I sit on the edge of my bed in the wee hours of the morning; staring out the window. Like every morning, I’m up before everyone else, getting ready for work.
But this morning is different from all the other mornings before it. Today I move a little slower, as the weight of my thoughts slow me down – I can feel the tension in my bones, the pressure in my knees and on my spine, as if I’m a modern day Atlas.
The darkness at this hour is all-consuming; winter has firmly reclaimed its grasp on the morning sky, keeping the light at bay. The stillness is somewhat calming, but is no match for weight of darkness right now.
Everyone is awake now. I hear my wife shuffling around in the hallway, and I know it’s only a matter of moments before my son will be awake, most likely whining for me to come get him dressed. I will have to fight this weight, and shake of these heavy thoughts, and put on a happy face, no matter how false it may be at the moment, because that’s what good parents do – we lie to our kids.
I continue to stare into the darkness outside, allowing it to consume me; almost wrapping around me like a blanket. I don’t even hear my son walk into the room, going unnoticed until he crawls up into my lap, placing his head on my chest. He too stares out into the darkness.
Breaking the silence that seemed to go on forever, he says, “Daddy, it’s dark out there.” The innocence in his voice, his warm touch against my skin, plus that fact he has no idea the weight his words carry, I begin to get tears in my eyes, and all I can reply is, “Yes…it is very dark out there.”
On December 2, 2015 the country was once again thrust into the terror of another mass shooting, this time in my home state of California. This time 14 people were killed at a company holiday party by a fellow coworker. I watched as every news bulletin, or update via social media came across my screen at work. After every article or update I read, my heart broke a little more.
After I got home from work I did my normal routine of greeting my wife and son and went upstairs to change into my comfortable clothing. But there was a layer I could not strip. One I desperately wished I could shed; throw into the dirty clothes hamper and forget about it, but instead it clung to me like a shirt 3 sizes too small, showing imperfection after imperfection.
My wife noticed it too. As I joined her in the kitchen to assist with dinner prep she asked, “Hey, are you ok? You seem distant.” I didn’t respond…instead I stared out the window between the kitchen and the living room and watched as our son played on the floor. He moved from one toy to the next, creating a world of adventure and wonder; his imagination fueled by youth and innocence. I smiled as I listened to his laughter and his silly stories. I could just picture the world he was creating in his bubble. A world of joy and fun, where everything is great and no one gets hurt.
But then my smile faded as I hear my wife’s voice ringing in the background of my subconscious. The question, “Hey, are you ok” repeating over and over. The realization that the joyous world my son is living in at that very moment is temporary, and that in a few years when he is old enough to attend school, my beautiful boy’s world view will be forever changed.
I broke down and cried right there. I crumbled into my wife’s arms finally shedding the layer of funk that had remained from the day. I cried, and kept crying. I cried for those lost in the horrific events of the day. I cried because I was confused how something like this could happen time and time again. But most of all I cried because I questioned what kind of world I was raising a child in.
My son’s reality will be very different than my own at his age. Growing up in California I can remember regularly participating in earthquake drills, while kids in other regions participated in hurricane or tornado drills. I can remember as a kid talking about those supposed events with friends on the playground, wondering what it would be like if a big earthquake actually happened. But hey, at least we didn’t have to worry about tornados; now that would be really scary. We had the freedom to say things like that because we didn’t live in a region where something scary and unknown happened.
Now schools all over the country regularly practice active shooter drills. However; unlike tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes, active shooters aren’t regional…they’re everywhere, at any time.
One day soon somebody will be telling my sweet boy something to the effect of where to run, or how to hide from someone with a gun. I’ll have to explain to my innocent child that there are people in this world who are bad, and want to hurt others, and I’ll have to explain what death is to someone who’s biggest concern prior was if he could watch another episode of Thomas the Train.
The sad thing is, one day he will ask me questions on why he has to do all this, and why people are dying, and I won’t have any answers for him; at least none that will make any sense, because there are no answers.
I look at the amount of people being killed in this country, at the hands of other people, and I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what kind of world I’m bringing my son up in. I’m afraid that his mother or I will be one of those people taken by someone with a gun. Even worse, I’m afraid my son will be taken from us.
My wife tells me that I take too much on, and that I can’t change the world. She also knows this kind of thinking doesn’t help me, it only makes it worse, because of course I want to change the world for him…he thinks I’m Superman, and if Superman can’t change the world, what hope do we have? But she’s right, I’m not Superman…I’m just a guy who is afraid…really afraid.
It’s this fear that creates the darkness. A darkness so thick it feels as though all light is being suffocated, and with it, all hope. So thick that it feels like the sun was forever extinguished.
I don’t even hear my son walk into the room, going unnoticed until he crawls up into my lap, placing his head on my chest. He too stares out into the darkness.
“Daddy, it’s dark out there.”
“Yes…it is very dark out there.”
All is quiet again as we both stare out the window. Then my son turns and hops down and begins to walk out of the room. As he leaves he says,
“Don’t worry daddy. The sun will be out soon. The sun always comes out.”
And just like that, I have the answer to all my questions. The reason why the fear won’t win – because the sun always comes out.