Monday, January 8, 2018

So This is The New Year

I resolve to not tell you to stick to your resolutions. I resolve to not guarantee I’ll stick to mine. 
I’ve never been wed to New Year’s resolutions. Don’t get me wrong, I love the spirit behind them, the sense of renewal and newfound purpose. What I love more is seeing people who make them actually succeed. By all means, please do share your triumphs (and your failures, too). Whether in person or from behind the screen, I will champion your victories, both large and small. (Yes, forgoing Hot Pockets for nine entire days is a victory.) 

Let me repeat as to avoid poo-pooing and/or pee-peeing on anybody’s parade: I am pro-NY’s resolutions. (I am, however, pretty much anti-gun. Therefore, NY’s resolutions about or relating to guns can suck it.) 

There’s just something about New Year’s in general that sparks anxiety. Even though I’ve celebrated the clanking of crystal in low-key fashion for years, there’s part of me that still feels pressure to will or witness something magical, whether it’s that night, the next day or a couple of weeks later. You know, a herd of unicorns sliding down a double rainbow. Water turning to wine. Donald Trump’s impeachment. 

The feeling doesn’t last, but is followed by the traditional post-holiday blues, letdown, nostalgic hangover, the Christmas-tree-no-longer-shines-ever-hopeful-in-my-living-room meh. Speaking of Christmas trees, on NY’s Day I told my husband we should put ours up in January and leave it up until the month of December, when we ceremoniously take it down until January begins anew. If you ask me, eleven solid months of that soothing glow is a whole mess better than one (or two or seven). It’s winter and I am not being the least bit hyperbolic when I say the sun don’t never come out here in southwest Michigan. 

Shit, I’m digressing. It’s January 8, so my lack of focus must be from the lack of bourbon cream in my coffee. (Don’t knock it until you’ve tried it.)

So … back to resolutions, the NY’s kind or otherwise. Regardless of my ability to achieve or maintain them, here are five of mine:

Embrace nostalgia for the places, the things and especially the people in your life. 
There’s this line from a movie I hold great nostalgia for: “We may be through with the past, but the past ain’t through with us.” 

The 2017 holidays filled me with significant joy and gratitude. Yeah, I know, fa-la-la-la-blah-blah-blah. It may be my age making me trite and sentimental, but I prefer to believe I’m just that lucky. Whatever my general feeling of euphoria was or wasn’t, the season also brought some sad and unsettling news: the death of one of my cousins. He was 51, only six years older than me. I had no idea he had cancer. I hadn’t seen or spoken with him in a decade or longer. I didn’t know him as the vibrant, successful, full-grown, married-with-children adult he very much appeared to be. Yet I do know the word Herculean springs to mind when I look back and think about how I viewed him in my childhood. My brother and I spent a lot of time at this particular cousin’s household, and fear wasn’t in his vocabulary. He could defy gravity on a trampoline. He was a ping-pong phenom. He had these dimples. His brains and humor seemed as effortless as his athleticism. When it was time to leave this particular cousin’s household, we schemed to keep the grownups talking or otherwise distracted so we wouldn’t have to go. Just ten or fifteen more minutes to linger and hopefully stir up some good(ish), clean(ish) trouble. 

RIP, Eric. While I regret not making more time for you in this world, I’ll cling to the past I’m blessed to have shared with you. 

Don’t sweat the small stuff (e.g., let the occasional whopper cliche slide).
Race her scooter up and down our hardwood floors chanting, “Mommy farts a lot.” 

This charming ritual tops the list of Ava’s favorite things to do if I tell her she can’t watch TV or stare open-mouthed at my iPad. The first a hundred and sixteen times it was funny. (I admit, I, too, am a fan of the flatulence jokes.) She is spelling the word out now, slow and deliberate—“Mommy F-A-R-T-S a lot!”—and I’m no longer chuckling. Instead of dreaming of locking my daughter in some kind of sulfur prison, I should take solace in two critical facts: 1.) her spelling is improving and 2.) before too long, it’s likely she’ll prefer the company of her farting peers over her farting mother. 

Put your doubts, worries and outright fears in their rightful places—with the growing threat of nuclear war, the dire consequences of climate change, Steve Bannon and Freddie Krueger. 
I am my biggest obstacle to writing. Trust in my abilities. Recognize my weaknesses. Learn from and celebrate the success of others who share my passion. Put in the work this discipline requires and deserves. (Follow your dreams at all costs, as long as you stay the fuck awake, because you know what happens if you fall asleep? Steve Bannon will cut you.) 

Go vegan for 30 days. 
I appreciate folks who have this kind of commitment, whether it’s for moral reasons, health reasons, both moral and health reasons, or perhaps most importantly, for the reason they think anything resembling the taste and texture of eggnog is gross. (If, however, their reasoning is lifelong admiration of Morrissey, I will pelt them with lukewarm mozzarella sticks.)

All right, I’d settle for eating one vegan meal per week. Yeah, this is pretty much a copout, but strong is the force of cheese.

For anybody out there who’s made it this deep into this post: 1.) thank you, 2.) If you have any, please send me your favorite vegan recipes, and 3.) If you think eating vegan is akin to tattoo removal whilst sitting on a bed of nails, or in the words of the great Ron Swanson, you believe “Veganism is the sad result of a morally corrupt mind,” I promise I won’t judge you. That said, DO NOT send me any meatloaf recipes. Like egg and nog, meat and loaf should not be combined in the same word or food product. 

Roll the dice on something more meaningful than craps. 
This statement isn’t intended to be a metaphor on gambling and/or taking a crap. (Well, maybe the latter.) Remember that more often than not, and especially if they don’t involve Fireball shots, sharp objects, eggnog or meatloaf, risks yield reward. And as I’ve already pointed out on Facebook (please, please friend me), this doesn’t necessarily mean becoming Liam Neeson in every movie he’s made in the last century. 

Learning to ski. Participating in a fitness class in tights with others around me who are also participating in said fitness class in tights. Bursting into spontaneous song at the grocery store. Doing a public reading. Writing with reckless abandon most all of the goddamn days. Entering an eggnog chugging contest. 

How the hell has this post turned into a manifesto on the cons of eggnog? 

The point is, 2018 brings with it fresh opportunity to vacate my comfort zone, and if that isn’t inspiring enough, there’s always the Russia probe. And my couch. And my Five Below mermaid pants I vow to never, ever, ever wear outside of the house, unless the smoke alarms are screaming, I need to embarrass my kid or we’re fresh out of eggnog. 

Happy New Year! May all your resolutions come true or you find peace and strength in your continued resolve. 

Either way, cheers from me to you. 

Thursday, December 7, 2017

The Nature of Our Emergency

9-1-1. Three little numbers with potentially vast consequences.
Kidnapping, carbon-monoxide poisoning, domestic violence, assault, murder, terrorism, hostage situation, trapped beneath the weight of what? A TV console? We don’t have earthquakes or hurricanes in Michigan, but that specific part of the building, that very ceiling of that very apartment could have collapsed from minimal seismic activity or sustained wind gusts. Our daughter could be buried beneath debris. 

She could be struggling to free herself from somebody’s persistent grasp. 

Thirty-some minutes was too long not to lay our eyes on her, to witness her breathing. No matter how hard you try to push it out, irrationality wheedles into your conscience. Although I stand behind my husband’s decision to call 9-1-1. It may be the most rational decision he’s ever made. 

Earlier on a Saturday morning than I would’ve preferred, earlier than I’m positive my daughter would have preferred, my husband dropped off Ava so she could once again undergo a cultural rite of passage: hair braiding. By undergo I mean sit for two to four hours in front of an iPad or TV while the sweet and lovely college student I’ll call E tugs, tortures and strong-arms Ava’s hair into an amazing work of manageable beauty. Depending on who you ask, I may or may not be exaggerating the root of the cause, but certainly not its resulting effect.  

E has a genuine and enviable gift. Plus, we’ve known her for around two years, celebrated her acceptance in our alma mater, welcomed her into our home, offered her advice regarding coping with a bad boss and living with an annoying roommate, held her dependable gaze, appreciated her bright smile, thanked her for her guidance on black hair products, opened our refrigerator and our hearts to her. I’ve no idea what they’d charge in a salon, plenty more I’m sure, but I feel we’ve always paid her well. Not that any amount of money would have mattered in the fucking least at that moment. 

That moment we didn’t want to consider our daughter was gone. 

At about Ava’s age I fell asleep beneath some hanging bolts of fabric. Or was it a clothing rack—fifty-percent off slacks and blouses? Or was it my husband? We didn’t know each other back then, but both of us went MIA as kids in the same small town on some seemingly innocuous day when our mothers went out shopping. The residual specifics are fuzzy, maybe because fear didn’t freeze the details of our temporary disappearance. I don’t recall either of us being afraid, but our moms, I’m betting our separate vanishing acts scared them shitless. They’d remember every poignant and pointless detail. 

Yet our most concrete of memories are fickle, too. It’s been almost a month and I can’t quite picture what Ava wore the day she went missing for thirty-three and a half minutes, give or take. I do remember seeing my husband’s breath—tiny clouds of panic rising and dispersing in the cold air—and that his knuckles were red and swollen.

What did the 9-1-1 operator say after my husband said he was going to break into E’s apartment? Please, don’t do that, sir? Was it something more reassuring, melodramatic and cliched like in the movies: Help is on the way! No, it was measured and calm, but firm about the B & E, as in, no, no, that wasn’t a good idea. 

Here are the general facts: E didn’t have access to a car. Could she possibly braid Ava’s hair at her place? We dropped off our daughter at E’s first-floor apartment at 9:30 a.m. At 11:50 a.m. E texted she’d finished. Ten minutes later we arrived at E's apartment to pick up Ava. Nobody answered the buzzer, but my husband shrugged; E mentioned it had been malfunctioning. Nobody came in or out of the building. We waited. My husband texted E. We waited. Nobody came in or out of the building. My husband called E. The call went straight to voicemail. We waited. My husband told me to stay put so he could check around back, see if he could get their attention through the slider or a window. I waited alone, shivering but steady. This was nothing more than a minor inconvenience, a blip on the radar of our lazy Saturday. Nobody came in or out of the building. Seriously, I thought, doesn’t anybody else live here? Nobody returning from brunch? Heading out for groceries? Taking the dog out for an afternoon stroll? Did they allow pets there? Yes, they did, E had a toy terrier, a Yorkie named something or other. Sweetums? Gum drop? Coco? What was that dog’s name anyway? Why wasn’t E answering our buzzes, our texts, our calls, my husband’s tapping, knocking, pounding, pounding, pounding?

Where was our kid? 

He was on the phone but kept his distance from me. At first I assumed he’d reached her, had secured the whereabouts of our daughter. Then I realized the conversation seemed too long-winded. He’d been pacing too much. 

“I called 9-1-1,” he said. 

There I stood—a pillar of motherhood duty—still barred from E’s apartment entry way, and I remember replying with what not why. Not what have you done, but my God, what is happening? What are we going to do? 

The cop pulled in right after my husband’s second call, the one where the same dispatcher advised him against jimmying a window, smashing through glass with what, his fists? A random crowbar discarded in the parking lot? Did we happen to leave our bowling balls in the car? He could hear the incessant barking of E’s dog. He could see only darkness through the window. No faint glow of cartoons on the TV or the iPad discarded and left running. My iPad. How often had I told Ava to turn the stupid thing down—if I had to listen to the theme song to Shimmer and Shine or Paw Patrol one more time—or shut it off? She could and should take in the world around her for a change. 

Wherever Ava was now, was she able to drink in her surroundings? Observation could be key to her survival. So many screens. A blessing, yes. A curse, yes. Had we taught Ava how to pay full attention to anything? Intuit by actually looking, smelling, hearing, tasting?

What is your daughter’s name? 
When was she born? 
How tall is she? 
How much does she weigh? 
What is her eye color? 
What is her hair color?
What is your name? 
What is your birth date? 
How long have you known the person she’s with? 
What is her name?
How old is she? 
Do you trust her? 

The officer doled out the necessary questions per standard operating procedure. Between pleading with him to let us inside, to please, please just get us inside E’s apartment, my husband gave him the necessary data. That’s when the nature of our emergency struck me with agonizing and absolute force. We were filling out a missing person’s report and the missing person was our daughter. 

On the precipice of terror. 

That’s when E pulled into the parking lot with a man in the front—her boyfriend?—and our daughter, safe and sound in the back seat of a car E said she didn’t have for the day. My husband threw his arms around me. Tears of relief spilled down his cheeks. 

“It’s okay, It’s okay.” (My attempt to soothe and convince him, and myself.) “We can’t let her see us this way. We’ll scare her.” 

What else can I tell you other than my subdued, repeated okay wound up being truth? Ava was okay. E was okay. We were all wholly, wonderfully okay. 

I feel bad about not thanking that cop or shaking his hand. I don’t recall his name, and can’t say I mumbled so much as a halfhearted goodbye. I can say with certainty I felt my pulse in my throat. I can also say E said “I’m sorry,” and strangely, we said we were sorry, too. My husband and I are quick to apologize. The older we grow, the easier we forgive. A blessing, yes. A curse, yes. 

Al stayed outside with Ava while I collected her things from E’s apartment. Before I paid her (yeah, we still paid her) and left, I blurted something stock—like she had to understand this was 2017, we had no idea where either of them were, anything could have happened. She said she understood. We were parents.  

E was right. Al and I were parents. But what kind of parents were we? Are we? 

Sure, what mom or dad doesn’t ask this question? There’s no such thing as the perfect parent, after all. Teach your children well … and feed them on your dreams… We do the best we can for our kids and hope for the best for our kids. 

Whether we scratched the surface of the best for Ava in this particular circumstance is up for debate, at least in my mind. Despite how cynical I can come off, how much I relish snark, I am also trusting. I have great faith in humanity. 

Not that I’m incapable of anger. I was and am angry at E, or maybe I’m more pissed off at her carefree lack of judgment or my breezy casualness. However, time, like memory, has a way of ebbing and flowing, deluding and dizzying. Yes, the memory remains, but those spans of seconds, minutes, hours, days and weeks begin to do the important work of healing. 

For me, the scab has been ripped off. I suppose the only way to rid myself of its lingering scar is to reach out to E again, dig into what really happened that day before it festers. Why did she put our child in the back of her car without a booster seat to run an errand without our permission? Why was her cell phone off? Why did she say she didn’t have access to a car when she did? Did her boyfriend need a ride home from work or a friend’s house? Was he her boyfriend? What was her boyfriend’s name? How long had she known him?

Did she want to braid Ava’s hair any longer? Do we want her to braid Ava’s hair any longer?

Today is the seventh of December and I haven’t found the answers to any of these questions. The only thing I believe I know is this: Teddy. It appeared to me a few nights ago, silly and insignificant, but explicit. 

Teddy, the name of E’s yapping dog.

E's talent and our gift. 

Monday, October 30, 2017

If My Docs Could Talk

They wouldn't say “Eat My Shorts!” or “As If.” 

They’d mention President Bush.(Not the one known by the single initial.) While they’d be open to engaging in healthy debate regarding his pragmatic and conservative approach to foreign affairs, sourcing The End of the Cold War, significant attention would also be paid to the banning of broccoli on Air Force One. Shameless disobedience of his mother, who reportedly made H.W. eat it as a child. 

With air-cushioned soles resting on a neon-pink inflatable love seat, they would belt out “Girl You Know It’s True,” but they’d insist their tone-deaf rendition came from a pair of smelly All Stars. 

Few would think it still funny, but they’d make a Lorena Bobbitt joke anyway. 

They'd agree that keeping a dress (of any color) stained with bodily fluids (no matter the source) is gross and a little disturbing. 

Like the other ninety-five million viewers across the nation, they’d admit they couldn’t look away from the white Bronco. Yes, they’d overused the expression “If it doesn’t fit, you must acquit.” Yes, they’d acknowledge there was too much publicity. Yes, they would condemn Fuhrman. Of course they'd think he was guilty.  

That devastating image of the Oklahoma City fireman cradling the baby girl is something they’d guarantee can’t be scrubbed from their memory.

They would maintain Kurt Cobain wore a pair just like them, wonderfully heavy with signature yellow Z stitch. (They’ve never had the stomach or the heart to view any of the crime scene photos. They’ve never bought any of the conspiracy theories. They’ve always felt In Utero was the best album.)

They might say “Fart-Knocker,” albeit under their breath.

Five photographers on motorcycles in pursuit of one dark-blue Mercedes. They’d concede they’d had to look up the word: Paparazzi. By all accounts, the princess was beautiful, selfless, a good mother, and what they’d remembered most, unhappy. They’d say they couldn’t imagine living with the constant flash of camera bulbs, barbaric and blinding, but would they be telling the whole truth? Fame, after all, does come with its advantages.

Troubling. What they’d say about kids nowadays who draw a blank whenever hearing reference to “Festivus” or “The Soup Nazi” or “The Puffy Shirt.” 

Black laces dangling, dangerously loose, they’d shrug over the faint recollection of Y2K, swearing the only bug they ever feared was the large, hairy, many-legged kind.

There are steadfast believers, those who stick to their guns that rockstar-wannabe was (and is) The Almighty. Branch Davidians believe the dead are merely unconscious, awaiting resurrection and travel to Their Kingdom. “Complete horse shit,” they’d proclaim, their Black Greasy leather scuffed. (Nevertheless, they do like the sweet sound of immortality.)

I'm 90% certain I'm wearing Docs with tube socks in this vintage photo. I'm 100% certain my now husband (then boyfriend) was not a fan of this flight.

Thursday, October 19, 2017

America's New Worst

Woke up this morning to another mass shooting, America’s New Worst. (How many more new worsts will there be in my lifetime?)

The minutes and hours ticked by in ordinary routine, but my state of mind? Miles from ordinary. Light years from routine. I had little choice but to obey all-mighty Oprah’s command: turn off the news. I’ve vacuumed the same stain in the carpet to no avail. I’ve battled an army of stink bugs in my living room. I’ve watched My Little Pony with my five-year-old, when I can’t stand Pinky Pie’s voice. (Her exuberance is particularly unsettling this week.)

I’ve tried shunning Facebook, peeking in with one eye open. I don’t know any of the dead or wounded, but I’ve wept for them. I’ve cried in the early morning hours, late at night, on the road to pick up my daughter, in the shower. I’m compelled to shield her from this grief. I can’t stomach her asking that innocent, incessant question. Why? 

Why are you crying, Mommy?

Today I can dodge answering her. The next time, and there’s great promise for a next time, I may not be so lucky. With each passing day, her cognition grows at an amazing and alarming rate. 

Because I tend to ruminate, especially on tragedy, especially on senseless, repeated tragedy, especially on senseless, repeated tragedy involving our nation’s obsession with the right to own, operate and otherwise glorify guns, I write. I wasn’t anywhere near the scene of the crime. Yet body cameras and smartphones have allowed me to hear those spraying bullets. The sounds of war. What many of those beautiful couples and friends and families and strangers who together shared a love of country music first believed was harmless fireworks.  

I’ve said we need more, but of course I’m thinking of and praying for the victims and survivors, the civilian heroes and the courageous employed to protect and save lives. The calm and compassionate medical professionals in the throes of chaos. 

Maybe it’s too soon to write a single word about Las Vegas, not the expected glitz and decadence, but the unforeseen carnage and despair. Some would argue it’s insensitive to use tragedy as any kind of muse. I’ve taken heat in an argument like that before. I probably will again. 

Still, it’s therapeutic. A momentary lull. The clacking of the keys gives me something to do with my hands instead of brushing away tears. Something to shake that eight-hundred pound gorilla named Futility sitting on my chest. Anything to quell my anger over three capital letters: N, R, A. Letters my Kindergartner practices reading and writing in school, although not strung together in that formidable acronym. 

I can’t begin to imagine how heartbroken and outraged these three letters must make the Newtown mothers and fathers feel. I don’t regularly follow Twitter, but this tweet: 

“In America we value guns, flags & fake acts of patriotism over people, pain & real acts of courage.” #LasVegas #TakeAKnee #EndGunViolence

Nelba Marquez-Greene lost a daughter around my own daughter’s age in the Sandy Hook shooting. Her sobering words echo and cling, no matter how many loads of laundry I re-fold or abandoned bowls of cereal I rescue and rinse or health care tips I attempt to write“Three Healthy Breakfasts for Champions!,” “Fitness That Fits Your Life,” “The ABCs of Managing PAD.” 

Disturbing how one mass shooting brings the others flooding back. Columbine. Virginia Tech. Aurora. Sandy Hook. Charleston. San Bernadino. Orlando. 

A gruesome chorus. And these are only seven that immediately spring to my mind. Too many agonizing dots populating the map. Too much suffering crowding the head and heart. By definition, two hundred and seventy-three mass shootings in the U.S. in 2017. 

So far. 

How do I distance myself from the approaching two hundred and seventy-fourth? Hard to escape relying on Netflix alone. Parks and Recreation my temporary safe haven. Ron Swanson, staunch libertarian, my savior. He’d probably cloak himself in meat armor to protect the Second Amendment. Though he has a teddy bear side, too. That’s what I love about his character. I think after Las Vegas, even Ron would move a reasonable centimeter toward middle ground. 

Or maybe he wouldn’t. I can’t predict his mindset any more than anybody could predict this latest psychopath’s. Time puts its head down and plows full speed ahead, at least for the living. It’s a little over a week since the shooting and the news coverage highlights his “undiagnosed severe mental illness.” 

No shit. 

I mean no disrespect, but that revelation is shit. (And yes, I agree mental illness was, and is, an absolute part of the equation.) That’s as obvious as the recklessness of the right to bear forty-plus guns. In the last twelve months, he purchased thirty-three. In online gun marketplaces, prices currently double and triple for bump stocks. They’re flying off the shelves. Buy one, get one free! 

I’d never heard of these sinister add-ons that make semi-automatics mimic the firing speed of fully automatic weapons. Until now, and now the NRA says “devices designed to allow semi-automatic rifles to function like fully-automatic rifles should be subject to additional regulations.”

The key word here is “should,” as in, “could’ve, would’ve, should’ve.” 

Before Las Vegas, a bump stock retailed for less than two-hundred bucks, a bargain for the high-stakes gambler and sociopath who outfitted twelve of his rifles with this perfectly legal device. 

The key word here is “legal,” as in, what a former firearms official called a “goofy little doodad.” (This same official recommended the ATF not regulate bump stocks, as they technically didn’t alter a gun’s trigger mechanism.)

Two-hundred dollars is a lot of money to me. I paid around thirteen for my kid’s Halloween costume, Pink Power Ranger, a jumpsuit with long sleeves and pants, matching gloves. Last Saturday I let her wear it out to lunch in eighty degrees, unseasonably warm for a Michigan October. It has its own “goofy little doodad,” a mask that makes the wearer look somewhere between fierce and sad with a hint of smug. She and I laughed about that expression, trying to mimic it with our real faces. Lips turned slightly downward, parted. Not quite a full pout. 

Oh how I wish that silly costume would provide anything resembling a permanent distraction. Speaking of distractions, the news provides many, none reassuring. Wildfires in California leaving thirty-two (and likely counting) dead, consuming homes and that breathtaking landscape with unprecedented fury, transforming those forever blue skies to an oppressive overcoat of gray. Harvey Weinstein, once legendary film producer and studio executive, ousted for years of sexually harassing and abusing women, his brother saying he hasn’t shown a shred of remorse. (May his prison uniform be a dirty white bathrobe. May his cell and every small comfort in it be wallpapered with #metoo.) Our President. Where to begin? 

A sampling of his recent tweets:

“The Failing @nytimes set Liddle' Bob Corker up by recording his conversation. Was made to sound a fool, and that's what I am dealing with!”

“I was recently asked if Crooked Hillary Clinton is gong to run in 2020? My answer was, I hope so!”

“Dem Senator Schumer hated the Iran Deal made by President Obama, but now that I am involved, he is OK with it. Tell that to Israel, Chuck!”

 “Very proud of my Executive Order which will allow greatly expanded access and far lower costs for HealthCare. Millions of people benefit!”

“The Fake News is going all out in order to demean and denigrate! Such hatred!”

“...We cannot keep FEMA, the Military & the First Responders, who have been amazing  (under the most difficult circumstances) in P.R. forever!”

While forty-five sputtered and spewed his everyday tweetstoo many rants to list on this page, too much nonsense crowding this head and hearta horrific story broke out of Somalia. A truck bombing. The deadliest single attack that country has ever faced. More than three-hundred dead. At least another three-hundred injured. The blast area the size of two or three football fields. 

Football fields. Garnering far more media attention in the USA. Our VP walked away from one, reportedly costing taxpayers about a quarter of a million dollars for the protest of a protest. The irony of his premeditated publicity stunt, a reminder of the right to freedom of assembly or the right to freedom of association or the right to freedom of speech, all American rightsno matter who walks out or who kneelsjust like the right of the people to keep and bear their precious arms. 

On the subject of arms, most of the injured in Las Vegas have thankfully left the hospital and gone home to the embrace of loved ones. Most. As the city and the nation inch toward “normalcy,” forty-five remain hospitalized. TV crews have packed up their equipment. The police have handed over the investigation to the FBI. The slot machines wheel and whir, beep and chime. Overindulgence proceeds.  

It’s been seventeen days and America’s New Worst already disappearing from the headlines. How have we come to accept, even expect this bleak drill? 

Recovery for those still hospitalized, those released, those trying to go on living without a spouse, lover, partner, friend, mother, father, daughter, son, sister, brother, aunt, uncle, coworker, neighbor, newfound acquaintance? A remote grasp. At seventeen days, a canyon of impossibility. 

Yesterday I read a moving story about a survivor who lingers in Summerlin Hospital Medical Center hundreds of miles away from her life in California. She faces months of counseling and physical therapy, huge medical bills without insurance, and no guarantee she’ll ever stand. 

This wife and mother’s simple desire: to be happy. Happiness, another unalienable right, something she isn’t sure when she’ll experience again, but a gift my daughter freely exhibits and gives me daily. An elixir of hope I swallow in every corner of every room. 

For Diana, and for all the victims, I’ll do my best never to take this joy for granted.