Posts Tagged ‘death of a child’

The Deep

June 17, 2010

This day always holds dread and portent for me as it marks the day in my childhood when my best friend, Jonathan, was killed; yet there is another story of attachment and loss that also clusters around this day in the watery tumult of my psyche.

It all goes back to high school—junior year honors English.  Ellen was in my class and of course I thought she was cute.  I sat one row over and one seat back, and thus my year was spent stealing glances at her as my mind drifted in and out, but mostly away, from Jude the Obscure.

The very last week of class the teacher invited us all to her house and on the way out, with summer stretched endlessly before me, I somehow found the courage to ask Ellen out on a date and was elated and shocked when she said yes.  I had asked out girls before, and had a good long history of “no” (particularly humiliating was my freshman year honors English fail with the girl who sat in front of me as my mind wandered away from the likes of Pride and Prejudice—I could simply not persuade that girl, a full head taller than me, to go on a date where we would ride our bikes).  But in 1977 I had a license to drive, and so Ellen would be picked up in a car.

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The ghost of parenting past

October 31, 2009

this is a graveyardIt was a dark and windy night at the old farmhouse as we all found bedrooms and went off to get warm and go to sleep.  I had been to my friend Carina’s eighteenth century amalgam of charming rooms spilling onto other rooms, creaking staircases and a big country kitchen all sitting in a remote field in rural New Jersey many times, but I had never taken the little bedroom right off the top of the stairs.

And thus it was that in the middle of the night, with the wind howling through the trees and scratching at the cracks of the window frames, I awakened to feel that a presence was in the room.  I’m not really sure what happened next, but the best way I could describe it was that I found myself in a state that was neither sleep nor wakefulness, and in this netherworld I reached out and grabbed the presence that stood by the bed in the pitch blackness.  In this half-dream, or maybe it was only in my mind’s eye, I turned on the little amber reading light to find myself holding the wrist of a boy.  He was about ten years old with an open smile, a mischievous twinkle in his eyes and a wild tuft of bright blonde hair. 

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No Idea

July 29, 2009

bd irisA girl named Lily was murdered.

I hardly knew her, and yet I can’t stop thinking about her… and her parents.

After my best friend was killed when I was a kid, I overheard a man say, “God has his reasons,” and that was the final straw in my tenuous belief in the God I was raised with.  And if I learned anything from that experience, it is that platitudes hurt more than they help in the face of abject despair.  My friend’s death was an accident.  Lily was killed deliberately.  The truth has some very dark stuff in it that none of us understand.

So, just in case it helps, please send love to Lily’s spirit, and to her parents.

When we fear our children (biological, adopted or psychological)

July 24, 2009
Wide-eyed CoralineWith the film Orphan opening today, some factions have raised an uproar about an adoption horror story threatening to scare potential parents away from adopting (  I don’t think this is going to happen any more than Fatal Attraction managed to put the kibosh on married men seducing women (disturbed or otherwise) and later wishing they hadn’t done that.

But like Fatal Attraction a film like Orphan taps into unconscious fears; the former is all about the Shadow Anima, the dark aspect of the feminine that gets projected out, and then is both desired and feared—an archetypal story that threads its way through Ulysses tempted by the sirens and re-appears as the femme fatale in many a detective yarn.  
When it comes to the archetype of the child, we have Peter Pan on the one hand, and then we have the demon child on the other.  What’s essential to understand as parents is that the demon child dwells within us, and cannot be avoided either via birth-control nor by battening the hatches on adoption and hanging garlic on the door.
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Parenting’s Scariest Possibility

June 17, 2009

A reader says, “I find the prospect of my daughter driving, and of her being a passenger while other teenagers are driving, very scary. I’ve read that the Pony Boyreasoning part of a person’s brain is not fully developed until the 20’s. Here in Bloomington, several teenagers have died in car and motorcycle accidents during the past few years. Most of these accidents involved reckless driving and/or mind-altering substances. Since it’s probably not feasible or emotionally healthy to put off a child’s driving until the 20’s, it seems like we parents must teach our children as best we can about good decision-making and try to deal with our own fears as well as we can.”

This touches on parenting’s darkest shadow—the potential loss of a child.  And I wanted to respond to this question today, June 17th, as it marks the 35th anniversary of my best friend’s death.  Jon was not yet driving (his funeral, the next day, was on my fourteenth birthday), but he was nonetheless a victim of reckless behavior—hit by a motorcycle while walking his bike across an intersection.  His parents, holocaust survivors, came a long way to have to face the death of their son, and I must say that the experience left me depressed, cynical and a precocious existentialist for many long years.  It also left me prone to a lot of very bad decisions in my teens—the very sorts of things we most want our kids to stay clear of.  So, what to do?

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