I had a bad morning, and when I say bad, I mean my three-year-old wouldn’t let me comb her hair, wouldn’t get dressed, and wouldn’t leave to go to preschool because we couldn’t find her beloved light-up shoes. She screamed. She sobbed. She pouted. She hit. Typical things toddlers of her age sometimes do when they’re frustrated, crave attention or don’t have the control they desire in any given situation.
On the drive back home after dropping her off at school, I cried. I didn’t handle the situation well and felt guilty for allowing the sweet relief of having left my daughter in somebody else’s care for a little while wash over me. Despite its truth, this admission is easy. It requires no bravery on my part. It does not make me one shred of a hero. Publicly admitting I screwed up as a parent isn’t likely to have a life-altering impact on my life or anybody else’s.
This is as good a time as any to segue to you, and what your actions mean for not just me and my daughter, but the world. My husband and I made the conscious decision to adopt a black daughter. We took and take great pride in the decision we made. We couldn’t be more blessed as parents. Yet our decision doesn’t come without worries, perhaps the biggest of which is how to one day explain to our daughter the daily injustices faced by people of her race, especially when we, her white parents, can’t identify with those injustices.
I realize and respect that you’re uncomfortable being a called a hero because you said “there are no winners in the situation,” and yes, you are right. What you witnessed has led to great heartache and anger. It will go on fueling outrage and causing people senseless pain.
But I believe what you alone recorded and came forth with will also lead to critical change. That terrible footage from your cell phone has put the movement that black lives matter—that my daughter’s life matters—in searing black and white.
If courage is defined as the ability to do something you know is difficult or dangerous, you are, without a doubt, the very definition of the word.
Wishing you, your family and the Charleston community peace,
Yes, I do believe there are times when funny doesn’t work. The news of the fatal shooting of Walter Scott is one of those times.
I have one and use it regularly, but cell phones often irritate me. Their constant presence in the grocery store, behind the wheel, at the dinner table, in the public godforsaken restroom–it’s as if we can’t handle one millisecond of being alone with nothing more than the sound of our own thoughts.
Well, here’s an instance when I am going to go ahead and proclaim: “Thank God for cell phones.”
That’s all I’m going to proclaim about my latest letter, which is serious and I take seriously.
For those looking to read more about Feidin and this story, be sure to check out these five facts:
This is a shot of me and my husband and some high school friends of ours, including Kurt Signeski, who recently (and suddenly) passed away. I hadn’t seen Kurt in a while and I certainly didn’t know much about what was going on with or in his life. Nevertheless, I was troubled by his death. Not that I’m not troubled by other people’s deaths, but Kurt’s really got to me. Maybe because he was an old friend and maybe because he was my age. It just hit a little too close to home. It felt important to me to write something about his funeral, about what people there had to say about his life, because I wanted to share with folks from our high school something that surprised me: Kurt left quite a legacy. Now don’t misinterpret my words here. (Remember, words can’t be trusted.) Kurt was a perfectly good person in high school. He could sometimes be a total shit, but we all could at that age. At any rate, I’m not sure if I died tomorrow, I would have touched nearly as many lives as he did, and I guess, in some small way, I wanted others to know that about him.
To My Friend From High School,
These are words you’ll never read. You’ll never hear them, at least while among the living.
You said words can’t be trusted anyway. You said it’s what you do that counts. I wouldn’t have guessed you would have had such a mantra. I remember you saying, “Whatever, Sweaty” to this lunch lady who insisted what you’d ordered was Salisbury Steak, not Hamburger With Gravy. It was a mean thing to say. Yes, mean is probably an overused word that can’t be trusted. Was your comment snide? Mocking? We both had laughed, a couple of self-absorbed teenagers willing to steal the Reese’s at the end of the line we could afford to buy. It would be a cinch. Child’s play. A piece of cake. Clichés. Those words and us back then. It would have been just plain easy. We could distract the same tired, underpaid lunch lady. The butt of our jokes. You called her Sweaty over two decades ago and today you’re gone.
Cardiomyopathy. Undetected. Two more inadequate words.
You were 40, basically my age, and one class shy from getting your masters in social work. You worked as a counselor at an elementary school not far from where I live, and most recently, with Child Protective Services in a city a little north from our hometown. I didn’t see anybody else I recognized from high school at your funeral, where I sat alone in the back, weeping over the cruelness of mortality. I couldn’t stop the tears over you, an old high school friend I hadn’t even seen in at least five years, someone I didn’t really know at all as a grown man.
So many ages and colors and ethnicities mourned you. If you couldn’t see them, believe me when I say they were beautiful. I couldn’t fathom having diversity like that at my own funeral. Most of them were strangers to me, but they all loved you. Maybe you loved all of them, too. Several spoke about how selfless you were in your life, this life I’d lost contact with, how much you gave without expecting a dime of reciprocity.
You chaffered kids to and from school, you furnished the homes of families you barely knew with secondhand couches and love seats and lamps, you asked your supervisor to advance you twenty bucks so you could buy Tide and dog food for somebody’s mom who called you after hours on a Friday.
A teenage girl, one of your former students, mentioned something about a hefty container, I pictured a milk jug, brimming with water. She said you kept it on your desk. In fact, she said it always rode shotgun, going wherever you went. She asked you, “Mr. S., why so much water?” and you simply replied, “To keep hydrated.” You said things like, “You have the sweet shine of baby Jesus” to kids descending from the bus in the morning and “Thanks for walking” to kids sprinting down the hallways in the afternoon. Forgive me again for these weak, unreliable words, but I can’t think of any other way to say it: You were one of the funniest people I’ve ever known.
If I’m honest, I’ll admit you could be annoying, too. So could I. Annoying. A word I still have the privilege of being.
Remember that time in college, after we visited our mutual friend at the University of Michigan? You made me pull over and pull over and pull over. You never actually puked, but you threatened VOMIT! every fifty or so feet. A two-hour road trip took us what seemed like eighteen to get home.
There was one thing I’m certain we had in common as adults. The loss of our fathers. Your Dad died a few years before mine. Your Mom said you drove your Pop’s beat-up red truck. A Chevy pickup? Some classic from the sixties or seventies? That’s what I imagined and continue to imagine. I used to drive an Audi in mid-life-crisis red. My Dad sold it to me months before his passing. I just let it go when the lease was up, but Kurt, you did the right thing. You held onto yours. Your Mom said it sits abandoned in her driveway now, a motorized beacon, a motionless reminder of your actions.
May You Rest in Peace,
–Amie, PHS Class of ’91
Re: Who’s Getting Chin Implants?
Dear Ms. Kati O’Leery:
Before I make my chief complaint, let me say I hold no grudges, and wish you and yours a delightful weekend! The wife and I plan to splurge on potato salad (her mother’s recipe), and of course, tinker in my garage (wink-wink). Now that I’ve dispensed with the pleasantries, I’ll get on with it. If you know me, and most people who don’t remember The Great Johnny Carson do, you know I appreciate a good joke as much as any guy. That being said, you can’t be serious with the “Why are chin implants the fastest growing plastic surgery in 2011 with a 76-percent increase over the past year?” and the “Our board-certified plastic surgeons can give you The Clooney or The Schwarzenegger!” At first, I did what the kids today do: I LOL’d at your e-mail. A plastic surgery practice soliciting me, the comedian with pathologic mandibular prognathism, about not Botox, not rhinoplasty, but wait for it, wait for it: Chin. Implants. It’s pretty funny stuff. I admit, I texted Conan to congratulate him for yanking my chain. He replied with something about autocorrect being a dirty whore, and as usual, I didn’t follow. The wife filled me in on the pitfalls of autocorrect later, and while the dots still didn’t quite connect, I figured even Coco wasn’t that pathetic. Right about then your e-mail started to cheese me off. Young people are dying every day in Afghanistan. Global Warming is the likely culprit of the worst wildfire season in Colorado’s history. Anyone can buy six-thousand rounds of ammo online, no questions asked. Fifty-three percent of Americans oppose the Individual Mandate. The Eurozone unemployment rate is at a record high. With the current shit-storm a-swirling, it might seem sad that a “legitimate e-mail” about chin implants would or should ignite outrage, but I’m writing to tell you that you can shove your “legitimate e-mail” about chin implants up your augmented ass cheeks. I’m proud of my God-given chin. You know what they say about men with big chins, don’t you? Well, if you don’t, then you might want to look into vaginal rejuvenation. To tell you the truth, I’m sick to death of all the ridicule, and sicker to death of all the vanity. People like you who peddle BEAUTY by WÜSTHOF should take a long look in the mirror that is your vapid soul. Do you recall what happened to The Evil Queen in Snow White? (The Grimm version, not that Disney crap, and she most certainly did not have Charlize Theron’s chin.) Apologies for being a spoiler, but they forced her to wear red-hot (not sexy) iron slippers (not Louis Vuittons) and dance (not crunk) until she dropped dead (because, wait for it, wait for it: immortality is a fucking farce).
Not Taylor Hicks