I was seventeen, home from college to watch my boyfriend, Jim King, wrestle in the regional tournament, then as now, at the end of February. The tournament and wrestling season over for us on Saturday, Jim’s family invited me for dinner, or did Jim invite me for dinner at his house after church? I’m not sure how it all worked out. I just remember standing next to the sink, his mother and I washing dishes when the phone rang.
My mother had had a heart attack and was in the Towanda Memorial Hospital. I dropped the dish towel and away we went. And in those moments, I had no idea of how my life was about to change.
Have you had one of those life-changing moments, the kind you can look back on and know that was the day one chapter ended and another was about to begin? Every February, especially that last weekend, it was the 22-23rd that year, it all comes back. By that Sunday night, we knew that if she made it, my mother would never again be the same mom who took care of us, at least not quite in the same way.
This afternoon we took pictures of the hosta plants doing their best to bring spring to life in our garden. As I looked at those shoots, leaves folded tightly at their tiny sides, it came to me that I was like that hosta all those years ago, trying to grow up in a hurry, and maybe before the season for that growth was upon us.
And I think of the kids around me, the little kids and teenagers forced to face horrific realities long before they were meant to….in this age of school shootings and threats of shootings and bombings.
Some of you, like me, remember the drills we had in school when the shrill bell or buzzer told us to march into the school halls, to sit away from windows, or told to crouch underneath our desks. It was scary, it was! But I think what our kids live with today is worse. Today the enemy is not across an ocean. The enemy could be a classmate, could be the kid who sits alone on the bus, could be the one who sits in the corner in the cafeteria.
So what do we do now? We have to teach our children to love their classmates, especially the ones who are different. We have to teach them that different does not mean bad. We have to address bullying, from the time our kids are at their littlest…maybe more by teaching them the joy of sharing. We cannot call it cute when the littlest one grabs his bear from the other child.
Today we shopped for college students (not our grandchildren) and we shopped for unwed mothers and we talked about how rewarding it was – to be able to bring joy to people we don’t even know, or at least know well.
We need to teach our children that source of joy, not just the kind of temporary happiness that comes when they get the toy they wanted, or the one we think they should have wanted. We need to help them learn the joy of giving without any hope of receiving. Just for the sense that they have made a difference, that for a moment another child is not so alone.
I’m sorry this is not a fun blog, but as it does every year, February calls me to introspection, and I guess that is not all bad.
musings from the desk of Carol Brennan King
Hospital photo borrowed from