Monday, December 08, 2008

Fragile

Hubby went to a movie tonight with my sister- they go to movies every now and then because Hubby really likes movies and I don't.

After we waved bye-bye to them, I gave Pumpkin her snack, laughing with her as I imitated her leaning her head on her hand- she looked like such a big girl when she did that! After her bath, I read her stories, and humored her when she wanted to sit by herself in the "big chair" (my rocking chair) and when she pointed at her little rocking chair and directed me to "sit". I pulled the little chair up to the big one, leaned over and read her stories.

She didn't fuss much when it was time to finish reading. When I first said it was time to stop, she went over to her bookshelf and picked out two more books, which I dutifully read with her snuggled onto my lap. Then I put her in her sleep sack and turned out the light. I held her for a few minutes, but then she wanted to nurse. She hadn't nursed after day care today, so I wasn't surprised. After she finished, I held her close and rocked her to sleep.

Tonight, I didn't mind sitting in her darkened room, holding her next to me for the twenty minutes it took her to fall asleep. I probably would have sat there for twenty minutes even if she'd been asleep after five.

Today, in a neighborhood not far from where I live and work, a military jet fell out of the sky onto a house, killing a mother, her baby, the baby's grandmother, and probably her other child as well. When the news first came in, when we knew that the pilot had ejected safely but before we knew about the casualties on the ground, I was struck by the fact that we had looked at a house on the street where the plane crashed and by the fact that the first house we put an offer on was only a few blocks from the crash site. We didn't get that house, and comforted ourselves partly with the thought of the noise from the military jets overhead. We have many friends and coworkers with houses in that neighborhood. In fact, Hubby works with someone whose house is across the street from the crash site, and who was not allowed to go home tonight.

Since we have learned about the casualties on the ground, I have been unable to rid my head of thoughts of the unnamed father of the baby, husband of the mother, and son or son-in-law of the grandmother. He presumably waved good-bye to his family this morning, and went to work. Then, while he was eating his lunch or sitting in some pointless meeting or doing one of the various workday tasks we all do, he lost his family and his home. He didn't know it yet, but it wouldn't be long before the news of the crash spread around his work place. It took less than 5 minutes at my office before almost everyone knew and was online trying to find out the details. He must have realized quickly that his house was near the crash site. Did he recognize his house from the news footage? Did he try to call home and get a dead line? When did he begin to suspect that it was his house, his family that was gone? And how in the world will he pick up the pieces of his life?

This man and his wife had bought a house in a very safe neighborhood, known for its good schools. They'd protected their family from some of the obvious risks, but life is fragile and you can't protect your family from all the risks. We strap our babies into car seats, slather them with sunscreen, and fret about what they eat and whether their baby bottles are made with the wrong plastics. But nothing we do will keep them safe if they are in the wrong place at the wrong time. Most of us will see our babies grow into children and then into adults, and will be left wondering where that sweet little toddler who liked to climb into the grown up chairs and who was so hard to get to sleep went. Really, all you can do is try your best to keep them safe while not worrying so much that you forget to appreciate what you have while you have it.

So I was happy to hold Pumpkin tonight, and feel her little head get heavy on my arm as she drifted off to sleep, her fingers still twirling my hair. It is a shame that it takes someone else's tragedy to make me stop and appreciate how precious that weight on my arm and those fingers in my hair are.

5 comments:

  1. We live in a remote Northern County in England where the RAF regualarly conduct low flying exercises. Whilst it appears the cause of this was not low flying it still made me shudder. The guy must be devastated it will take him a lifetime to come to terms with this.

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  2. Anonymous9:20 AM

    Lovely. Chilling. After reading your post I went in and stood watching my little one napping. Thank you.

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  3. You are making me cry at work. I just can't imagine what that guy must feel, and I don't think I want to.

    Every now and then throughout my life, I think about plane crashes and what if it crashed into a house and hurt people not even flying. (I also randomly think this about meteors.) But this is the first time I've actually heard a story about it happening. (9/11 was not a house and that wasn't just a plane crash.) It's as tragic as I thought it would be.

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  4. I was really shaken up by the bridge collapse in Minneapolis, a bridge I had not crossed in almost ten years. And it still seemed like such a close call. I think we are all hugging our family a little closer today.

    (my word verification has the word "caring" in it--caringra)

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  5. As we go about the hustle and bustle of daily life, it's all too easy to forget how precious life is and just how short it can be. It's unfortunate that it sometimes takes a tragedy to remind us of this.

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