“I’m done with it…”


My youngest daughter was in graduate school working on her Masters of Social Work degree about five years ago.  She called me up and asked for help with an assignment.

“I have to interview someone about grieving.”


“What do you grieve about?”

“Gosh, I don’t know, no one close has died in years…”

“Come on, Dad, you must grieve about something.”

“Well, I guess the thing I grieve for the most, sounds kind of dumb, is I grieve for the time you kids were little and we were all together as a family.”

“That works, so what do you do to cope with it?”

“I remember one time when you were little, not much over two.  You had a dry washcloth from the laundry and I was sitting on the floor after dinner. You ran over to me waving the wash cloth and you said ‘I’m going to make you clean!’ and started wiping my face.

“I laughed and thought, ‘I have to remember this, this is pretty special.’  After that I tried to focus things I knew I would look back on as special later in my life. I guess they call it being in the moment…”

The next morning I got a call from my wife. My daughter had been in an accident. While waiting in her car behind a school bus, she was hit by a drunken driver who came over a hill at 50 miles an hour. He never hit his brakes. His Chevy Tahoe ended up under the back of the school bus. It was 8:00 am, his blood alcohol percentage was .21, and he didn’t remember later that he had hit a car. Six students, the bus driver and the driver of the Tahoe were injured.  My daughter ended up with only a totaled car and a few bruises.  She had missed being killed by a tenth of a second by flooring her car to the left into the oncoming lane, which was empty.  If she had gone right she would have hit several children and their grandparents waiting for the bus.


I drove the 40 miles to where my daughter lived. I picked her up and we drove around looking for her car, as we weren’t clear on where it had been towed.  When we found it, I realized how close I had come to losing her; the entire car behind the front seat was crushed.

I looked at my daughter. “So, it looks like you came pretty close…how did you get out of the way?”

“Well, I was sitting behind the bus and I started to look in the visor mirror to check my make up and I thought ‘No, I’m going to focus and be in the moment today.’ So I looked around me instead.  I looked to the right and saw some grandparents ready to put their grandkids on the bus.  I looked left into the oncoming lane and I didn’t see anything. Of course, I realized, it was because the bus had it’s stop lights on.  And I looked in my rearview mirror and saw a truck coming about 100 miles per hour, so I turned left and stepped on the gas…”


The driver was a former high school, college Big Ten, and Canadian Football League player.  Alcohol had cost him his job, his home and marriage. When I went to the yard to get my daughter’s belongings out of her car, I looked in his totaled Tahoe.  It looked like he had been living in it.  The judge ruled he had to spend three weekends in jail, attend three 12-step meetings per week, and pay about $4,000 in restitution.  My daughter seemed begrudgingly accepting of the verdict.

“Maybe he’ll get some help now.”

My older daughter was not happy. “He came this close to killing her!”

A couple of weeks ago my daughter was cleaning out the trunk of her car. She had bought it with the insurance money from her totaled car five years earlier.  In the back was a newspaper from five years before with an article about the crash and sentencing.  She looked it over.  Her husband walked up.

“Here,” She said, “read this if you want. But then I’m throwing it away. I’m not going to think about this again. I’m done with it.”

The driver had quite a few mishaps the last five years.  With a blood alcohol percentage of .36 he assaulted a man and called him a racial slur. The man, who was three-quarters his size, but twenty years younger, beat him almost to death.  He was in jail frequently for not paying child support.  The day my daughter found the newspaper in her trunk, he got drunk in a bar in Ohio and left at noon without paying his bill. The staff called the police, who put him in jail for disorderly conduct, petty theft and obstructing official business.

At 11:00 pm that night it was found he had died in his cell.

The Costume Contest


I trudge along, my head encased in in latex. Through two tiny holes, that do not line up with my eyes, the flash of the fire truck strobe blinds me further. My chest is covered with thick fur. It is raining and my latex feet are stretching and catching on the wet pavement. I yell and threaten the sky with my plastic caveman club. This horror, circa. 1966, is the torture forced on children once a year in my little Midwestern town: the Halloween parade leading to the dreaded costume contest at the local school. My friend Kerry and I began the evening with the usual mode of Halloween operation. Dropped off in town by our parents, we went door to door, holding out our plastic Jack O’ Lantern containers for the goodies to drop in. My costume was exquisite. Caveman latex mask, latex big ugly caveman feet, fake fur for the chest, leopard skin top and topped off by a plastic caveman club. Not only quite frightening, but a sure winner in the contest. There were prizes of up to three dollars awarded for various divisions and I was planning on going home a rich (cave)man. Kerry, on the other hand, had somehow dressed, well, just not up to par. He wore a half hearted pirate outfit with a beard drawn on, red and white stripped shirt, and a wooden sword. It was almost laughable, and I wondered if he would enter the contest at all. Soon we heard the fire siren. It was time for the parade. A light rain fell in the darkness as we followed the flashing lights of the fire engine toward the school (I couldn’t see the actual fire engine as I had to focus on the ground, through whichever eyehole lined up at the time, to keep from tripping). My floppy latex feet, which now had holes worn in them from the rough pavement, didn’t fit my shoes as tightly as they had earlier in the evening. As result they came off frequently on our promenade, and about the fourth time I had to sit down on the wet curb to pull them back over my shoes, it was too much. As they were wet, they wouldn’t slide on at all. Kerry had left me behind. In desperation, and I suppose breaking the terrifying caveman illusion, I snatched the floppy feet up and pulled off my mask. I would have to redress before the contest, I reasoned, and ran for the school. I stood for a moment in the front hall of the school. When the steam on my glasses cleared a bit, I entered the school cafeteria. The Mayor and several village council members were scanning the assortment of costumed contestants and I went in a corner and stealthily donned my disguise. Kerry wasn’t anywhere to be seen. Obviously realizing the folly of even showing up against such elite competition, he had probably called his mother for a ride home. The dignitaries were now talking among themselves in the corner, deciding which and how many of the prizes to award my costume. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw Kerry’s mother, looking for her son to take home. I started toward her. And then it entered. A huge, green fabric Christmas tree. Breathtaking and full size, sporting yarn bulbs and a crochet star on the top. When my shock subsided, I realized it was Kerry inside, taking the dainty steps it took to mince the spectacle across the cafeteria. Yes, a costume like this would have had no chance in a common, rainy Halloween parade.While had been hurrying through the dark and rain to my claim my prizes, Kerry had arrived early, slipped into the bathroom, and changed into the waiting virtual tree his mother had made for him. The little crowd gasped in astonishment. The judges’ heads quickly went back into the huddle. They whispered excitedly. I watched in horror (it was Halloween) as the awards were lavished on the hand-sewn conifer: Best 2nd and 3rd Grade Costume, Most Creative Costume, Best in Show. The cash bearing envelopes fell at the tree’s feet like one-dimensional gifts at Christmas. I ran out of the school in shame. And promptly tripped on my latex ugly caveman feet and fell in the schoolyard mud. As a minor public official, I was recently in a meeting with the local fire chief. “Do you think your municipality could donate $150 to the kids’ Halloween party again this year?” he asked. “Uh, sure.” I said, my stomach fluttering a little. “We’re just going to pass out candy at the park in the center of town.” “Oh, no costume contest?” I asked, nonchalantly. “Too hard to find judges, and not many kids interested anymore. I guess they have more important things to do after trick or treating now a days.” “I suppose so.” No damn wonder. Happy Halloween!

Respect for Positions

“When we’re judgemental of others naïve positions we often demonstrate a profound amnesia concerning the journey that we have taken. Our lack of grace only serves to insult the grace that was shown to us by others who helped us rethink our positions. Instead of engendering concern & change this amnesia demonstrates arrogance & perpetuates the status quo.”

Peter Rollins