Monday, April 9, 2012

Top o' the Mornin', Office Friendly!

Joss looks up during her treatments, which we're performing at the train station. She spots a cop and she yells, "Look! A police office!"

Living in the big city all my life, I wonder at her malaprop.

Well, first I laughed at her malaprop. But now I wonder, too.

I wonder what's so new and exciting about seeing a police officer that got her so anxious. And then I remember that we don't have walking cops on the beat anymore. Even though she lives two blocks from a police station, seeing a cop outside of her cruiser is rare and maybe a bit odd.

At her age, most kids still view all cops as heroes. Mostly because that's how the police are presented to them. They keep them safe. That - at this stage - is all they need to know to make them heroes. I certainly don't want to shatter that image, certainly ot when she's of an age to not understand nuance.

But it'd be nice if she and her friends could see these heroes walking around a bit more often and being a bit more human.

I'd love for fewer urban preschoolers to be astonished when they see a cop. It'd be nice and reassuring to hear more say, "Good morning, police office!"

Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Should Be a Fun Read

These books that I've been working all have their geneses a few years ago, when I was looking for work and figured I should start turning my talent into some sort of payday.

That didn't really work out so well for me, but it allowed me a chance to sprout ideas that I'm capitalizing on now - which may or may not themselves turn out to fruition. But I've been having some trouble with this last book. I'm realizing that these works are gonna need some more wood-shopping than I had originally planned. And the these works about fatherhood are a lot darker and cynical than I find necessary or appropriate. Which is not to say that I don't value honesty, and, honestly, I was going through some dark, deep underground funks in those days.

But those were days before I realized I had clinical depression. A time before I had some positive outlets. And so I unwittingly scribed my therapy with the aim of publishing them.

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Some of the greatest writers and artists have turned their darkest terrors into fantastical fables. But they're fables, metaphors in story - one thing representing many people or events. To write a memoir is to tell the truth. And the type of truth I was telling was partial, clouded, self-serving, arrogant even. It was bitter, though I never wanted to be.

The good thing out of this mess is that now I have perspective. My story not just as a father, and often a StayAtHomeDad, but as a daddy struggling with chronic depression and trying to figure what that means. As a papa trying to protect my daughter not just from the ravages of the world, but more so, from my own worst tendencies.

 Should be a fun read!

Post Script:
That book has been released. Pedestrian Parenting, now on Kindle. Usually for the low, low price of 2.99. Today, for free! Get it.

Monday, April 2, 2012

It's Highly Personal

Freedom vs. Slavery.

photo © 2008 Tony | more info (via: Wylio)
That was the main meta-story in the US of the mid 1800's. Except it wasn't just the Northern abolitionists saying that about the Southern slave states. It was how Southern plantation owners framed the struggle to their poor white neighbors. "If the slaves were free, they would take all of your jobs, rape your wives, be a drain on the economic system, raise your taxes to serf-like levels. A free negro is a threat to our great civilization and will end your freedom as you know it, as well as their own."

Any of this sound familiar?

About a year ago I discovered that my daughter has what could be described as a "pre-existing condition." After several months of a persistent, standing pneumonia that doctors could never quite figure out, over Thanksgiving weekend we found out she has bronchiectasis. There is no cure. We have to treat her half an hour two or three times a day by hooking her up to machines.

Each and every day.

For the rest of her life.

I've lied awake at night, putting my ear to her chest as I hear her struggling to breathe. I can feel her air trying to go through her airways; they're blocked up with mucus that she can't get out of her system easily and automatically like most of the rest of us.

There are others who are in worse situations, of course. And I've long advocated for universal, affordable health care (preferably Single Payer, the system Canada uses). I'm not arguing for the Affordable Care Act nor saying that you should yourself. Good people can disagree and fight over what method best suits us. Yet, I can't, for the life of me, figure why we are arguing against the aim of universal health care.

Now it's intensely, deeply personal. If the little gains we received under the recent health care reform bill were rescinded (without a better plan in its wake), my child's health will be affected intensely.

I can't imagine a parent who wouldn't also take this personally. Or a brother or a sister or an aunt or a niece or a daughter or a son. I can't see someone with a heart just not caring enough to demand an immense change in the way Americans insure our own.

I wish that the current Republican crop weren't just trying to score cheap political points by comparing health care reform with slavery, or death panels, or whatever current lie is fashionable. Because it seems obvious to me that 1) universal health care works in every developed nation but this one; 2) leaving one-tenth of all Americans without insurance is disgusting, uncivilized, and un-neighborly - it leaves tens of millions of Americans without recourse but intense debt and allows easily preventable diseases to build until they become lethal; 3) arguing against universal health care is immoral and indecent.

As a former Republican, I find this policy to be anti-life - the main reason I was ever a Republican in the first place.

Much of the rhetoric being used against the new reforms assume that covering everybody is murderous. It's the double-speak of the 1840's all over again. And again, the people that profit most from these lies are not those that are defending them (with their votes or lives), but those at the top that spew them. The ones deploying this rhetoric actually have the most to lose. Consider the white sharecroppers who barely got by on the sweat of their brow but were led to believe it was the Africans' fault that they may die as poor as they entered into the world, if not worse.

The lie was, if the dark-skinned ones get free, the white worker will become their slaves. Forget the fact that they were just a step above the slaves themselves because of the practices and policies of the ruling class...

The lie is, if the uninsured are covered, there will not be enough medicine for the middle class, the working class, and senior citizens. Forget the fact that the cost of insurance is rising astronomically every year so that businesses cannot afford to keep up with premiums. Forget the fact that insurance companies employ teams and teams of numbers-crunchers to figure out how to deny care costs to people with "pre-existing" conditions (sometimes including being pregnant. Or, as happened to a friend and mother, having some minor difficulty with one child at one time). Forget the fact that it's a public health issue. Forget the fact that we spend twice as much of our GDP as other countries (that actually cover everyone) do on health care, yet still 1/10th are uncovered, a significant fraction is under-covered, and many more claims are unfairly, unjustly denied. Forget the fact that racial and economic disparities in coverage lead to tens of thousands of deaths a year.

I can't help but feeling that every time someone argues that any viable progress in reform leads us all to slavery, they are arguing that my daughter doesn't deserve to live.

Please explain this to me...

Sunday, April 1, 2012

Those Moments When You Pull Her Close

I take my daughter to ballet and tap dance class on Saturday mornings - far away from any internet connection or ability to lose myself in a cafe. Last Saturday, the mother of one of Jocelyn's school friends, "Jan", asked if we cut Jocelyn's hair. We didn't, I assured her, and the last time it was cut was a disaster - because few people know how to cut curly hair correctly. I looked over at a now-veteran dancer to my left for validation.

The ten year old, "Brenda", (whom I remembered had said something similar in a previous conversation when a relative brought up Jocelyn's hair) agreed, adding her own traumatic experiences. We both noted that there was a salon across the street in this little desert that advertises their propensity for cutting the curly hairs. Brenda added that her mom was going to take her... and then her voice sort of trailed off.

Being partially hearing impaired and used to voices trailing off to indistinguishable noise, I didn't think much of it. I tend to nod my head and agree - landing me in a lot more trouble than I ever need to be in, but in less trouble than continually saying, "Huh? What's that you say?" with large shells protruding out of my ears.

 Brenda is one of several individuals and families that practically camps out at the dance studio between classes, so she's often there for the entire hour that Jocelyn has class. Along with a few other girls and a few parents, including Jan. This time, the girls were joking in the dressing/coat room. Being the only non-Hispanic, she comes out of the giggle-fest to ask the other moms in the room, both of whom are Latina, how to say "stupid" en espanol. Both of the other parents wouldn't bite, telling her that it's really offensive and mean. She lingers, just long enough for me to look up from my typing and tell her, matter-of-factly, "Bella." She runs back to the closet and we three crack up. Almost literally rolling on the floor. "'Bella'? Really? That's a nice insult. If anybody gets really upset with me and tells me, 'You're bella,' I'd say, 'Thanks, you think I'm pretty?'"

After class, Joss and I ride the bus with her friend and Jan. The mom looks at me and asks if I know about the curly-haired girl, Brenda. I know who she's referring to, but not much else about her. And then she shocked me. Out of my pants. The girl's mother had just passed. Quickly, with little warning. They buried her on Friday. Yesterday. And the very next day, Brenda goes to dance class as if nothing had happened to fundamentally shift her world.

I don't know how she grieved, or when, still. Heck, I don't understand how I grieve. There are the stages, of course. But we all pass through them differently, in communion sometimes, but mostly alone. And I am not a part of this child's life: I can't mourn with or for her. So I wonder, for a brief millisecond, what I can do.

I can watch my daughter play on the bus. I turn to her, and I try to burn images into my mind of my daughter enjoying herself with her friend as they watch the streets pass them by.

 I can live in the moment and love deeply and madly and not have a single regret. That's what I can do as a parent. That's what I can do as a human being.

 That's what I do.