Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Wednesday's Words for April 13, 2011

Last week, the high school in our community suffered the loss of one of its young students. The fifteen-year-old boy succumbed to the injuries he suffered, having been struck by a commuter train as he walked along the train tracks the week before. The rail line is off limits, of course. Police routinely charge teens with trespassing when they catch them there.

This sad and senseless incident immediately brought to mind a similar tragedy that occurred when my late son was sixteen. One of his best friends fell to his death onto solid ice, from those very same tracks, but further down the line, where the rails span the river.

The day following that horrible accident more than a decade ago, my home was filled with teenagers, all grieving, and all whose parents didn’t seem to grasp the significance of this event in their children’s lives. “I told my folks and they said that was too bad and then they went back to watching TV.” Nearly every kid in our house that day and evening said a version of that same thing. So my beloved and I hugged, we listened, we mopped tears and we fed them dinner.

It was the one time in my late son’s life when I knew we were doing it right.

My grandson and his girlfriend, both of whom knew this young man who’d just died, stopped by to tell me of his passing, as it had just been announced to the student body.

While here, the girl called her mother to tell her the sad news, but more, to look for the solace she needed. Her mother’s response was less than ideal. Instead of listening, or offering sympathy, the woman told her daughter she was ‘stupid’ for being upset, that she should worry about her own life instead. Several feet away, I heard every shouted word clearly.

Teenagers are emotional creatures. They tend to look at the world through a largely narcissistic lens, and I would be the first one, under most circumstances, to not take too seriously any grievance or issue they might take up as a cause célèbre.

The death of a peer is different. It’s a major watershed event in the life of a teen.

Up until they lose a friend their own age, teens secretly and deep-down believe they’re immortal. Oh, they know they’re not, but death happens to older folks. Losing a friend their own age is profoundly significant for them. I wonder that some parents don’t seem to understand that.

I’m sure there have to be many who do; but what’s with the rest of them?

I suppose this is just the way it is. We all know people who are exceptional parents and we all know people who never should have been allowed to reproduce.

Does that sound harsh? It’s always been a wonder to me, that for the most important task any of us can ever assume in life, there are no pre-requisites. You don’t have to pass any exams, achieve any degrees, complete any sort of community service requirement in order to have children.

As parents, we all make mistakes. That’s inevitable. Add into the mix that the fact that our children are complete persons, which means, of course, that they have wills of their own. Navigating the waters of parenthood without major incidents of failure could almost, at least in my opinion, be considered a sort of miracle.

My heart goes out to this young man’s family. By all accounts, he was a respectful kid, gifted artistically. His elementary teachers remembered him as friendly and creative, and as a boy who very rarely got into trouble. He was a good kid.

But even good kids sometimes make a bad decision. And sometimes the result of that one bad decision is every parent’s worst nightmare.


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