"God grant me the serenity…"

“…to accept the things I can not change, courage to change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

I honestly don’t know how many people are reading this blog post, right now. For those of you that are, I’d like to share a story with you. It’s a real-life story, not some fabricated, fictional reality that I came up with on a gloomy, humid day in Royersford, PA. In the not-so immortal words of a little-known tragic hero of modern literature named Roland MacNuff, “I write the following account not to heal the ills of a sick world. I write it to heal myself.” But this isn’t about him or me.

This is about a little boy whose name I will not mention to protect the anonymity of the people involved. He’s 2 1/2 years old, and he was recently diagnosed with an inoperable brain tumor. Said boy’s parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and overall support base have been closely monitoring his situation for the last few months. This week, we were informed that the treatments utilized to heal the boy have been unsuccessful. I’m choking back tears as I write this so bear with me.

The general consensus amongst those involved is this: do not treat us any differently. If you pass us on the street and ask us how we are/how he’s doing, we’ll tell you that we’re doing/he’s doing great.

As a society, we talk every day–albeit through blogs, Tweets, IMs and text-messages–about heroism. We see it in the men and women defending out interests abroad; we see it in the vigilante actions of a group of neighbors taking it upon themselves to bring a child-rapist to justice (not all law-enforcement involves warrants and supeonas, and I applaud those people for doing what they did in West Philadelphia a week ago). We see it in the struggles of a single mother to support two, growing children through Catholic school and college by working two jobs. We see it in the movies and we read it in books, but we rarely… RARELY get to see it in our own lives.

In the space of a few months, this child and his parents have become the living, breathing embodiment of “heroism” to this oft-times strange, redundant and rambling denizen of the reality that exists on this side of the proverbial wormhole of existance. I can’t tell them that in person, presently… were I to do so, I’d be going against their wishes. Act like everything is fine, Frank. Okay, then. I will honor your wishes, but I promise you: I have been, and will continue to keep you in my prayers daily. And if perchance you’re reading this, you now know that I’m thinking about you.

The point of this post? Perhaps I should say “points,” because there are many. Yet in the interest of remaining succinct and not over-elaborating with “flowery” yet pointless language, I’ll do something I rarely do: Be brief. In a little over a month and a half (give or take a few days), I will be a father. In truth, I already am a father. Nicole is already a mother, my mother and her mother are already “mom-moms” and my father-in-law is already a “pop-pop.” Cara already has an Aunt Katie and an Uncle Carl, an Aunt Deb and an Uncle Andrew, not to mention a million other Aunts and Uncles that have little or no blood-relation to her. I know that there are many other expecting and already-parents out there, existing simultaneously IRL and in “Web 2.0,” that may or may not be reading this blog post. To you, let me simply say this:

Love your children. Teach them to love you. Live each day for your children and teach your children to live for you. Sing to them in and ex-utero. Feel free to vary your musical selections from Britney Spears to the Rolling Stones because when they arrive, they may like one or the other. Hell, they may even like both. Read to them when they’re young, even when they’re too young to understand a word that you’re saying. Your voice will become a sense of comfort to them from day one. Listen to Harvey Karp. Hell, heed Harvey Karp like he’s your own, personal savior, ’cause the possibility of having the happiest baby on the block is better than doing nothing at all and hopingfor a miracle. Remove all bumpers and blankets from your child’s crib because the possibilityof SIDS can be lessened drastically by doing so. The doctors–and Harvey Karp–have no reason to lie to you. Swaddle your child because the doctors–and Harvey Karp–tell you to. If your child wakes you up at 1, 2, 4 and 6 in the morning, remind yourself that they’re only doing it ’cause they want to be close to you. Hold them close when they awake: let them feel your heartbeat. Wait for them to go to sleep before going to sleep yourself. After all, you’ve been sleeping through the night for the better part of a couple of decades. They haven’t slept through the night for the better part of their entire lives! Were I them, I’d be cranky too.

As they grow older, remember to do the following: have birthday parties for them, even if said birthday parties are simply a gathering of immediate family. Let them stick their heads, hands, feet… whatever they want in the cake… the damn thing isn’t for you to eat, anyway. If they ask for a toy, get it for them, or ask “mom-mom,” “pop-pop,” or dear Uncle Matt or Aunt Deb to get it for them. If they ask for a pony, take a second job, buy the property behind your house, build a fence around the complete yard, lay some sod and go get the best damn pony available. If they get less than a B in either Math, Science, English or History, take the pony away until they improve their grade to an A. And when your child wakes you up at 1, 2, 4 or 6 in the morning in tears because they just had a nightmare, remember that they’re doing it because you’re their hero or heroine. The first hero or heroine that they ever had, and they want to be close to you. Hold them in your arms: let them feel your hearbeat. Wait for them to drift off to sleep before going back to sleep yourself. After all, you’ve still been sleeping through the night for a longer period of time then them, no matter how old they get. Love your children. Teach them to love you.

As I prepare to conclude this dissertation, my mind hearkens back to the child that inspired it. I think of his parents, one of whom I’ve known since I was a baby. I feel an on-rush of tears behind my eyelids every time I blink, but I need to finish. Writers recieve grief every day for their use of cliches. Many call them formulaic, but as one, I see it differently. Writers find comfort in cliches. So much of what we do borders on the experimental. Thats all we can do to compete against the celluloid media moguls and the boob-tube executives. After all, the written word to media is fast becoming the equivelent of Public Television to digital cable. But one particular cliche rings true in my mind this grey and gloomy afternoon in Royersford, PA…

“Live for today.”

My thoughts and prayers go out to not only the 2 1/2 year old child who inspired this, but to his parents, grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, friends and overall support base. In the immortal words of a well known tragic hero of modern literature named Jesus Christ, “there is no fear in love, but perfect love drives out fear.” (1 John 4:18). There is no greater indication of perfect love than that embodied by the family contending with this situation… no greater exhibition of heroism than what they have demonstrated, and continue to demonstrate.

F.M. 6/11/09


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