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Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Kids These Days

No, this is not another rant about the decline of adolescence in today’s world. So, feel free to stay on my lawn for the time being. But after I’m done, go away. [adjusts old man cap and hikes up trousers]

Actually, I had the chance to observe a few different children this weekend, either in person or over the web. Some of these experiences are touching, some heart breaking, some well, let’s just say it’s my kid and as bad as an influence I have been on her, she makes me laugh… and that’s why she’s still alive. [finger snaps, guns, wink] Kidding.

Let’s start off the weekend with Finley Pletcher. I did a hap hazard write up on her for Friday to help boost the opportunity for her family, old high school friends of mine, to get some additional exposure to their daughter’s fight with LCA. I could have taken more time but I was doing it quickly to get it up before the weekend because they were doing a fundraiser on Saturday.

I got to meet Finley at a concert this weekend and she is as adorable in person as she is in the write-ups I’ve read. She’s a brave little girl in a scary situation. We spend the early years of our childhood learning from experience. We learn by associating concepts based on our senses. Balls are round because we can see the shape and feel the texture of an object that lacks corners and straight lines. We hear the sound of a ball bouncing and know what it is. A big part of these experiences hinge on our perception based on sight. Not to rely on television as a crutch, but my own daughter has learned more from watching PBS and…. unfortunately, The Family Guy, than I could hope to teach her. More on that later.

I work in a field that is dependent on my ability to be able to look at and read information. And, on the side, I have the other business that relies on graphic design. Well, I know it looks like I’m blind or at least nearsighted when it comes to my work in that respect but just think if I couldn’t see at all. Still, growing up, I was a very visual person. I would have taken a movie over a book any day. That’s pretty bad for someone who had aspirations of being a writer. Even when it came down to books made into films, I was more about being handed all the information then having to do the extra work when I was reading. I’ve sort of shifted my concentration whereas I read more than I see. That goes with the notion that I don’t get to watch as much television and film but I am still not reading literature. It’s mostly tech writing, blogs about my line of work, or simply distractions from life.

But, if I were to lose that sight that I so dearly relied on, well, I’d be lost. To see someone at the precipice of total darkness and still being very much a kid and enjoying all the privileges of that age is very brave and inspiring to me.

Next up is little Selma. Selma the two year old granddaughter of my wife’s boss. Selma, and her three month old sister have an exciting and scary life. While they are both native to Southwestern Pennsylvania, Selma has spent almost half of her life in Vietnam with her parents who both work there. Her sister is going to be returning with them in a little while and will spend probably close to two years of her life, there, while her parents continue to work for the government.

Imagine being a small child and having to board a big plane for a 19 to 20 hour flight. All the little bumps and jolts taking you on a rollercoaster trip of sorts. Then, you are dropped into a distant land with no familiar faces. No uncles or aunts that you are used to seeing. No grandparents to come and visit and for a few hours of the day, your parents are gone while they work. Granted, at such a young age, most kids haven’t formed a huge attachment to the comforts of living in your native land. Canada is the only other country I’ve ever been to and for all the similarities between them and the U.S. there are still things that look different than I’m used to around here.
My own kid makes this list just because of her biggest adjustment. She lost one of her closest relatives this past April. My mother-in-law used to regularly babysit my daughter and when she died, my kid really put things into perspective. For being only three she gets a lot of concepts and knows that “Grammy” is no longer alive and, as she puts it, is at Kevin’s. [Heaven] We blow her a kiss every night and she is really easy going about it but there are times when she looks at us and says, “I miss Grammy.” Just last week, she broke my heart. My sister-in-law called to talk to my wife and my daughter wanted to speak to the person on the phone, no matter who it was. When my wife put her sister on speakerphone and she said, “Hello” her voice sounded a lot like their mother’s causing my daughter to yell out, “Grammy!” It devastated us to have to tell her it wasn’t. Now, she still has her other Grammy and they spend time together but losing one makes that one even more special to you. We hope she always remembers what a great person my mother-in-law was and never forgets their time together.

Lastly, I’m going to have to close this out on a sadder note. The final child I had need to mention was a little boy named Carson Rudick. My wife went to school with his mother and over the weekend, Carson died after a long fight with cancer. He was only five. The updates we received over his mother’s facebook page just killed us. We had just returned from a concert in my hometown. The lead singer of The Clarks, Scott Blasey, returned home for a solo performance in the town square. Although, he did not perform entirely by himself as two of his daughters arrived and took over the concert. They sang some covers with their Dad, including songs by Taylor Swift, Train and rounding out their set with a duet of Being For the Benefit of Mr. Kite. Honestly, how many children, under five, know that song off-book? Not many. Anyway, our little one got to meet Scott after the show and get pictures taken and once we returned home and had settled into our evening we saw the updates on Carson.

I have known people in my life who have had cancer. Some have beaten it, some have continued to struggle with it, and unfortunately some have lost their battle. And while the death of my mother-in-law was hard, she didn’t ultimately die of cancer. She had given cancer a run for its money and in the end a stupid brain hemorrhage killed her.  But a little girl, named Samantha, had bone cancer and did die of the disease. She was only 11 and was a fighter. She was the granddaughter of one of my former bosses, when I worked in a hotel. I got to meet her and saw, first hand, how courageous she was. And as a man who does not put faith in a lot of things outside of what he can see or touch, I prayed for that girl.  I prayed hard for nights on end. I asked for anything and I was never answered. That is what sucks most of all. A child with their whole life ahead of them taken from this Earth way too soon. I couldn’t even begin to fathom what my life would be like if I lost my little girl. For all the gray hairs and broken toys… that I didn’t contribute to, for all the Desitin painted walls and nail polished comforters, my life is constantly filled with joy on an hour to hour basis because of her being in my life. You truly discover a whole new level of love when you have a child and you will protect them with your whole being from the dangers that exist in this world.

So, for as much as I bitch about kids these days I just wanted to let you know that I still find inspiration, joy, bravery, and sadness in those I’ve had the honor and privilege to meet or read about. I won’t get on any Whitney Houston sing along but I do feel that the only thing out there that’s going to save the lot of us is our children. Hug them often. Hug them tight. Never forget the good and the bad. Give them your love, protection, and undying devotion. Raise them right and they’ll repay you in something more valuable than gold. Kids these days are special and we really need to be the best person for them to look up to.

And then, of course we’ll embarrass the hell out of them with pictures of their childhood. They’ll buy us just as many crappy gifts as we buy them. Socks, come on! We’ll put them on a golden pedestal and claim they are the best singer, actor, athlete even though they aren’t. But I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Now, get off my lawn and take your ball with you.

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