Our Last Summer

Well I did it people. I dropped my child off at her high school on the day after yet another mass shooting. I felt numb at the drop off and struck by the emptiness of a parking lot where cars were scant. Let’s not kid ourselves, it was the last week of school and I assume most parents in all their wisdom felt the final week’s horseplay and May Day fanfare were hardly worth it. We can always pick up this sh*t show again after summer when ”the dust settles.” Yeah…right, the dust never settles and their is not enough sage or gemstones stashed across the hoo-hoo spectrum that can cover this. Don’t even get me started on thoughts or prayers or the ever gallant upgraded FERVENT thoughts and prayers.

It’s worth mentioning that my daughter was in lockdown at her school one week before this shooting. Their was also a whole slew of officers and newscasters at her school at that pick up. Prior to this, I was in a Walgreens trying to bedazzle my son’s graduation photos through various clip art and frames when I got a text message that went something like, “Dear parents, we are aware of the alarming social media post that has been circulating around the High School and want to inform you that we have law enforcement in on it. There is no immediate threat at this time.”

Some time later, as I’m waiting for graduation cards to dry, I get this message, “It appears that the situation has escalated and we are currently on lock down. We will keep you as informed as we can.”

Okay, so I find my son in the chip aisle and tell him we need to check out stat because there’s a situation at his sister’s school. A mom in the aisle over hears me and asks, “Does your child go to Summit Academy?”

I say, “Yes.”

She told me her daughter was an office aide there and had just messaged her that there had been a student at the school who had guns but they had him in custody. I messaged my daughter in lockdown, “How are you honey? I just got a message that you are in lockdown. Everything okay?”

She said, “Yeah it’s just a drill.”

My heart jumped. I hated how nonchalantly the school was trying not to panic the students and I get it, but had there been a more escalated scenario, were they just supposed to see sit there like lame ducks and lambs to the slaughter? I was told months earlier that these drills weren’t even happening anymore because any potential school shooter would have also participated in these drills and know the ins and outs of where everyone would be hiding. There seemed to be no point.
It bothered me that administration just left it at that, without any other alternative plan. Everything else was just left up to the fates and the hopes that any active shooter incident was just a crap shoot and may the odds ever be in their favor.

I messaged my daughter, “There’s a little more to it than that, but I’ve talked to a mother here, who has inside information that there was a situation, it is well in hand now, and someone is in custody. Please communicate back and forth with me. I am on my way.”

I felt sick. I’ve had conversations with my daughter, her school counselor, her teachers, and her pediatrician about the anxiety she feels at school, the panic attacks she has in the bathroom, the stomach aches. I’m checking her out constantly for ailments that remedy themselves once she’s home. I’ve medicated her at her pediatrician’s advice because she felt “socialization was important.” I have fought to get her out of bed and forced her take medication to be alert when her school schedule goes against her body clock not to mention that Omicron is afoot and we’re in a red state where board meetings over mask mandates get heated and teachers are being micro managed for indoctrinating students.

My daughter did not want to go to school that day, and it hit me, “What if this had ended differently and I made her go?” What the hell am I doing? The sick part is that the school was slow in relaying the events that had transpired that day and with all the media at her school when I picked her up, it seemed reasonable that they had the 4-1-1. So I Google: “Guns, Summit Academy High School, Lockdown.” What I got in return was a story about another lockdown with students who had weapons, that happened the same day, a few hours earlier at another Summit Academy High School in Michigan. Hmm… what are the odds? Well in AMERICA, pretty damn good. That was pretty damn sobering.

I tell you, I was panicked because we all know not every student in America gets the better ending, but if this had happened the week after Uvalde and not before, I would have been out of my ever loving mind. Having this happen shortly after Buffalo was unnerving enough. Dropping my daughter off the Monday after the Uvalde incident and last week’s scare at her school all just hit different.

There was silence in the car ride to school as we slow crawled the hill towards what I’ve dubbed “the rabbit hole” A narrow overpass with low clearance, where many a damn fool idiot has gotten stuck. Beyond that, there’s a roundabout where we turn counterclockwise after our car syphons through the One Way because two lanes can’t go through, and sometimes a train flies overhead. The “Rabbit hole” hit the mood that day. You know, with all the crazy ass tea parties, non-sensical bullshit, the Cheshire cat, and you know, the realization that “We’re all mad here.” All of which are metaphors.

As I climbed towards that ever so cumbersome rabbit hole among the reeds and dried out pampas grass, a catchy little tune caught me unawares that went like this: “I can still recall our last summer…” So I sang it aloud in the car, and my daughter sang it with me. Usually when I sing, speak, chew, sneeze, breathe or do anything slightly off kilter on our morning commute she rolls her eyes and says, “MOM!” She’s at the age where everything I do annoys her.

I thank whatever powers that be that threw that catchy little tune our way because the deafening silence of the heaviness of going back to school and “risking our lives” on top of the lump in my throat that was accumulating over the parents that no longer had their children was about to throw me over and it was all I could do to keep the flood gates from opening. So picture again if you will, this catchy little tune by Colin Firth and my teenager not being bothered by singing along with me-for once. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4exlGE6BD00.

So, I had this rare moment of harmonizing with her, sharing the mere somberness that came with the simple act of going to school days after a mass shooting and pondered why it had suddenly become such a brazen effort, I thought, “Why this song?” And it struck me. When was the last summer before Children were slaughtered at school? When was the last summer before mass shootings became a thing, Covid, or any of it?

I remember early in 2020 taking that very same drive to school and hearing on the car radio about how some new virus in China had rocked the stock market by a thousand points or something, and thinking to myself, “Should I be worried?” (Little did I know). Could these parents who had lost their children possibly have fathomed their last summer while they were in it, or that this impending summer break would come crashing down on them before it even began? When did the Ukrainians have their last summer?

I have come to realize in all of this, that until further notice, I must cherish everything. Nobody ever knows when they are on the eve of their last summer. So my eyes might have teared a bit. It was okay to feel teary eyed, because it made me aware that I was still living and not completely numb to this, nor do I EVER want to be. This can’t be the normal. This just CANNOT BE.

I write this post as my family is gathered near one of my favorite cherished childhood spots-Moon Lake, for Memorial Weekend. I hope they are talking, laughing, and sitting by a good fire. This may be my grandmother’s last as she is well into her nineties and I so wanted to be there with her. My heart aches tonight. I feel melancholy and sick. Partly because I know this idealized visualization may not be true, as much as I want it to be.

They are likely also shooting pot guts and going off about their gun rights with nary a mention at all of all the dead children or the fact that my dad had lost his fifteen year old brother once to a tragic gun accident. It was not meant to be, and I’m angry at my husband at the moment. Partially because I’m missing my idealized version of this and partially because I know that he too, is entrenched in gun culture, and I feel alienated with the weight of feeling such strong emotion, of which he cannot fathom. So angry I want to scratch his eyes out when this should be a time of wanting to cling and cherish one another.

I am also feeling underlying tension with my neighbor who I do morning carpool with. My daughter’s time at school is done, but she asked me if I would be a dear and pick up her daughter later because she was broken hearted about being picked up earlier and wanted extra time with friends and she, herself, had something going “across the lake.” I said, “Sure, these kids are going through so much. Let her have the time with friends, this is no time for tears of disappointment. I would be happy to do that for her.

So, here’s the deal. This business my friend had to take care of “across the lake” was that she was at the shooting range. Ugh. The mere mention of my discomfort over this and I get creamed over “innocent target practice.” Harmless right? but seriously… who goes to a shooting range RIGHT after a mass shooting? Who deals with the weight of all these children slaughtered by immediately heading to the gun range and unloading some bullets?

She knew I would be uncomfortable with it and she shoots me a text after the fact, “Thanks again Rachelle for picking up my daughter so I could spend this time at the shooting range.” She can go to the gun range all she wants but don’t make me an active participant in something that you know would make me this uncomfortable so close to carnage. I had to remind myself that I did it for the CHILD. It felt underhanded and borderline contrived. As if she needed to piss off the nearest person that had any semblance of familiarity with those she felt “were coming for the guns.” It was triggering. A lot like my ex husband who gave my son massive gifts out of toy guns for Christmas one year to get my goat and it rubbed against old wounds. Spoiler alert- there was domestic violence beyond that.

Maybe TMI, but I’m having a tower moment. I don’t know what else to call it. I’ve not dappled much in Tarot cards myself but I know enough to know what a tower moment is. Things are going to fall by the way side. Significant relationships will have upheavals. There’s a huge mash up on the horizon and its already starting. I also want to mention the night before this mass shooting took place I had a scary incident at my work where our store was nearly robbed. There were getaway cars, people in the store pretending not to be together, who were SO together. A woman who I believe was coerced into sexual favors and borderline assaulted in out bathroom for payment of drugs or something. It was like Gotham City in there on a Monday night.

These bad actors (adults by the way, not some punk ass kids) pretty much ransacked our store right before closing and terrorized that woman. I found her whacked out of her gore sobbing in a bathroom, and later distraught wandering the parking lot aimlessly after dark. I was worried for the people closing the registers. I was trying to get our younger employees out of there. I felt like we had really rubbed up against a bad element and who knows what all was about to transpire. It was a lot to take in. Re-evaluating my time with essential work is also my tower moment, just another night in retail right?
I am in the process of getting my son out of a non-binding army contract where he is still being stalked by army recruiters which has been unnerving. His depression scores are high. I never wanted to add guns to it. I’ve had concerns. His school counselor empathizes with me. Everyone else is just star crossed about a young naive kid getting sucker fished into going enlisted.

Here’s the thing. I’ve taken care of Vets for years. I’ve worked with Vets in a health care setting with chronic pain, and it breaks my heart to see that the men before me were once as my son is now. My son wants to go Navy, but he is also telling me he feels he would benefit from counseling and he struggles with some things. Anything on record about counseling and his chances are blown and all I can say is WHY? Just WHY? Shouldn’t a record of accessing resources and tools for mental health be a sign that should these men get into something heavy they would already have resources they could to tap into instead of tapping out with these excessively high suicide rates, or turning to drugs and alcohol? Please make it make sense!

I don’t know why I over shared this information. Maybe to let you know I’m human. Maybe a moment of shared vulnerability as a mom. A mention that outside this little blog I have a life that interferes. I’m a living breathing person. Hello. Hi there… it’s me 👋 We’re all living, breathing, vulnerable people at the moment. I’d even dare say we are all having a moment of shared fragility. Be mindful of those around you, don’t trip the wires, there are many dealing with a lot and when did everything suddenly become this fragile?

When did we have our last best summer? I don’t have the answers people but its worth pondering and it’s all I can muster at the moment on this tiny little blog

Until Next Post

Rachelle Whiting.

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