Enough

I had left the phone at one of the hospice sites the other day and one of my favorite nurses grabbed it for me.  I felt somewhat liberated without the phone for 48 hours and then somewhat giddy when I got it back in one piece. Instant connection is something I have gotten used to, like too much caffeine.   We were busy getting to where we were going and getting ready to see who we needed to see, so seeing that the battery had gone down to 2% I left it alone until I got a break between seeing patient number three and an upcoming meeting.  With a few quiet moments to myself I checked what I had missed. It was 11:30   my time.

32 minutes prior a text was sent to me and to her Dad.  Lulu writes “You will hear this on the news I’m sure. School shooting going on at the high school in Aztec.Currently my class is in lock down and we are safe”.  

Then a few texts out to her from her Dad and a second text at 11:29 that she was ok.   I left a message on her phone and was able to talk to her a few hours later.  “The kids have all been evacuated, but we just went back into lockdown because there were more shots fired in the park down the road.”  She started to tell me what it was like for her and then “Mom, gotta go, they are evacuating us.”  There were reports going around that were later corrected, but in the moment, it was confusing and sacary for both of us.

My words to her, “Call me when you get home, I love you.”

6:09  my time she texted, “Home”. 

Lulu is a first grade teacher in one of the grade schools in Aztec. She has 20 little lambs to teach and to shepherd over.  The town of Aztec is pretty small, around 6500, so basically everybody knows everybody. In the top North East corner of New Mexico, it is close enough for her and a couple of other district teachers to commute to and from Durango. Aztec is as much her community as Durango and I am glad she has her carpool buddies. She will need them.

A couple of weeks ago there was a teacher’s meeting where the issue of having a plan for an active shooter came up.  There wasn’t a plan.  The principal of the school and the teachers put one in place.  She practiced it with her class on Monday.  MONDAY.   

She had just started her class and over the emergency system came the message that there was an active shooter.   She did was she was trained to do and locked the door, gathered the students, pushed the kids cubbies loaded with stuff against the door.  She flipped the tables and arranged them as a barricade in the corner away from the windows and kept the children quiet and calm for 2 and half hours while clutching a pair of scissors in her hand for just in case.

She knew the protocol to unlock the door for the principal when she got the signal and she got the children to the spot where they could be picked up. She said “Mom, I could see what was going on outside and hear all the cop cars and helicopters going by and I knew kids were killed over at the high school. I could see people outside the window and I knew what was going on, but I haven’t stopped shaking. ”  

Did the kids know? I asked.

“No, they knew it was a real and not a drill, but they didn’t know it was a shooting.  They can learn that from their parents” she replied.

We have spoken a few times over the past 48 hours.  She knew one of the victims Casey Marquez, not the other, but knew that his nickname was Paco.

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She also said that the shooter was the uncle of one of her students from last year.  That he had gone to the high school to kill some kids before he killed himself.  She knows a couple of teachers who were in the High School that day.  Undoubtably her students will return to school next week and she will be processing this whole thing for weeks to come.

Even though the shooting was at a different school, her students are effected, she is effected and I by proxy as her mother, am effected. She and another teaching buddy were out yesterday at a cafe and a stranger who had overheard them talking about the shooting came up to them, bought them lunch and thanked them for keeping the kids safe.    They had heard about the shooting on the news the day before and they were effected.   We should all be effected.

Here is the thing.  Lulu is a teacher,  not a trained combat soldier  She is a first grade teacher who, not knowing if the shooting was in her school or not, responded by making sure that the 20 little souls in her care were as safe as possible and she armed herself. Not only with a pair of scissors, but more importantly with the courage and conviction to keep the children safe and did so with the confidence from training for an event such as this,  just three days prior.  The kids knew what to do and 20 First Graders were in lockdown for over 2 hours without a meltdown.

I didn’t see the shooting on the news Thursday night.  I was able to get on-line and get bits from new releases, but I didn’t see a story.  It felt odd, then I was enraged that a school shooting didn’t make the national news, as if we have gotten so used to hearing about mass violence, that three dead is not considered national news.

The President didn’t make a comment about it, not one tweet.  Just let that sink in for a moment.  The President has tweeted about his support for this guy. imgres.jpg

And he twitted about fake news, but he didn’t say anything about the lives lost. Or the teachers that responded, or about a community that is hurting.  Nothing. Perhaps it is better that way.  What can he say at this point?

There has now been some national coverage, and some friends who had heard the story from me told me they have heard about it on the radio or saw a quick bit on the cable news.  New Mexico is seen as a strong Republican State and the NRA is popular in New Mexico, I wonder if there is a correlation between those two things and lack of media coverage?  Lulu said that at a candlelit vigil the night of the shooting there were people with vile signs that said “Arm the teachers”.   Is this the new response, ignore or incite?

I just can’t.  I had felt liberated by being disconnected for a short time and now reunited with my phone and thus connected to my child by text and calls, I feel better.  But I don’t feel better about where we are as a nation. I want to disconnect from all of the stuff that is going on, as if somehow by disconnecting the idiocy, it will go away.  Well is hasn’t and it won’t if I avoid it. I must continue to face it and by doing such be moved to action where I become part of the change, not a part of the problem.

How do you tell a Mob Boss to quit smoking?

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I had a great conversation with Mum yesterday.  We were talking about politics and ethics and social justice. We talked about those that reach out to everybody and those that for what ever reason, push those that are different away.

And that lead to a bunch of family stories most I knew and this new one I had never heard. Grandaddy was a surgeon here in Boston and was one of the first in the world to successfully open the chest cavity to do either lung or heart surgery.  His main thing was lungs and he was one of the first to connect the effects of smoking to lung disease.  Mum said that when President Eisenhower had his heart attack, Grandaddy was flown out to Denver as part of the medical team.  That story did not surprise me, I grew up hearing stories about some of his patients that were heads of state, famous actors and the like.  These were pre-Hippa days, and often the family would receive gifts from “grateful patients”.

That was a category.

Pointing to a crate of oranges, “Hey Mamie, where did this come from? ” Or looking at the delivery of giant flower arrangements, “who sent these?”  “A grateful patient Dearie, a grateful patient.”

The story I didn’t know was about that time when he operated on big time Crime Boss Raymond Patriarca and there were detailed cars parked outside of the house for a week or so.  Mum said the cars were FBI or CIA.  I am not so sure about that.  “We had to lock the doors, and we never locked the doors” said Mum.  “We couldn’t go anywhere until it was over”.

What was the issue?  “Well I guess there would have been an issue if Patriarca didn’t make it off the table.  It was life and death you know.” Mum quipped.

I guess he didn’t discriminate.  He treated everyone about he same.  Gave me lecture upon lecture about smoking and I am sure he gave that same lecture to the Mob Boss.

This is what I know about Grandaddy. He was a diehard Republican who I argued with during the Ronny Ray-gun years. At family dinners, we would get going about it until Mamie felt it was going nowhere and would say, “My, the battleships are a lovely shade of gray this year”.  He taught me to fish, to gut that fish on the spot, to chop wood and to how to stack it.  He told me that I could do anything if I put my mind to it.  He once sent me a letter at camp impressing upon me how important communication was.  He had his secretary type it for him.  I wish I had kept that letter.   He was human like the rest of us.

What I did see was that he pumped his own gas, but he drove a Saab.  He talked to the guy behind the Dunkin Donuts counter with the same intent as international guests at his table.  He impressed upon me to never think less of someone doing manual labor, for we all should do what we can with the gifts we are given.  If he had to go out at night, he often wore his PJs under his suit because he liked to get his sleep.

He was a product of his generation, born in 1901 and in Peru Nebraska.  He was motivated to do something after watching the fall out from the 1918 flu.  and the Great White Plague.    He didn’t get everything right, but he did instill the notion that one should find their purpose and do it. His was fighting Lung disease.  He literally saved lives, and from what I remember and what I have learned, he never checked to see what the patient’s background was; religious, economic, political or otherwise before he operated.  We all bleed red.

I would have liked to have been a fly on the wall then he lectured the Boss about quitting smoking.  He could not help to give that lecture to anyone at anytime. He was asked to speak at my 6th grade graduation and I was mortified when he gave the no smoking lecture to the whole school.  I picked up smoking because it was so rebelous.  He once hauled me into his clinic and took a chest r-ray just to scare me.  I didn’t work, I was hooked anyhow.  I smoked ciggs off and on for years and still dream of them.  But I smile now when I see how his efforts in the early days paid off and for the most part, people understand the risk of smoking.

I guess he knew that the addiciton of smoking does not discriminate, neither does lung disease.  It does not care if you are rich or poor, black or while, Christian or Mulim, gay or straight.  He did the work he was wall called to do Mob Boss or not.