Wednesday, December 06, 2006

Breathe Again

Very early this morning a casual friend of mine emailed and asked me to call her. She and I are both members of the same online stenciling group. We have emailed extensively over the years and have even talked on the phone, but we've never met face-to-face. She lives near the university where my son goes to school, but in the few times I've been in the area we haven't had time to "catch up" in person.

I called her and she told me how she had just heard on the news that there was a gunman loose near the university. The South Campus, where the dorms are, was in lock-down mode. She was hoping I could call my son and tell him to stay put, wherever he was.

Do you know what happens to a mother's heart when she hears something like that? It stops. I tried calling my son's cell, no answer. I left an email message. I kept trying the cell. I finally called the university Public Safety office - they told me about the lock-down and that no students had been hurt. No students hurt. Take a deep breath. But where is he? Is he someplace safe? I called a dean's office and the secretary informed me that a suspicious man had been seen in the residential area across from South Campus at 3:30 am. The police came to investigate and the gunman shot ten rounds at them. Public Safety was notified and the South Campus went into lock-down at about 4 am. Take another breath. Chances are he was in the dorm asleep, at the time of lock-down - meaning he was still in the dorm.

I finally heard his groggy voice at about 10:30 am. Breathe again. He had not answered the phone because he had been asleep. Yes, college students can pretty much sleep through anything, even emergency phone calls from mom every ten minutes. My son's roommate had an early morning class but was soon back in the dorm room after being stopped by the lock-down - they had all gone back to sleep.

I found out that back-up was called after the gunman fired on the local police - along with a SWAT team and K-9 units. They never found the gunman. My son called later in the afternoon and told me not to worry, everything was back to normal. Maybe for him.

Several weeks ago The Rev. Dr. Kate posted a a wonderful blog entry on proverbs, quotations and maxims, called Words of Wisdom. I have just the one for today:

"Making the decision to have a child--it's momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." - Elizabeth Stone


Anonymous said...

Amen - the minute you know that life is growing inside you, you become vulnerable in a way you NEVER expected. And the "worry" gene suddenly courses through your body and you worry about a whole lot of things that never previously occured to you. My mother assures me that this lasts long after your children are grown and on their own. She says the worry gene just mutiplies with each new grandchild.
Glad Alex is ok and able to sleep through anything - except, that one day, God willing, he will know what it is to walk the floors unable to breathe because of the worry!

Secret Simon said...

I don't have children myself but that's a very moving and telling quote. I'm glad your son is OK!

Anonymous said...

I have to sons and this post and the quote spoke volumes to my heart!!!

Thank you for stopping by via Dr. John's Christmas Marathon!

Merry Christmas to you and yours!!

Dr.John said...

That is the kind of fewar I have when my kids are traveling and are late getting to where they are supposed to get. It is the price of parenthood.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Sunflower, glad everything is ok
and I obviously cannot feel like a mother can, after all only women can give birth ...
but if it is any value, worrying about something beyond our power, our reach or our control is, well ...
just remember to be glad all is well!

Sunflower Optimism said...

Yes, Rev. Kate - I know about how that "worry" gene gets worse - my mom still tells me to put on a sweater and worries more than I do when my kids catch a cold!

Both my children will certainly know what it is like to worry about their children - I put the "Mother's Curse" on them - "When you grow up I hope you have children just like you!"


Me too, Simon :-) That quote is right on the money in my experience - and I have 21 years of mothering under my belt.


Thanks for the visit Janey! Give those boys a big hug. It's at times like these that you realize what's really important in life.

I loved the paper doll outfits on your site :-)


Yes, Dr. John - but a cheap price to pay, for all the joy they bring us (MOST of the time, LOL)

Ask your children to call you on a cell phone if they are running late!


Quasar, that's how I usually operate - very left-brained, always dealing in logic and statistics (what are the chances. . .) Yet when it's about my children something else takes over - maybe that "worry" gene that Rev. Kate mentioned ;-)

Anonymous said...

Sunflower, what a horrible day! I'm so glad your son is fine. How awful this person got away.

QUASAR9 said...

The worry gene? Is this a sex gene
Not all women have it
I've known mothers who can feel all the emotions you portray - yet do so for wholly selfish reasons, gives them a 'role' to play
Alas, all the world is a stage
and some play their part louder.

Is there a sorrow gene?
I get the feeling people really don't know which role to play at funerals or how to play it - totally cultural. Spartans were mighty proud to bury sons lost in battle. Romans and many others too, some still are
I hear arab women and in particular palestinian women are quite good at public displays for the loss of a son.
And we all know a lot of crocodile tears are often displayed at funerals -

Some sorrows cannot be consoled with a million dollars, others can be consoled with 3,000 dollars or even less. What price the price of a son?

Anonymous said...

Quasar9 - My sons are beyond price. Should something happen to either one of them, I would be permanently maimed and would not be able to go on.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Thanks for reading, Creekhiker. Yes, I find it unbelievable that the local police, Swat team and K-9 units could not catch this guy.

It's still a little scary to me, since gunman escaped - although I'm sure he's long gone from area. I just have to suck it up and move on - can't make my kids live in a bubble.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Quasar, I don't think we'll find Rev. Kate's "worry" gene anywhere on the genome, LOL.

I'm sure other cultures and individuals experience motherhood and loss in many ways. I can only speak for what is true in my experience. I would give my life up in a heartbeat - in a heartbeat - to save either of my children. There is no question or hesitation in my mind or heart.

If something happened to either of these beautiful humans I have birthed and raised, I would be inconsolable. I have a cousin who tragically lost both her boys many years ago - one from a brain aneurysm the other in a car accident. She is a shell of her former self - there is no joy in her life. I can't even imagine the depth of her pain and sorrow.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Same here, Rev. Kate - I would not trade my children for the world.

DaveM said...

Very scary and frightening. I expect maybe he thought you were worrying over nothing.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Well, Dave, I guess he did - since he slept through the whole thing!

I think the young have a sense of immortality - they look at something like this and say "no big deal." A parent looks at it and imagines another Columbine.

As a postscript, the school sent parents an email last night about the incident with several students interviewed - most thought it was a great opportunity to catch up on sleep - this being study week for finals. You gotta love them, LOL.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Sunflower,
I think it is not so much natural how you feel, as desirable ...
Even cats, dogs, tigers, lions and elephants care for and 'love' their offspring and their young.

But alas,pets we have, pets we become attached to and love, and pets we are known to have lost ...

The same with our older generations
grand parents we have dearly loved, and learnt to see adieu, ...
even uncles or parents we must be ready to say au revoir, adieu, ...

of course it is always strange when those we give birth to, or raised or come after us, are gone

but ultimately they are not 'ours'
just as we are no longer belong to our parents
And if we are to be all 'brothers' we need to do away with artificial social structures (hierarchical) relationships - these are emotions we construct

I am not saying we should not love
And we know the love for our partner or spouse (and father or mother) of the child, is different from that love for 'our' child - and different again from the love for our parents

Not only do we know not all loves endure, but we also know all loves are 'temporal' - and ultimate love is not 'selfish' or of the 'flesh'

Sunflower Optimism said...

Quasar, I'm starting to think you DON'T have children, LOL. Parenthood is not something that can be intellectualized.

I doubt a cat's heart would break if her kitten suffered difficult obstacles. I don't think a dog would cry tears of joy at her puppy's success. I don't think a lioness would put up with the years of back-talk and arguing from a teenage cub, LOL.

Yes, we mourn those who came before; we can only pray we don't have to mourn those who come after.

I must admit, I'm a little lonely in my "empty nest," LOL. However, I see two young people at school, living on their own, successful at their studies, involved with campus activities and community service. I know they are not "mine" - I can only pray that I have done a good enough job with these two souls that were entrusted into my care.

It is because I have children that my heart breaks when I read about a homeless child, a hungry child or a child without a chance for a decent education. My husband and I try to help as best we can and we have raised our children to do the same.

I believe love is infinite. When my second was born, I did not love my first any less. I think love for my children and husband has only served to increase my capacity of love for my "brother" (or sister, LOL)

I also believe love endures and is eternal - I believe it is the only thing we leave this life with.

Velvet Sacks said...

What a frightening experience! I'm so glad your son is okay. There's some kind of built-in "mother alarm" that shrieks at a distant siren, a phone call not answered, a daughter's first date with a weird-looking many things set off that alarm. My alarm isn't as hair-triggered now that my kids are grown, but it still rings every now and then.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Sunflower Optimism, you are quite right - I don't have any children of my 'own' that is why it is far easier for me to love all other children just the same - no matter who their parents are or were.

I am saying that society can condition emotions. Spartans were not 'encouraged' to create those strong emotional bonds you feel. Children belonged to the state.
And states who like to honour their dead with much pomp ceremony and flags confuse me, if there is a God, which flag does God favour?
America underwent a bloody civil war (brother against brother) before the stars and stripes became the flag to which young men now pledge allegiance in the USA.

PS - Elephants are known to cry at the loss of their young. And elephants are said to have long memories (even longer than humans).

Cows (and horses) are known to show distress if you remove their young from them -
how long the sorrow or memory lasts, is measured by 'smell' -
it is not easy to reintroduce the offspring to most animals, once a day or two or three has passed.

And lions, tigers, even bears and crocodiles will tear you to pieces if they sense you mean their 'litter' harm. Even lion cubs have to go to 'nature' school or survival camp - lol!

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Sunflower,
thanks for backtraking and the link!

Wishing you a great day!
And hoping your children are safe and well and home for Xmas!

Sunflower Optimism said...

Velvet, it was very scary until I found out no students were hurt. Even after that, there was still a little nagging voice inside that wasn't stilled until I spoke to him.

Yes, I know that "mother alarm," all too well. Although my husband says I can't act on it anymore, since they are both over 18, LOL. Sometimes children can only learn by making their own mistakes. We, in turn, can only hope that the mistakes aren't too costly.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Quasar, I'm puzzled by your comment "I don't have any children of my 'own' that is why it is far easier for me to love all other children just the same - no matter who their parents are or were." What basis do you have for that comment?

I can only speak for myself. I spent the first 29 years of my life without children and the next 21, to date, with children. I think my own children have served to increase my capacity for love that extends far beyond my own family. They have served to change my perspective of the world around me and constantly remind me of what is truly important in life.

I look back at my life and all the volunteer and charitable organizations I have spearheaded over the years. I know that I would not have done any of it if I did not have children. My children have helped to shape who I am as much as I have shaped who they are.

You say "society can condition emotion." I don't disagree. But may I offer that these conditioned emotions may only be a public facade. Who can really know what pain a Spartan mother did or did not feel in the private depths of her heart?

I don't know enough about animal behavior to have an intelligent conversation about it. A recent study done at the Bronx Zoo did demonstrate that some elephants exhibit self awareness.

As for your comment "And lions, tigers, even bears and crocodiles will tear you to pieces if they sense you mean their 'litter' harm."

So will I! LOL

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Sunflower,
You said you love the first and second child the same
I meant that most parents love their child (children) most

Whereas I with no children on my 'own' to favour over others, love all children the same
Everyone's children!

Sunflower Optimism said...

Q9 - what I said was "I believe love is infinite. When my second was born, I did not love my first any less. I think love for my children and husband has only served to increase my capacity of love for my "brother" (or sister, LOL) "

I never said that I loved the first and the second the same - they are different humans, how could I?

You obviously have a finite view of love. I'm a little surprised at that, you being a man of the stars, LOL. Perhaps if you ever have children, you will understand what I am saying. I've been on both sides of the equation - childless and blessed with children. I know how having children has changed my life and I am sorry that I don't know how to adequately convey that to you. After this discussion I'm thinking it is something that may only be understood by another parent. Love is not of the brain, but of the heart. And you know what I mean - don't come back at me with articles about brain chemistry! LOL


Didn't catch the Bush thing, sorry - nary a minute available for TV and spending way too much time blogging! Must have been funny.

Thank you for you kind wishes, earlier!

Kat said...

Oh Sunflower, I know just how you felt. I have many children, but only one son. If I heard something like that I would have reacted just like you did. I'm so glad everything turned out okay.

QUASAR9 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Sunflower Optimism said...

Thanks Kat - scary for several hours - but now it's done and we're off and running again, full steam ahead towards CHRISTMAS!

Sunflower Optimism said...

Q9, I respectfully submit that you do NOT know what I mean. I have brothers and parents and let me tell you that in my experience the love for a child is completely different and completely transforming - in a very positive way.

Having children makes me WANT to care about the whole world - "to care about famine, hunger, disease, wars, death, ..." - or else what kind of world am I leaving my children?

Thank you for your good wishes and the same to you and yours.

QUASAR9 said...

Dr kate said:
"Quasar9 - My sons are beyond price. Should something happen to either one of them, I would be permanently maimed and would not be able to go on."

Those are strong & noble feelings
(maybe natural too?)
But the world is full of families who have lost one child or more, and life goes on - some are more affected crippled or maimed by their loss than others. That's life
That's diverse human nature.

Sunflower Optimism said...

My point exactly, Q9 - Rev. Kate is talking about HER feelings - not the rest of the world and how other families get along after such a tragedy. She can only speak for herself, as I can only speak for myself.

We don't presume to know what someone else may or may not feel. We only know what we feel.

Betty said...

I am glad every thing turned out OK. That the man got away is scary because of not knowing why he did what he did.

Sunflower Optimism said...

It was scary, Betty. The gunman was first seen in the very nice residential neighborhood that is across the street from the campus. They believe he was looking to break into one of the homes there. Imagine what could have happened if the family had been home! I just wish they had caught him.

The Artist said...

Pleased to hear your son was not in danger, and what a beautiful quote.

Have a wonderful Christmas, best wishes, The Artist

Sunflower Optimism said...

Greetings to The Artist - thanks for the visit. Yes, I love that quote - it pretty much says it all. Of course one doesn't realize how true it is before one actually has a child!

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Sunflower banish the pain

Never mind Opium or epidurals, change your pain genes.

QUASAR9 said...

Of course that only deals with
"Physical Pain"
not emotional pain, worry or sorrow

The only thing I guess, is that if we all acquiesce - and become medicated to treat every human feeling (supposing they could do it without turning us into dopey valium or opium addicts) - then we would become 'chemically' induced, that which some aim to achieve by meditation and other means.

Mind you the world is fearless and ruthless enough (alcohol and beer the 'dutch' courage of old) image if people could feel no physical pain or fear of pain - there'd be ever more injured and maimed.

Sunflower Optimism said...

Yes, I read an article about that boy in today's NYTimes. Poor thing died after jumping off a building - he was showing off for friends. He mistook lack of pain for invincibility. Doctors said he would show up at medical clinic with burns on his feet and stab wounds - to make money, he would walk on hot coals and pierce himself with a sword. Although he did not feel the pain, the physical damage was the same - actually it was a lot worse than if he did feel pain. Pain is a protective mechanism.

I'll take meditation over medication, thank you. Even my doctor agrees.

QUASAR9 said...

Hi Sunflower
to leave comments on those blogs
who've switched to Beta

click on anonymous 'identity'
just remember to leave your name in the comment box - it does work!

And a great weekend to U2

sandy said...

Hi Sunflower, phew "breathe again" indeed, what a terrible moment for you, and know exactly how you felt. Glad everything turned out okay.
No matter how logical we try to be that ol' worry gene comes to the fore. Logic says "No-one was hurt! It's 2/3 a.m. he's asleep, he should be asleep with his cell turned off. But until you hear his voice your heart is not your own is it?

And that quote is so apt.
I'll be around again but have a wonderful Christmas holiday Sunflower.xjb