Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Sam's da Man

I'm really proud of my Son, Samuel. He puts up with a lot, always has, and his understanding of the world is growing along with a really compassionate personality. I recently moved a better computer into his room, mostly for the selfish reason that it helps to keep him off of mine. Saturday, he tried to install a LEGO PC game. The video card in his computer just won't quite do it. There's another game that only runs certain parts and not others, the vid card is the culprit there, too. We were talking about it, and I remarked that it was just that some of the requirements for the games were outside the card's operating parameters. He nodded, and we continued talking for a couple more minutes. He's 9. He walked away, and I had to take a moment and realize how much he knows, already. It's often hard for me to remember and treat him like the kid he is. As his Dad, I instinctively put pressure on him about the way he does things, because I want him to, of course, do better than I do. I am also keenly aware that he seems to be a more easygoing kid than I was, and I'm glad for that. I really want him to be comfortable with his intellect, yet challenge him enough to enable him to excel where he wants to.
He just got third place in the Spelling Bee at school. I was happy that he had a good time, as well as doing well. His growing appetite for Science is really cool to watch; he's becoming authoritative on a few subjects - I hope he can maintain it through Calculus and Chemistry, he's gonna need those Miller genes to pull through.
Speaking of genes, I am really proud of how he helps out with his sister. He really does, including letting her just jump in and on him and wrestle with him without overwhelming her. She can't say his name yet, but he's attentive, just the same. I can tell, from the other room, by the tone of his voice, when he's trying to help her - there's an honest earnestness that puts a lump in my throat. Yes, I can tell when he's annoyed, too.
He's a pretty good guy. I like him a lot.

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

Another Oklahoma Tribute

I met a pioneer, a couple of weeks ago. She’s retiring from a 30+ year career in public education, currently an elementary school principal. We got to talking, and she mentioned special ed. I asked her if she’d been a special ed teacher. She had not, but she began to talk about her involvement in setting up some pretty innovative programs several years ago. She set up Early Intervention programs, parent’s groups, mainstream classes, and other things for our kids just as they were beginning to come home, rather than being sent into institutions. She is one of those people who “got it” early on and ran with it, rather than resisting change. What blew me away was her description of setting up the first group home in her area. She and some others saw a need, and filled it. They found financing, got someone to donate land, designed a facility (one building for men, another for women, common areas, etc.) , and had the thing up and running in about 3 years. It’s still there, today. I can’t express how great it felt to hear her go on in detail about how she made things work, mentioning kids and parents along the way that had obviously changed her life, too, in the process. Because it was a casual conversation, I didn’t feel comfortable saying “Thank You” to her for all of it, for all of us. I am grateful, for her and those like her who moved beyond prejudice and saw children, who set aside their own fears, perhaps, to make a better life for all of us. So I’m thanking her, here, and there, and I know she’ll get the message, eventually. Thanks, Aunt Janice!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Oklahoma City

I have been to a few places where people have died simply because they are American – Pearl Harbor, Vicksburg, Breed’s Hill, and now Oklahoma City. My feelings are much the same when I am at any of them. Today is no different – sadness at the cataclysmic and needless loss of life, and anger at the forces and implementers of such hatred. It seems a simple enough message to you and I, yet so far out of reach of those who perpetuate it, still.

The site of the Murrah Building brings a different sort of sadness and rage. I have family near Oklahoma City. I learn that one of my cousins’ best friends’ wives is represented by a chair on the lawn where the building once stood. The chairs - smaller chairs representing the children – are arranged roughly in the places in the building where they died. The street where the deluded patriot set off his Ryder truck bomb is now a reflecting pool, with 2 large structures at either end of the street; 9:00 set on one, 9:03 on the other.
The other side of the street is landscaped, grass and block giant stair-steps, up to the preserved, scarred wall of the building that now houses the museum dedicated to the event. There’s a place dedicated to the children, and a section of chain-link fence left for people to leave toys, messages, and other personal remembrances. The church across the street has erected a statue of a weeping Jesus. It is America.
I remember the first hours after the bombing, and the gradual realization that this attack on the heartland was not by foreign terrorists, but by native sons. That they found it somehow necessary to deliver their dysfunctional act of upside-down heroism upon the unsuspecting, unarmed innocents inside should and does turn the stomach of anyone who might hear of it. To convince oneself to commit an act of cowardice, to feel oppressed and powerless to the point of violence – let this memorial stand for many things, let it also stand as a warning against those who have lost sight of the responsibilities that freedom brings.
I am not writing this as an authority on any subject; this is not my intent. I am an American. I was hurt on that day; today I pay my honor and remembrance to those whose lives were taken in full measure for my freedom. My continuing charge is to remember, learn, and then teach. I did not visit the museum this time. I am resolved to bring my son here, someday. He needs to know, as best that I and others can teach him, what right and wrong truly mean, the costs of intolerance and dogmatism, and the resolve of a nation to struggle for freedom, both without and within. I can teach him no less. I am an American.