Some dear friends of ours are waiting to pull the plug on their four month old son. Heck, by now, they might have done it already. Last night, while I was reading a bedtime story to my three year old daughter, the phone rang. Since I was busy, and since I had recently returned from a long and unpleasant trip to the grocery store with her, and since I was very eager for her to get to sleep, I let the answering machine pick up. After I had done my fatherly duty, I checked the messages.

The last message was from our friend, Amy. Her shaky, weak voice explained, matter of factly, like the physicist/mathemetician she is, that Nick stopped breathing during his nap yesterday. They suspect he was without oxygen for 40 minutes before a) the babysitter discovered the problem and b) the paramedics arrived. They managed to get a pulse eventually, but the doctors at the children's hospital determined his brain damage was massive. Only a ventilator was keeping him alive as of 22:00 last night. They were keeping him alive so friends and family could say their goodbyes. Nick's three brothers and sisters (ages 7, 5, and 3) said their goodbyes sometime last night.

Another friend of ours, a psychiatrist, said he suspected they were keeping the child alive so that everybody could say their goodbyes and so the parents could get used to the idea that their child was dying. Do you ever?

My wife and I, after checking about 20 times to make sure our child was breathing in her bed, sat around in shock last night. How do you go on after this, if you are the parents? Granted, they have three other children, so they kinda have to go on. And death isn't like ripping off a band aid, stinging for a moment and then forgotten. They will be finding toys, clothes, and other reminders of Nick for months or years. The mother was still breastfeeding. She'll have immediate, painful reminders in the form of rock-hard, leaking, sore breasts. We, far removed from the misfortune, shake our heads and thank the gods it ain't us. Which is a terrible thought, but one does think it.

So everybody will be sitting around, staring at their phones, waiting for that awful shoe to drop. But poor Amy and Dan... their wait will be infinitely worse. As a language pedant, I dislike it when people misuse words like "infinitely" -- by which they mean "a whole lot" -- when the thing they are describing is most certainly finite. ("The fishing is infinitely better on this lake than at that one.") But in this case, I think it works.



Today is the anniversary of a death.

I never really knew my great aunt; I think I saw her once before she died, and she had already begun her decline. But hers was the first funeral I can remember attending where I really had some grasp on the finality that was death, young as I was at the time.

I cried. Not at the funeral, no, I was still stunned that civilized people would so casually show a body to anyone who cared to see. I cried that night, weeping soundlessly into my pillow, enraged that a relative, even a distant one, should be taken before I ever really had the chance to know her.

I wanted her back. I want to greet her, talk to her, know her. I felt that there must be some great wisdom that she could impart to me if only I could speak with her again. For the first time in my life, I felt a void. An ache. An emptiness, one that would go unfilled.

I'm older now. Years older, and probably more jaded by the ways of the world, but I still remember the pain I felt that night.

I'm not sure I want to forget.

CNN Must Have A Huge Budget For Parking Tickets

I have been working about a block from the White House for the past 18 months or so. By far, my favorite place to eat lunch is a restaurant called Goldie’s Italian Pizza Kitchen. It’s a friendly, family-oriented place, with a warm atmosphere. There’s a big mural of Venice on one wall, and the owners took advantage of an ugly structural column near another wall of the restaurant by painting it to look like the Leaning Tower of Pisa. They’ve got a great chicken parmesan sub.

But I digress. I wanted to write today about the fact that, for as long as I can remember, there have been one or more CNN vans parked illegally outside Goldies. Without fail. It’s like a reserved spot or something.

I’ve noticed this because there are always a handful of tickets under the windshield wiper of each of these vans. I never really gave it much thought until yesterday, when I saw one of these vans pull into the illegal spot, and watched an entire film crew, with cameras, get out and start walking to the White House.

Now, in hindsight I suppose this is an obvious explanation. The parking spaces are right across the street from the Old Executive Office Building, so they would be incredibly convenient for a film crew that needed to set up on the White House lawn. The reason it’s been bugging me, though, is that it’s just such a stupid way to do business.

I mean, either the spaces are a traffic hazard, or they’re not. If they are, then the D.C. police (or Secret Service, or whichever guys in mirrored sunglasses have jurisdiction) should do something more than just continue issuing tickets. They should tow, boot, or confiscate the vans. Seeing as the street is a narrow, one-way street – and since the vans really do kind of crowd traffic – my guess is that this is the appropriate way to go.

But if it’s not a traffic hazard, then shouldn’t someone at CNN call the right person and get parking permits, instead of simply issuing tickets every single day? I mean, it would just make sense, right?

I know this seems like a trivial thing to complain about, but then, so is that cut on the roof of your mouth that won’t seem to heal because you keep tonguing it. I guess it’s just the OCD in me.

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