Summer to Christmas 2002


September 4, 2002

We had our first "normal" five year anniversary -- five years since Robin died.  Jessica's anniversaries were all occluded by Courtney's death eleven months after hers.  Courtney's anniversaries were compounded by Jessica's and then by Robin's death.  It has been almost ten years since Jessica was taken to the ICU in 1992 and five years since the last life altering disaster in our family.

We've had a lot happen.

Brandon had his Bar Mitzvah (Brandon is the younger brother of Lindsay who was Jessica's best friend.  She had her Bat Mitzvah a couple years ago).  I wrote him the following essay:

Dear Brandon:

             As you might suspect, the real reason many people attend a Bar Mitzvah is not because of the young man being honored, but because of his parents and the hope that they have that the young man will grow up to be like them.

             While there is the usual gift with this letter, I hope that the advice I am giving you about being like your father is of more value to you.  Your father is someone I really admire.

             Your father is admirable because he is diligent, devoted and decent.

             By diligent, he is hard working and careful with the things entrusted to him, caring for his family, his community and his employment.  You will find that there are far too few diligent people in the world.  Most people lack the discipline and self control to work hard and faithfully, with care.  Your father has that ability and that quality in his attention to the well being of his family and to the discharge of his duties.

             A devoted man is loyal to family and to God.  He respects both and takes his relationship with both seriously.

             Decent people are honest, both in being truthful and in working hard to fulfill their obligations to their families and to others.

             As you get older you will find that there are very few people who combine those virtues and your father is one of them.  That is why he is worthy of respect and why I respect him so.

             In your father those virtues go more than skin deep. With your father, they are values he has.  Look at what he admires in his sister Faith.  He admires her diligence, her devotion and her true decency.  He admires those things in her that are most important to him.

             I hope that you can look at the life you will create for yourself as you go from this day forward to when you are on your own, from being a young adult to being a ‘grown’ adult.  If you can be diligent, devoted and decent you will be worthy of being called a man.


I also worked on an essay when I was contacted by a child's parents over some problems the child was having.  We pretty much solved them, but I also ended up with this essay.

I spent some time with ----- investigating why she has had several people who hate her and who go out of their way to make her miserable.  She and her parents were concerned that this might be something she was "managing to do" (i.e. somehow responsible for) rather than there being something causing the problem that was not her fault.

The answers resolved into an interesting pattern.

First, the people she is dealing with feel safe picking on her because she does not retaliate and she does not provoke.  The class of people giving her trouble is pretty narrow.

Second, they are jealous because she is very pretty.

Third, the ones who are decent, when they get to know her, change.  She has had very good success turning enemies into friends when they get to know her.

We went over one example of a kid that was going out of their way to go after her. Finally one day, the kid said “You’ve got both parents, that blond hair is natural and you live in a house.” “I hate you. I’ll bet you don’t even have to share the house. How many brothers or sisters do you have?”

Like my daughter, this kid from our grief group doesn’t talk about her family history. People just can’t deal with it and she wants to seem normal. But with this kid in her face (the kid had just slapped her before launching into this tirade) she slipped and said “I’ve got one living brother.”

One thing led to another and by the end of the discussion the kid realized that ---- had gone through burying siblings and several close family friends. It was obvious that her life was not perfect, but that she was happy because she chose to do her best to find things in life to be happy about. That of all the people to choose to envy and hate from a distance for being beautiful and “having a perfect life” that, perhaps, there were worse things than sharing an apartment with eight older brothers and sisters. One could always share it with the memories of  those no longer there.

The girl apologized for letting her envy get so out of control that she just walked up and slapped ----- to get it out of her system. The two of them got along well for the rest of the year.

I think the real significance, one that applies to countries as well as people and groups, is that the kid chose to hate ----- as a symbol instead of choosing to hate herself. If someone hates you for symbolism alone, it can be overcome by disconnecting oneself from the symbol and becoming real (consider all the times you've seen a conflict where the parties have demonized each other). Self-hate isn't so easily resolved.

I discussed with her parents how she has taken the path of patience and of trying not to make things worse for the kids she has troubles with.  I pointed out that in every case the kids at school had resolved their issues with her and become friends.

Many of the things you would usually teach a kid to do when faced with a verbal abuse situation, such as retaliation or dismissal, just make the feelings worse.  Normal GAVSD (Suzette Haden Elgin's methods) techniques work as parries, but they don't resolve things.  All of them, more or less, can end the harassment, but not solve the problems -- instead they only make things worse for the harasser.

In a larger scale, people are tired of seeing each other die and of the human suffering that goes on in the larger scale. On the micro scale the way to approach the issue diffuses, is patient and kind, and is open when the other kid realizes that --- really isn't the demon they envy. On the larger scale, I surely hope people find a way to do those same things to each other when they act as groups or nations.

It is a lot better than hating.  But sometimes it seems harder to make groups see each other in ways beyond envy or demonization.

Ok, a lot of sermonizing there, a lot.

I'm happy these days.  I really enjoy my job, and my co-workers.  

I love my baby (even if she is now quite the active toddler) and my teenage daughter (ROTC and all).  My wife is so precious to me.

She is close to the long oddessy she began when she returned to school intent on nurse anesthesia (the CRNA masters program, 27 months of graduate school with the BS RN and ICU experience as prereqs).  That has been a long trip, going back for a BS in nursing, passing boards, a year on a med-surg floor, another year ICU, then Dallas and another year of ICU and CCU experience along with Rachel, with graduation coming this December.

November 14, 2003

We have a pecan tree in the front yard that we planted this fall.  Trees do better in the fall.

In our last house we had a pecan tree.  It grew well, then a storm broke it in half.  The roots were strong and it came back with some leaves. Then a bird sat on it and dropped guano all over the leaves that had struggled out.  It came back again, but had to be tied down a bit and struggled as the neighbor's tree spread and covered the sun.  Eventually that pecan tree managed to thrive in spite of everything.

Win said that the tree reminded her of herself and that by plantin one in our front yard of our new home she felt like she had overcome.  Now I feel happy every time I see that tree blowing in the breeze.

Christmas to New Years 2002/2003

Well, we had a wonderful visit with my in-laws for Christmas.  We came home to a lost checkbook (now found), a mauled dog (now recovering) and a wonderful Sunday Service.

I'll have to write more about Christmas, but it was great to see family and my in-laws were pure gold.

We even, for the first time in ten years, got all of our Christmas cards done and mailed the week of Thanksgiving. We are doing better, though there are times I miss the girls so very, very much.

Christmas Letter 2002

Journal Entries Index
Robin Journal One
September-October 1997
September 1998 to February 1999
August-November 2000
November/December 1997
May-August 1999
January-July 2001
A New Year
December 1997 to March 1998
Alumni Questionnaire
October-November 2001
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March 1998
August 1999 to February 2000
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Wallace 50th Anniversary

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