Crying and Laughing

The three words I’ve been dreading to string together: I dropped him.

My friends tell me: don’t blame yourself, it wasn’t your fault, don’t judge, it could’ve happened to anyone, it was a freak accident. The A word. The A word and I have a terrible relationship. When my kids say “It was just an accident,” I cringe because I want them to believe they have some control over that glass of milk. Spills can be prevented with more care. Falls can be prevented with firmer grips. If people took better care, we would have less accidents.

I’ve been trying to turn down the volume of that jagged song in my head; it’s the blame song. It plays in my background on a pretty regular basis. And I think it has something to do with an incident from when I was a kid. When I was 9 or 10 years old, I was hit by a pickup truck. It was after school, and I was running across the street to the ice cream man. I remember falling. I remember my head banging against the license plate. I remember my knees were bleeding and little rocks were embedded in my palms. People huddled around me. I remember limping back home as fast as I could with no ice cream. That night when my parents returned home from work, I got in big trouble for not being more careful, not looking both ways before crossing the street. We were immigrants. We were on survival mode. We were not allowed accidents. There was no room, no time, no money for broken bones or death. Their panicked discipline erupted from fear. And I suppose on some level, it worked. I never again got hit by a moving vehicle.

But the incident left a deep enough impression on me to affect how I raise my kids and how I relate to this beautiful and awful world full of people prone to accidents. Am I blaming my parents for my instinct to blame? When something goes wrong, I am quick to blame and quick to anger. John tells me there’s no room for anger in any of this. It’s easy for him to say because anger has no appeal to him. When something goes wrong, my husband heads straight to sadness, while I have to make a few stops pointing my finger and fuming before I reach that sweet and gentle land of sadness where it’s all right to be vulnerable, where you can actually start to feel yourself heal. I guess there’s no one way to mourn. We mourn as we are. I’m going to use all my resources and make all the stops I need to heal. Blame, anger, sadness, tears and laughter.

Yesterday, our 7-year-old came home from school and told us how her day went. The class had gotten word that she had lost her puppy. After all the hugs and words of comfort, the one curious boy who had to get the details of the puppy’s remains came up to her and asked, “So, what happened to the dog’s body?”

Ellie, with all her seven years of building a multisyllabic vocabulary, answered, “He was decimated.”

I imagine the boy going home and asking about the meaning of the word and his parents telling him that the word was used by the Roman army a long time ago, that it means to kill one in every ten soldiers who was a traitor or a coward. Decem is Latin for ten. And how it has now come to mean mass destruction. I imagine the boy furrowing his brow, trying to make sense, trying to bring together the images of Roman soldiers, mass destruction, the number ten and puppies all loose in his head.

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Published in: on December 5, 2012 at 1:16 pm  Comments (2)  

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2 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. Beautiful. Obviously, one of the important steps in your healing is to process through writing. Thank you for sharing this with us. I wish you peace. I know you are decimated.

  2. For what it’s worth, there sure is a lot of hindsight in that first paragraph.


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