particular point of view as my own. I am afraid to be political or controversial not because I shy away from loud conversations but because I spend so much time absorbing information that I see the flaws in each side's argument so by endorsing a side, I am, knowingly, signing up for the flaws of which I am well aware.

Combine that with my lack of interest in the aforementioned loud conversations. What is the value of sitting around and picking sides...arguing with someone when the mode of rhetoric is more likely "he who is loudest wins" than "let's have an open dialogue and not persuade each other but realize that we should be united by the disparity of our views and how we explore and cherish that difference, rather than see those divergent positions as a cause of more rancor." Listening to someone make long winded arguments full of holes I could drive a truck through (if I held a CDL)and knowing that when I try to mount a "defense" the other person will not be listening to the underlying logic of what I say but rather will be looking for the little flaws so he can discard the whole. And I suspect that I'm doing much the same thing. I mean, what's the point. Did you know that people get angry at me because I refuse to engage in these conversations? They yell at me because I won't tell them what I believe. No matter how much I try to explain that I see too many problems with any point of view and don't want to open myself up to criticism because it won't help solve any problems, they rant and rave and insist that I say whom I vote for or where I stand on other issues. As if that will help the world solve its problems. Trust me -- I'm not that important.

Have you ever watched C-SPAN. Silly question. I know no one has. I saw a bit of it. It was live coverage from the senate floor. Politician after politician got up to say his piece about some item of legislation. But whom was he arguing with? Whom was he convincing? No one. No one was listening. The exercise was in saying your side without engaging in a dialogue. It was sad, really. But that's what all this cross talk ends up being. I don't care what you say, but you need to hear what I say because you are wrong simply by virtue of holding your position.

We are so interested in assigning blame because we see it as a way to solve our problems. Associate the problem with a source and we can remove the source. Isn't that simple. No. It isn't. Sometimes blaming doesn't solve anything. Finding a solution has nothing to do with going backwards and deciding why things happened.

The children of Connecticut will not return to us if we yell enough about gun control. The people of Sandy Hook will not be comforted if we present slogans or cite statistics about mental illness, about the second amendment or school lockdown procedures. These 20 children who were killed were all our children. And the shooter was our child as well. And as grieving parents we have to put a hold on trying to explain the unexplainable or find reasons for things that defy us. We have to cry, and wake up tomorrow and try to be better parents without getting on a soapbox and saying "I told you so." No one wants to hear that or listen to partisan statements.

Let's take this tragedy as a chance to come together and stop trying to tell each other how wrong everyone else is. Let us honor these children by sitting at a table and moving forward and talking about how we can envision a stronger world without focusing on why anyone who disagrees is actually part of the problem.

Thursday, December 13, 2012

Dinosaurs for Sandy

Last night was the 12-12-12-12 concert. Because of fortuitous planning, Hurricane Sandy had the foresight to destroy much of New York and New Jersey in 2012 so we could have a concert with such a name. Had this hurricane hit next year, the victims would, clearly, be out of luck. The numbers stand for December 12, 2012 with all the performers born in 1912.

I was going to rant about the bar that has been lowered for benefit concerts and my fear that in the future, there will be a sense of obligation to have a concert for most any bad thing. But I won't reflect on that -- I leave it up to you to imagine the lineup for the benefit concerts for Nor'easter Ralph, Heatwave Myrtle, Fender Bender Simba and Hangnail Persephone.

My problem today is with the selection of artists for last night. You have to understand, I am a music fan. A big one. And my tastes do run to the 60's to 70's classic rock so last night's artists should have been right up my alley. But I felt more let down than anything else. In my mind, these artists all have good voices and, well, hair (except Roger Daltry who has been nairing his chest every morning since 1955). What I saw last night really made me sad. It was like watching a teaser for next year's obituaries. I almost tweeted to the Who that I'd hoped they'd died before they got old. Then I realized that I don't have a twitter account.

But then I got to thinking. If these monsters of the rock-age hadn't shown up, who would have been the stars of the show? Would we all have rallied around Justin Bieber and One Direction? Or would the phone lines had lit up if Ke$sha was up there? And what will happen if (God forbid) there is a storm in 40 years? Who are the big name stars who will have the staying power to hobble onto stage and play a spate of their hits from what will then be yesteryear, but which is not just "year." Who is around? Tom Petty? The Foo Fighters? Weezer? Graham Nash (that guy never seems to age)? Do we really expect that Limp Bizkit or Eminem will galvanize future America? Who will show up for a fund raiser in 2040 starring the Goo Goo Dolls, Metallica, Guster and Dr. Dog (h/t Rabbi Fleischmann for those 2)?

I think that this, more than anything, should drive our scientists and super villains to develop weather control devices so we can avoid the kind of concert that did not seem out of place on public television.

Monday, December 10, 2012

Absence and the heart

I work in a school. I hope that doesn't shake anyone up too much. First off, I have never made this a secret. It isn't like I have walked around with a T-shirt which reads "Ask me about my 11th grade class" but I haven't invented a profession because I am trying to cover anything up (choreo-animators, I'm looking at you). Secondly, I don't think that anything in my character is incongruous with my working in a school. For example, I use words like incongruous. Now solve for X.

In my school we have a policy regarding teachers -- if a teacher is absent, especially short term and on short notice, we don't give the students a sub. Subs are hard to manage and the students do need some down time as our school day is approximately 23 hours long, give or take a day. So how do students know who is absent? We have a board/TV screen which shows the list each day. Students make it a habit to check the board daily and see if the gamble not to do last night's homework paid off or not. What I don't think they understand, though, is how to temper their emotions.

I was walking past a knot of students staring at the board this morning and when they reached the name of a teacher out for the day, they started jumping for joy. Absolute joy. They ran through the halls shouting the news to the farthest reaches of the building. It was like a banner waving scene from Les Mis (before you insult me, I saw it on a TV commercial years ago while watching something uncultured and unwholesome). Does one person's absence mean so much? Does his mere presence in the school so destroy a student's day that that student has to cheer like he has been given a reprieve from the death sentence when the teacher's name is posted? When I am absent, are there parties, and guest speakers, and champagne flowing? I never really thought of myself as such a drag on student emotions. Maybe I should call in sick occasionally even when I'm healthy so that the students have a break from my oppressive regime once in a while.

On one hand, it is nice to know that my presence or absence would be so closely followed. This makes me feel important. I never realized the impact I have on the tenor of the entire school community. But on the other hand, I have to say, it hurts. The thought that I bring such sadness to young lives that the possibility that I am not around is cause for celebration is disheartening. What if, god forbid, a teacher on the board is absent because he was struck by lightning? How should a student react? "He's not here!! Woo-hoo! Yeah! Huh? What? Lightning you say? Oh. That is really sad. Is he dead? Oh. Will he be in tomorrow? WOOOO HOOOO!!!"

When students see me, do their hearts sink? Do they wake up hoping that my car breaks down, or that overnight I got bitten by a rabid squirrel? Do I really want to live a life where, when I walk in the room, there is a sigh of disappointment? Why don't they throw a party when I show up? Where's my parade? I am NEVER LEAVING. That'll show 'em.