It was my then-three-year-old grandson on the phone. Where was his cereal, he wanted to know?
Not, ‘good morning grandpa!’ Not, ‘I love you grandpa!’ But did I eat his “Cap’n Crunch”?
Rule Number One when your grandchildren spend the night: You do not ever, as in never, under any circumstances, eat your grandson’s cereal. Period. Or you will get a call.
Oh, the box was there all right. The one with that goofy-looking guy on the front. And the larger-than-life admittedly tantalizing, sugar-coated, crunchy vitamins cascading into a bowl of milk. All of which would now never happen.
The box was empty.
As grandma described the scene, having taken the phone thus rescuing me from further apology, the little guy had shaken it, reached in his arm – up to the elbow, turned it upside down, looked again, but then the finality registered: he could see the bottom.
It pains me to do this, not only to admit to my grandson that indeed I was the culprit, but to use this admittedly fond memory to reflect on one that is not at all.
This December 14 was the five-year anniversary of what happened in Sandy Hook in which 20 first graders and six educators lost their lives.
Perhaps then we’d thought we’d seen the bottom.
But now, five years later, “five of the 10 deadliest mass shootings in modern U.S. history have occurred since 2012, the same year that a troubled young man killed 20 children and six adults at an elementary school in Newtown, Connecticut.”
In an article entitled “Looking for America”, Gail Collins, op-ed columnist for the New York Times (12/14/12) quotes Representative Carolyn McCarthy: “I just don’t know what this country’s coming to. I don’t know who we are any more.”
Collins opines, “We have to make ourselves better. Otherwise, the story from Connecticut is too unspeakable to bear.”
Perhaps “to make ourselves better” seems as affective as shouting at the storm.
From Act 1, Scene 1 of Shakespeare’s “The Tempest”:
The waves are tempestuous, the seas howl. Jagged lightning streaks the sky while claps of thunder overwhelm the ability to think. Driven, the ship takes on water more and more and certain death draws near. Shipmaster and sailors stagger upright, one to grasp the spinning wheel, others to cling to the rail of the heaving, splintering deck.
Cursing the gods of wind and rain a sailor rails with fist upraised, “What cares these roarers for the name of the king?” And then, to the passengers who’ve emerged from the bowels of the ship, the same sailor shouts “Keep your cabins; you do assist the storm.”
The sailor is wrong.
On this five year anniversary of Sandy Hook, and as we approach Christmas, heartening is the message ringing from the church bell towers and from the sanctuary priests, preachers and parishioners gathered in Newtown, Connecticut where the focus is on love, not loss.
In this America of ours, lest we do indeed reach bottom, we need all hands – and passengers – on deck.