Thursday, November 01, 2012
Thursday, October 25, 2012
Wednesday, October 17, 2012
Tuesday, September 11, 2012
To Our Son Gregory on the eve of his 13th Birthday. Thought you might like to read about the account of your birth...on that beautiful Sunday morning, you blessed our lives.
Comforts of Home, Revisited
A child was born the other day,
He came into the world in the usual way. Harry Chapin
It started with a tap on the shoulder, rousing me from a deep, comfortable slumber. Actually, it started nine months earlier. Labor had begun in earnest about 11:30 p.m. on Saturday night. It was now about 1:45 a.m. on Sunday and Irena needed my assistance as the contractions became stronger.
We've been through this before. Four times to be exact. Once in the hospital and three time in three different homes. Yes, we are in a new home as of last May. I guess we have a strange way of initiating our new homes.
Our four daughters slept through most of the night, leaving us undisturbed. I called the midwife at about a quarter to five and she was there by fifteen minutes after six. Previous experience led us to believe that our new baby would be here before too long.
I tried to concentrate on the task at hand. The questions kept cropping up, however. Everyone had asked, "Are you hoping for a boy?". With everything that has happened with our six-year-old, Claire, I was serious when I replied, " It doesn't matter. I just want it to be healthy." When you have all daughters, just about everyone thinks that you are "trying for a boy" with any subsequent pregnancies. The question persists even in this enlightened day. Our daughters are as valuable to us as any children, whatever gender, could possibly be. We'll keep all four of them just as they are.
The contractions were closer together now and more intense. The warm bath seemed to help. I could only offer moral support and a hand to squeeze when needed.
Who would God bless us with this time? I remembered that someone once said, "Our destinies are determined by the questions we ask." I still had so many. We still hadn't come to a conclusion about a girl's name. Finally, about four o'clock, we had decided on Emma May. We had vacillated between three or four names. A boy's name was easy. We had decided that years ago. Are there any certainties in life? Which name would we need this time?
I continued to wonder, what will the world be like for our child? Will he or she be able to know the freedoms that we have taken for granted? What has happened to the last twelve years since our daughter, Mary, was born? She is on the verge of becoming a young woman. Is that really possible? Can Veronica be almost ten? Wasn't she just a two-year-old a few days ago? Claire, you’ve lived a lifetime of trials in your six short years. What does the future hold in store for you? Teresa, I know you were just born yesterday. Has it been almost three years since you greeted us on New Year's Day? The days seem to go by slowly, but the years.... Where are they going? Do they have to be in such a hurry?
"Breathe, Irena, breathe," was the constant reminder. Pain and pleasure. Two sides of the same coin. Women go through the pain of labor to enjoy the pleasure of seeing their newborn children. We go through pain in life, which allows us to realize the pleasures. The infinite wisdom in our universe is that both are there for us. Night and day. Winter and Summer. Pain and pleasure. Death and life.
I don't know why I was thinking of the poor, tortured children in Wisconsin. The little girl that had been locked in the dog cage. The boy in Indiana, who was repeatedly locked in the closet. The girl chained up in her room in California. The babies murdered in New Jersey and in Freeport. What could these people be thinking? Adults who were supposed to take care of the lives that placed their trust in them had become traitors to the sanctity of human life. We have looked forward to each new gift, waiting with open arms. We try not to judge. Understanding is beyond our comprehension in some of these cases.
"Al, come quick. The water bag just broke," our midwife yelled down to me, as I was fixing breakfast for our two younger daughters.
I ran up the stairs. I caught the baby's head. The eyes were open and appeared to be surveying the new surroundings. Then we heard sounds like someone was talking. The girls had entered the room and we thought it was Teresa. The baby was gurgling as if saying, "You can let me out any time now." Irena gave a final push and.... in the room where the love between two people, husband and wife, is professed, a baby was born.
Gregory Roland Tolliver entered the world at 7:50 a.m. on Sunday, September 12, 1999. Welcome to the world, son. Meet your mother and father. These young ladies are your sisters. You'll meet your grandparents soon. Thank, Sheryl, our birth attendant.
There are so many questions that go unanswered this day. We'll find out the answers in due time. For now, we'll celebrate your arrival and bask in the glory of parenthood. Gregory lay sleeping in my arms, resting from the long journey. The journey from darkness into light. The journey from love to waiting arms. The journey from what was to what may be.
"Sleep well, my son, sleep well. Tomorrow the journey continues.
I Hear America Calling
Vigil strange I kept on the field one night;
When you my son and my comrade dropt at my side that day;
One look I but gave which your dear eyes return'd with a look I shall never forget,
One touch of your hand to mine O boy, reach'd up as you lay on the ground. Walt Whitman
Friday night we gathered at the football field to cheer for the players victorious. The band played and the cheerleaders cheered. The poms danced in the clear night air. This was done throughout the area at different stadiums as it has been for years. Somehow it was different, though.
Sunday we gathered in solemn remembrance of those who will no longer cheer on this earth. We prayed in the stands where prayer is not usually public. We wept and God seemed to weep with us as the rain fell lightly at the end of the ceremony. A friend commented that she "really needed this" referring to this public mourning time. The words were comforting. A time for the community to start the healing process. Different faiths, different races, different ideologies. All Americans.
The images still linger. The crashes, the burning of buildings, the terror. The images of those falling or jumping out of the buildings. Flying to a death most certain when nothing else seemed certain. The pictures that haunt us. The sounds of the phone calls, as if calling from the grave, to tell family members that they are loved.
Father Judge killed as he administered last rights to a dying firefighter. Angela Houtz, 27, doing her work at the Pentagon. The heroes of United Flight 93, like Todd Beamer who yelled "Let's roll" before attempting with at least two others to overtake the hijackers and crashing into rural Pennsylvania. Todd will not have the chance to see his third child who is expected in January. How do you tell your children that their mommy or daddy will not be coming home anymore?
Faces, varieties, postures beyond description, most in obscurity,
some of them dead,
Surgeons operating, attendants holding lights, the smell of ether,
the odor of blood,
The crowd, O the crowd of the bloody forms, the yard outside,
Some on the bare ground, some on planks or stretchers, some in
the death-spasm sweating,
An occasional scream or cry, ... Walt Whitman
We saw it happen and we couldn't look away. Glued to the gore that was being shown. Shown repeatedly. How many time did the jets hit the towers? The inferno was like watching a movie my daughter commented. The heat strong enough to topple the towers. The soldiers sent to rescue who needed rescuing. The soldiers who would not come out again. Those who have chosen to serve and protect, the police officers and the firefighters, as brave as any soldier in battle. Will we ever look at them and the job they do the same? The rubble, the ashes, the billowing smoke lingering as a reminder that none of us is invincible.
William Feehan, fire commissioner. Peter Ganci, fire department chief. Steven Olson, firefighter. Yamel Merino, EMT. People who were doing there job. People who were in the line of fire, unable to escape. Five thousand innocent men, women, and children who will not be here for the next Holiday. Where do their families go for comfort? Was Susan Hanson, 35, allowed to hold her daughter, Christine, 3, before the impact? What comforting words could she offer her or herself? How would we respond at such a time?
I went to sleep with the television on. I would awake to look at my wife and children, knowing for now that they are safe. Not knowing what tomorrow will bring. The stories of those looking for their loved ones, as they held pictures up to the screen brought a sense of hope. The knowledge of what happened brought a sense of dread. The dancer, Sonia Morales Puopolo, who will never grace the ballet stage again. The doctor, Paul Ambrose, whose hands will not be allowed to heal again. The spiritual counselor, Paige Farley Hackel, whose work is needed now is in a more spiritual palace. And the list goes on....
I hear the siren going by my office and am thankful for the work of our firemen. I can't imagine the chaos in New York and Washington, D.C. last week. When will it end? and at what cost? My generation has been sheltered in a way. We have not fully known war. Now that I have seen the effects, it is not something, I believe, that anyone wants to know. We will know it, though, at home and oversees. How do you fight a phantom enemy? How does a country that has learned to love life and tries to find ways to extend it fight an enemy that wants to die in order to secure a seat with their Allah?
There are no atheists in foxholes. Unknown
At Sunday's gathering there were no outcries from the ACLU. There were no court orders to separate Church and State. There were those who were there for the glory of God and country. We were there in communion with our brothers and sisters. We were there to ask God to forgive us and to forgive our enemies. We were there because we had been brought to our knees and while we were down there, we had the chance to pray, to ask God's blessing on us and of those that are now with Him. We were there because not only is there strength in numbers, but there is comfort, as well. All of a sudden the world didn't seem like such a vast, and sometimes distant land. For a while we were a true community. The New York that we have envisioned, the hard, sometimes cocky, bully-like personality, was suddenly more vulnerable, friendlier, compassionate, and in need of help. We as a nation sensed that and have rushed to help. Washington, D.C., that bastion of bickering, political infighting, and deal-making partisan politicians, was now a place where innocent civilians and military personnel who help to protect our country had faces. The faces of humanity.
We shall remember September 11, 2001. We shall know where we were when we heard the news. Much like we know where we were when John F. Kennedy was assassinated or the generation before us remembers where they were when Pearl Harbor was bombed. The images are seared in our collective memory. And despite this, or because of this we have come together and put aside our differences for now, to stand as one nation, under God, indivisible. Our flags will fly, our bodies will be put to rest, but our country will grow stronger, not because we are more powerful (which we are), not because we have the best and brightest minds (which we do), not because we have the greatest leaders, but because we are a nation forged by the idea of justice and freedom. God will watch over us, because we believe in Him. No terrorist can take that away from us. Not today. Not tomorrow. Never.
Long, too long America,
Traveling roads alleven and peaceful you learn'd from joys and
But now, ah now, to learn from crises of anguish, advancing, grappling,
with direst fate and recoiling not,
And now to conceive and show the world what your children
en-masse really are,
(For who except myself has yet conceiv'd what your children
en-masse really are?). Walt Whitman