Triggers

Every day I read about the increasing gun violence in America. It truly amazes me that these shootings take place on a daily basis. Gosh, when is it enough?

When I worked in Dallas there was a guy named Don. Worked in the mailroom and then was promoted to management. Can’t remember if it was a temporary position. It was a time of growth in this particular office and we were filling spots everywhere.

Don would poke his head in my office and say good morning with a huge smile. Some folks thought he was sucking up to management. I didn’t care. Would rather have someone making an effort to stop and be friendly. More flies with honey than vinegar as the saying goes.

On cold days he would sometimes laugh and say he thought of me on the way to work. Because he once heard me kvetching about companies on the main road that did not turn off their automatic water sprinklers. In cold, RAINY weather! It was like a death slide into work.

Anyway, it is always nice to hear that you will forever be associated with automatic sprinklers.

Don’s wife worked in the office as a customer service representative. His son was also employed by the company.

The marriage went south. He and his wife split up. Not sure why. But it happens.

He kept company with one of our female employees. And I heard rumors that he also kept company with a crack pipe. Not sure when exactly these two things came into play. But rumors were rampant in an office that size so I didn’t pay too much attention.

So who knows what came first? The chicken or the crack pipe?

What I do know is this. One October morning in 1997 a group of us were heading to the Texas State Fair for the day. Under the guise of team building.

But before we left the office that morning we learned that Don was dead.

The girl he had been spending time with shot him. More than once. She then turned the gun on herself. Ending her life also. That’s what was reported to us. I suppose based on blood splattered walls and who was left with the smoking gun in hand.

Terrible.

I had no idea that this young woman carried a gun in her purse. And I heard, after this horrible thing, that she had. Quite frankly, the thought wouldn’t have even occurred to me back then.

My job in Dallas was managing attendance and disability. And many times disciplining and terminating employees who showed no improvement.

This gal with the gun was not assigned to me. She reported to my friend, Kim, who was in the office right next door to me. They met on more than one occasion. Kim might have even fired her. My memory fails me there.

But what  has never left my memory is the image of an unstable, young blond girl sitting in my friend’s office with a loaded handgun concealed in her purse.

What bothers me still?

Same thing.

Schools, homes, offices, movie theaters, post offices, churches, malls, and routine traffic stops.

So many unsafe places in America. And so many triggers.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Why?

There’s so much I don’t understand about human beings. But I always try. Being a Libra I can’t help but try to see both sides. Doesn’t always work for me because I just get confused. Because I don’t understand a lot.

I usually get prompted to think about these things or remember incidents after one flash of television news.

Just saw that a Houston man killed two adults, four children (execution style) and was also going after the grandparents. Some type of domestic dispute. He was caught.

Guns. Don’t get me started. But that’s not my point.

Years ago I worked in Dallas. Huge office. About 1,200 employees at the time. We were growing like mad due to smaller offices around the country closing and/or consolidating. Mega-centers being the end result. Anyway, had lots of employees in the building.

There was a young woman. Twenty five years old. Had photos of her little baby girl plastered all over her cubicle. Adorable. Obviously, judging from the many photos, the child was the light of her mother’s life.

Then there was a court case. And her boyfriend was awarded custody of her daughter.

She picked up her two-year old girl from the boyfriend’s parents for a court approved visit. Headed north to the Oklahoma border and checked into a motel. She left early the next morning. Hours later a hotel maid found the little girl’s dead body tucked in the bed.

The mom was rescued after crashing her car into the Red River. She was eventually put in prison.

I remember sitting in my office trying to wrap my head around it. And my friend, Kim said to me, “Mary, you are trying to make sense of it. To figure out the why. You won’t ever make sense of it. Or understand why. And that’s not a bad thing.”

But every time I see something horrible on the news I think about what drives these people to commit such hideous acts. Is it a case of if I can’t have my baby then no one else will? If I can’t have my wife then no one else will? Or the loss of the family unit? Is it the scenarios that they never could have envisioned when they happily said “I do” or when they welcomed a beautiful child into their arms? Is it that most folks will eventually cope with life’s loss and move on but there are others that don’t have any coping mechanism at all?

I don’t know any of the answers. But often wonder why.

 

Not Much Time

Yesterday morning I woke up and one of my first thoughts was, “Oh no! I don’t have much time left!”

I was not referring to my time here in Rhode Island visiting my parents. And I wasn’t thinking I was going to die that day.

But I was thinking that I will be fifty years old in October.

It wasn’t a sense of panic. It was a sense of reality. Which is something I do not always welcome.

Brought on by probably two or three conversations and thoughts the previous evening.

One was a conversation with my Dad about the afterlife. Sitting in a couple of chairs in the backyard. I won’t go into our private conversation about that but will share something that I said.

I said,”We only get the one life. And, gosh, it really is so very, very short. And it’s still okay if the life is good. But what about the people who never experience any good at all in their life on earth? War, abuse, slavery, hunger, violence, poverty, etc. Doesn’t it really stink (I might have said “suck”) for them? Never having a good life. The world is so unfair.”

Then I had a lengthy telephone conversation with my girlfriend that evening. We talked about many things but life and death also popped up during the chat.

And my best friend’s dad who lives a block over from my parents was admitted to the hospital the previous day.

These visits home always prompt thoughts (more than usual) of people I used to work with that have died.

Then, of course, no matter which way I turn in my old neighborhood I see the homes of people who are no longer alive. People that were a part of my daily landscape when I was growing up. Always there.

So, I think all of these thoughts got smooshed around in my head during REM time. And I woke up with the thought that I don’t have much time left.

See, my first fifty years seem to have flown by so quickly. That’s the reality check.

This post is not meant to be a downer. The visit has been great. It’s just that a bunch of similar thoughts converged one evening. It really is a reminder for me that I do have to make sure that I am truly living life and not wasting any time.

Because if I wasted time? That would really stink. And suck.

 

 

 

 

Happen Upon

Annie and I were in New York a little more than a week ago. Had a blast.

I always use the term “happened upon.” As in,”I just happened upon it.” Usually describing something good. Not black trash bags found in the woods.

My friend said to me the other day, “Only you, Mare. Only you.” After I told her about a recent exploit. But I don’t think it’s only me.

I think sometimes my curious nature might get me off the beaten path. But I also think that can happen to anyone.  And it can result in unexpected pleasure.

Obviously, we all have our own definition of unexpected pleasure and surprise. I have just found that some of the most memorable moments are the unplanned ones. Not all. Because I certainly have many memories of planned events that are wonderful. But unexpected is always fun.

We “happened upon” a movie set in Brooklyn Heights. As a result we (Annie, my cousin and I) were asked to be extras in a park scene. That was cool. But even cooler was seeing Robert De Niro sitting in a chair talking on a mobile phone. The film is a comedy called, “The Intern” and stars Robert De Niro and Anne Hathaway.

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Another cousin and I were driving in upstate New York four days later and “happened upon” a farm. I had been wanting to take the perfect red barn photo since upstate is loaded with them. Just as we were leaving to head back to NYC there it was. The perfect shot! With a spot to pull the car in without stopping on the side of the road. I whipped the rental onto the unpaved drive. Even though we were on a very tight schedule.

No one was around. Even better. Take a few shots of the cows and the red barns and off we go. No one’s the wiser.

But then behind a big piece of John Deere machinery three men emerge. Oh, shoot! I am thinking, “We’re trespassing and could get shot.” Then I am thinking that there are three men and two of us (no one else around for miles) and maybe we will never be seen again. Sorry to all the men out there for that being one of my thoughts.

My cousin tells them we only wanted to take a photo of the cows and beautiful landscape. Next thing you know we are heading toward his barn. That was in the process of being white washed. He said, “You know? Like Tom Sawyer?” He said it was a mess as a result of the whitewashing but still brought us to the see the three seven week old calves in the barn.

I learned plenty in that short visit. Could have talked for hours. This guy running the farm was so wonderful. He was intelligent and gracious. Answering all of our questions.

He showed us the cows that were bred and waiting for the birth of their little ones.

I asked why the black and white one on the hill had horns and none of the others did. He said that they all had horns. But they burned them off.

I asked why they would do that. He said that if they didn’t the cows would beat the heck out of each other. They have a “pecking order” also. Just like humans. Somebody’s gotta be the boss. I just wouldn’t have thought that each cow had its own spot.

It was a dairy farm. We asked about the surrounding fields of corn, hay, and vegetables in the area. Where did it all go? He said no veggies and the corn and hay fields were just for the cows.

His farm provided milk for the bottles my cousin bought hours away in Brooklyn Heights.

We talked about prices. And he said his milk would be going organic the next day. Good for him.

We asked him about the current owners of all of these farms. Were they of Dutch descent? Since a lot of the towns upstate have Dutch names.  Amsterdam, Guilderland, Rotterdam, etc.

He said that wasn’t the case. His grandfather purchased the farm about 70 years ago from a fellow who hailed from Connecticut. The grandfather was from the Bronx. When war broke out his grandfather only had one son so he kept him on the farm and was allowed an agricultural deferment.

I asked about his background. Was he also old Yankee? (this term refers to people who are descendants of English settlers that have lived in New England for generations) Nope, his father’s side was Italian and his mother’s side was Yugoslavian.

We shared family stories and I would have loved to chat all day. But we had a rental car to return.

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Now, maybe a farm won’t do it for you. Or a movie set. But you never know what you will happen upon if you take a little detour.

 

 

 

 

 

Long Time Ago

I ran into the milk store on the way back to my mother’s house.

When I walked in I noticed a guy waiting at the register. We made eye contact and I could see he recognized me right away.

He said, “I haven’t seen you for a very long time.”

Yes, a long time. About thirty years. He asks if I am still with Paulie.

I nearly laughed. I said, “Who?”

He replies, “Your high school boyfriend.” Not huffily but as if I should have known who he was talking about even if he threw out the wrong name.

Oh, him. His name was not Paulie although his last name rhymed with Paulie.

I said, “Oh, no, I have been married for twenty-eight years.”

He then says, “My marriage only lasted five years.”

I then felt something like guilt? Because mine lasted more than five years? My intent with the marriage comment was a reminder that high school was a very long time ago. Honestly, I’ve got to learn to channel this Catholic instilled guilt somehow.

We continued to talk. I asked about kids. We chatted for a while about people we used to know. Those still with us and others who have left way too soon.

There is no explaining the feeling of going back home. After not living in the town for nearly thirty years. And running into people you once knew from school and the neighborhood. Sometimes it’s really good. Sometimes it’s sort of sad.

Annie had been waiting in the car and I told her I ran into someone. The guy in the store. The one with the tank top and gold cross necklace.

She said, “Mom, you just described every guy in this town.” It was totally an exaggeration on her part.

But no exaggeration on mine when I say that it was a very long time ago. It doesn’t always feel like it. But it is.

It’s hard to believe.

 

 

Birds Of A Feather

I was up before the crack of dawn. Thank you, Mr. Jet Lag.

As I was looking out the kitchen window I noticed clumps falling from the big, old maple in the backyard. It ended up being four portions of a bird’s nest. I knew there was construction going on yesterday because I had observed the busy birds doing their thang. Back and forth with sticks and debris hanging from their little beaks.

But this morning. All that hard work for naught. Wiped out.

Not sure what caused their home to be razed. A squirrel? Some equivalent to our tornado?

Anyway, I looked out awhile later and saw a bunch of them poking around the grounded nests. And I saw them each taking bits and flying back to the original site in the tree to rebuild.

I’m not going to question how wise that would be. I mean plenty of folks returned to New Orleans.

But it struck me. This nature thing.

The immediate rebuilding. And the community effort.

Not just one bird. But many.

It gave me a glimpse of hope for our shared human nature. Maybe war-torn cities can be rebuilt. Maybe missing girls can be returned to their homes. Maybe we can send our children to school without fear.

But it will take more than one bird to make that happen.

 

 

 

Reminders

I arrived on the East Coast after twenty four hours of air travel. I’m now like a newborn baby with an upside down sleep schedule.

I slept on and off during the day until my brother woke me up.

After dinner, Annie, wanted me to drive her to the local AT&T phone store just over the border in Seekonk, Massachusetts. So they could activate her U.S. mobile.

I had showered but passed on the makeup and hair dryer. Didn’t have the energy nor the desire.

Was totally rethinking that move. Just in case I ran into anyone I knew. Doesn’t matter that it’s been twenty years since I lived around here. The thought still crossed my mind.

Annie said, “Mom, you won’t see anyone you know.”

I almost agreed with her and then looked at her askance and said, “C’mon, really?”

But I threw caution to the wind. Drove for a block on the wrong side of the road. I blame jet lag and getting acclimated to driving on the right side of the road again. Made it to the store with no additional problems.

I glanced around the place. Whew! Luckily, I didn’t know anyone.

For about three minutes.

Until I saw a woman that I recognized from my working days at AT&T. She was just leaving.

I wanted to say hello but hesitated due to the no makeup, wet hair and bags under my eyes that rivaled midsized suitcases. I might have looked a bit like the female serial killer Aileen Wuornos. On one of her bad days.

Then I said to myself, “Don’t be silly, Mary.”

So, in the end, good manners won over vanity. I called out to her. And we caught up on people we knew and what we had been up to since we had last seen each other.

Of course, I was glad that I did. It was very pleasant. And reminded me of the good old days.

It also reminded me I should always go with my instincts. With what I know. How many reminders do I really need?

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