Tuesday, April 16, 2013

No Good Answers

In the car, on the way home from his Boy Scout meeting, my Nick asked me why someone would blow up a bomb in the middle of a bunch of people cheering for runners in a marathon. It was dark and I faced away from him, looking at the oncoming headlights. I was silent for a bit. Then, I told him that I don't know. I told him it was an act of pure unadulterated evil. I also told him that I saw,  in the photos and videos that I watched, that there is so much inherent good in people. There were so many heroes there that day. I asked if he'd seen any photos, hoping that he hadn't because some of the ones I saw were pretty gruesome. He said he hadn't. What a relief.

Then, I repeated the story about how Mr. Rogers' mom told him to look for the helpers when he saw a frightening disaster in the news. I told him that if he did see any pictures or videos, he should look for the heroes in it.

Tonight, I watched a YouTube video of a man talking to a few people after the bombing. He said he could only help one person at a time. I watched the clip twice, looking at the way this man's hands shook as he spoke. He was not bragging about what he did. He's witnessing, telling a story he'll need to tell more than once to begin to understand what happened to him. In all that horror, my heart goes out to him too.

We were almost home, driving through the darkness, when Nick asked me if bombings would come here too. I have never been able to lie to this kid, but I wanted to tell him he is safe here, that nothing like that would ever happen to him. I couldn't make myself say it. I've never been able to tell him he was perfectly safe. What I did tell him was that I didn't think it would happen here, that these tragedies happen sometimes, but it isn't likely to happen over and over, or closer to home. Lame answers.

I have talked to Nick about how he almost died the first time he had pneumonia. He internalized that feeling and it seems to make him just a little different than most of his friends who have not yet faced death. But what can you tell a kid about tragedy? That I'd die trying to protect him? That he'd surprise himself with his own courage? That everyone will die someday? There are no good answers.

You might already know that my dad died when I was very young and I work to remember things that he did and said. When my sister was learning how to drive, I often sat in the back of the car, listening. My dad was not a patient man, so I'm not sure why I wanted to be there. I wondered if my sister's learning to drive would kill me. On top of that, it was uncomfortable hearing him yell when she messed something up even though I knew he wasn't mad at me. But I did want to be there. I wanted to learn to drive. I wanted to hear him teach her. There was one thing he said over and over to her then.

Don't look at the obstacles. Always look for the way through.

Now, I wish I could wake Nick up and tell him that he will face tragedy in his lifetime - it is inevitable - but that he should picture the heroes and always look for the way through.

 Thank you for listening, jb



  1. Hi!

    I was searching for information on a possible orienteering course at Tolt MacDonald Park, and lo and behold, your blog came up! You have a comment on that in one of your September 2012 posts.

    Just wanted to let you know that I spent a wonderful 30 minutes reading through your blog. Very enjoyable read, perhaps because I see so much of myself in your writing. I'm a mom in Sammamish, den leader of our Webelos group with an older son in boy scouts. Iron Chef, hiking, dutch oven recipes, dirty dutch ovens... they all connected. :-)

    I just read this post on the Boston bombings and had to comment. You expressed many of the sentiments I was feeling that day. I just didn't know what to tell my kids. I won't lie but I will choose to omit things that might be more than they need to hear. But what do the need to hear? I'm still working on an answer to that one. How sad that there are people out there that are bent on making this dilemma necessary.

    My best to you and your family. Keep up the hiking! I don't hike either, I walk, partly from the huffing and puffing and partly because I want to pause and take in the wonderful views we have out here.

    1. Thank you for your wonderful comments! I needed that.