April 5, 2007


About a week ago I found my wife sitting alone at the kitchen table with tears in her eyes. "What’s wrong," I asked.

"Three kids were killed in a car accident in Chicago. One was killed instantly. The car caught on fire and the other two were burned to death as people tried to pull them out." She began to get teary eyed again...

"Were these people you knew?"

"No. Friends of Theresa and Grace... I mean you raise a child for 20 years and then this?"

Now things were becoming clearer. Of course there’s death all around, and mainly we ignore it, because we have to, because life would be too painful otherwise, but when you imagine a tragedy like that with own kids, it all changes. That’s the thing about being a parent. For all the cool points you lose walking around with your baby bjorns, you are forced to be more vulnerable and maybe more humane. Dealing that that vulnerability is one of the hardest tasks a parents face, because love inverted is an abyss...

A few hours later my son and I are sitting in a hot allergist’s office full of jumpy kids slowly becoming unnerved by the muffled sounds of other kids screaming as their backs are being pricked with tiny doses of potential toxins, you are finally led into an inner office. The doctor is distracted and exhausted, he keeps sweating uncontrollably and patting his brow with a handkerchief. I think how quaint it is to carry a handkerchief. He looks so different from man in wedding picture on the wall—a smiling young man in traditional Bengali garb with his arm uncomfortably around his bride’s waist. He’s doing paperwork and only seems to notice us when my son picks up a snowglobe on the desk. "Don’t let him throw that." he says. Then glancing down at the test results on his desk, "The boy has a peanut allergy. He had a strong reaction. It is serious, maybe life threatening. So no peanut butter for him."

"Do people ever grow out of these allergies?" I ask.

"There is so much we don’t know about allergies," he answers.

Soon we were whisked out the door... My son is glad to be out of hot office and the screaming kids. We chase each other home. Every time I stop he says, "More daddy more."

That night I keep dreaming of my son in school. Another kid offers him an M&M. He's happy. "Treats" he says. They're hiding away in a corner... He doesn’t hear me calling for him....

I wake up in a cold sweat, but when I wake up I see those kids in the car. The scene plays out in excruciating detail. In that moment I see my own life as a series of near misses. The collision in England. The crash in Texas. The undertow. The man with the knife at 2 am. My poor dad. Then I imagine the parents of those kids in the car who guided them through life and protected them from so many dangers but couldn’t save them from the one they couldn’t see.

posted at 01:56 AM by raul

Filed under: night musings

TAGS: doctor's offices (1) peanut allergies (1) unspoken fears (2) vulnerability (1)


04/05/07 07:51 AM

trully touching. and i guess that's all we can feel about it. because it's painfully impossible to pretend to be everywhere, everytime...anyway, if we could so, how could child ever learn the "costs" of life?
a few time ago there's this story of a boyfriend who was eating a snack and the girlfriend ascked for a bite: it was peanut butter - by what reason she never had told him and he didn't mention what he had put in bread; as she got a bite she soon died. and we can't go on living with tags on our foreheads...
it is plainly stupid to die these ways - because there we see death as (can't find better word) misleading; remember Gaudí? died ranover by a electric train? all the way: know salazar (portuguese dictator for almost 40years)? died from a head trauma after falling from his chair (what i mean is: a dictator should kind of die in a revolution - i know it sounds grave; what i mean is, in a bottom line: we think dead as a moment that has to be somehow glorious: to sing laud the few good moments on earth. and most of the times...it isn't.)

04/05/07 08:45 AM

don't worry, Raul, it's only the beginning. I tell all my friends who are new, young parents, not to focus too sharply on their children. Biology encourages the worries and doubts- after all, we are programmed to survive. I sometimes think that nightmares are there to remind us to be cautious and safe; to be caring of our social relations because like Marx taught us, social relations are everything. We are not islands..

04/05/07 09:40 AM

"...because love inverted is an abyss..."

That is so well-put.

A friend of mine recently passed away; young, like me, only 20. I visited his parents during my spring break. They're doing about as well as anyone could. Experiences like this make me question if there is a god, why He would ever let a mother cry over a lost son. That is the very nature of faith, I suppose.

Thank you for sharing.

04/05/07 11:45 AM

You are so right about dealing with vulnerability being one of the hardest things for parents to learn. Most of the issues I have with my parents even now (I'm 32) is with their crushing overprotectiveness. My two girls are 7 and 11 and I tried so hard to do what my parents did to me that I didn't protect them enough... the oldest one ended up getting hurt. My guilt is overwhelming. We always fail somehow and when I think about it, it's always because of the vulnerability thing. I honestly don't think people without kids can ever understand because as much as you might love your boyfriend or girlfriend or family you didn't bring them into the world, you had some choice. Parents have no choice.

04/16/07 08:17 PM

There's also a real live war going on in which real live 20 year humans are dying by the thousands.

Do you think your vaguely sentimental playing out of completely imaginary personal scenarios is some kind of Reaction Formation, or is this really how far the consciousness of outside life stretches for tens of thousands of 40 year old former Minuteman fans, now husbands and fathers, all over Brooklyn? I have always feared the latter.

Sometimes I imagine I'm trying to wake a 40 year old man up to the current political situation. I scream and I scream, but he can't hear me.....

I love your blog, BTW, and your writing about your family is generally terrific.

04/16/07 10:26 PM

I'm not sure I understand how you'd conclude this post about the discovery our son's allergy and the effect of that discovery on a parent's sense of vulnerability would imply that I don't despair over the war... I challenge you to find a dad in my corner of Brooklyn who has anything but utter contempt for this administration and innocent lives lost as a result of it's warmongering, arrogance, and incompetence.

04/18/07 11:10 PM

Everyone can describe the poop, the barfing, the sleep deprivation, but I don't think that anyone can describe the vulnerability. Perhaps that's why nobody tried to prepare us for it. What could they have said? Although "love inverted is an abyss" would have been a good start.

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