How do you talk about a world that’s no fine place?

I called my sister on the ride home tonight. Her daughter is seven years old, and we’re celebrating her birthday tomorrow. Only, I’m not calling about the birthday party or about Christmas plans. I’m not calling to bitch or complain. Not to joke or riff.

I’m calling my sister to talk about this morning. About what happened in a Newtown Connecticut elementary school. A part of me is almost thankful when I get her voice mail because the truth is I don’t know what the hell I’m going to say. I don’t want to come across as preachy. She’s a great mother. She doesn’t need my advice when it comes to her beautiful little storm, who is all curls and attitude.

Hey . . . sorry, I’m calling to talk to you. Give me a call, I . . .

I have no idea what I’m saying, no idea how to say it. So I just go with the thought that ran through my head when I first heard the news.

Keep the television off . . keep the radio off too . . call me . . .

I throw my phone onto the passenger seat and now I’m almost home and I realize I was driving blind all that way. It doesn’t matter. I lean back into the news being delivered to me from Pat O’Brien’s radio show while throwing the car into the driveway.

The news accounts keep streaming through my radio and I keep sitting there, in the driveway. I quiet the radio when my kids return my call and then again when my girlfriend does. I end each conversation the very same way.

I love you.

That’s the only thing that makes sense to say. In a world coming off its hinges, I realize how thankful I can feel simply to hear a response to those three words. Just to hear anything back.

I remove myself from the car after a time, not sure how much time. I’m blind, again as I tear through a run, then shower. Just as I’m ready to try my sister again, she calls.


“Get my message?”


“I had no fucking idea what I was saying,”

She laughs. It’s a tired laugh, weighed down by the heaviness of raising a child inside of the most unimaginable of days.

“I don’t know how to explain this. How did you explain 9/11 to the kids?”

“Shit, I didn’t. I just talked to them. You can’t explain something you don’t understand yourself. You just talk.”

“How the hell do I even start talking?” 

Her voice cracks, and then I tell her I’ve got to call her back. I’m lying my ass off as  I hang up the phone and throw it on the bed and lay back. And then I sob. Because I remember how I started talking about the unimaginable horrors perpetrated by human beings eleven years ago.

I started it by talking about monsters.


14 thoughts on “How do you talk about a world that’s no fine place?

  1. Sickening and gut wrenching. Yet another reason to stop the sale of assault weapons in this country.
    Your story hits home with me as I am a parent as well…and 9/11 was not something my kids quite understood a decade ago.

  2. It is difficult because we are compassionate loving people and we cannot wrap our minds around it. We kiss our little ones goodbye at school expecting them to be safe and sound until we pick them up.

    There seems to be a lot of volatile mental illness out there. They want to pass laws to throw them all in mental hospitals. I don’t think that is the answer.

    We are a gun loving country. That is the problem.

    To tell you the truth, I think it is going to get a lot worse before it gets better. I am especially afraid of all the lunatics stockpiling guns thinking that Armageddon is coming.

    • Susie- I think you just about covered it. We deal with mental illness in piecemeal in this country. The overwhelming majority of these people are no threat to anyone but themselves. These people just want to be better and I think in too many cases, we fail them. It’s that one person who might have come through the system and who fell through the cracks. In just about every instance, there was a moment or several that no one addressed, that no one brought to the attention of others. Because they, like most of us, think it will never happen to them, it will never happen in their town or neighborhood or school.
      The blueprint of the American dream changed too. One good job became several different careers. Home ownership became real estate. Kids stopped getting the run of the neighborhood and we started making play dates. Too many kids grow up playing video games whose only purpose is to desensitize. We celebrate the ethos of “NO FEAR”. Many of us don’t know our neighbors, but we know the latest reality show star. We have road rage and online bullying now. This is all part of a disconnect that has been happening for quite some time.
      We ARE a gun country, and I don’t know how we curb or prevent these tragedies without real conversation on assault weapons and weapons stocking.
      This is the longest comment I’ve ever made, and I apologize. I guess I could have cut it down to what you and I talked about back in July.
      Hug your kids.

  3. Excellent post that conveys the feeling of many … if not most … Even if a sensible discussion could be had, could a sensible solution be agreed upon? Well, because I don’t think we can get to the discussion stage, I doubt it.

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