Friday, June 17, 2011

Child's memory and child's play.

I watched the end of the news tonight about a camp set up for children whose fathers or mothers had died in the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Featured was a seven year old girl confronting life after her father was killed. The camp was created after a forty plus year old woman produced a documentary film about children whose parents were killed in the wars. She became fatherless herself six hours after birth when her father was killed in Vietnam. His death was a fact of her life though she did not know him at all. There was no deep discussion with her mother and of course no counseling in childhood.

My father died after a year in the Louisville VA Hospital. He died of cancer and my strongest memories of him were the visits we made there most Sundays. Mom drove the forty miles from home and my sister and I went along. Sometimes Mom went without us, but usually we were there too. Our job was to be quiet and sit in the waiting room until she returned from visiting and drove home. We got to go to Daddy's room for a few minutes and if he felt well enough we got a hug.

On Wednesday night shortly before midnight March 31, 1959 the phone rang. I was in bed with my grandmother sleeping but when she moved to get up I woke up. The light went on in my mother's bedroom next door where the phone was. She answered and spoke though I could not understand her words. When she hung up the receiver she came to the open door between the two rooms and stood framed by the light behind her speaking to grandmother. She said, "That was the hospital. He died." Grandmother went into the next room. She closed the door behind her and I lay there under the covers until she returned. She left the door open and got in bed. I pretended to be asleep.

Sometime during the night I heard mom crying in her room next door. I don't think grandmother went back to sleep either.

The following days were full of all the chaos of the funeral, visitors and that long ride in the back of our car to the cemetery in Kentucky.

The girl in tonight's broadcast story said she was concerned that she would not remember her dad. I would have liked to tell her she would always remember but I know people are not alike. Still, she had met him and had distinct memories. I was eight the day after Daddy died. I remember many things about him but not a lot before he got sick.

The thing most mentioned about this camp for kids of fathers and mothers who died in the wars, is they are able to share their thoughts with kids who have similar experience. I was the only kid in my classes all through school whose father had died. There were fathers who had left and divorced but no deaths. At my house we didn't talk about it. I never heard her talk about Daddy. I do remember her standing at the sink in the kitchen washing dishes crying.

I think this effort to help the kids is important. The survivor of her dad's death remembers her feelings from loosing her father in a war forty years ago. We are in another set of wars today and have been there for over a decade so there are more kids whose mom or dad died.

I question why this compounding grief from generation to generation does not stop our lust to go to war.
Monday evening this week in Louisville Kentucky a group of 11-13 year old kids were out playing in their neighborhood. They were running up to the door of a house, ringing the door bell and then running away on to the next house. It was a pleasant cool late spring evening in a nice neighborhood with pretty homes on city lots with yards. The area does not have drug crime and you don't often see an address listed in the newspaper crime reports.

According to the home owner, they went to his door. The fifty-six year old man whose name is Michael Bishop came out of his door and aimed a loaded shotgun at the kids running away. Twelve year old Jacob Eberle was struck in the back with buck shot and taken to the hospital with both lungs collapsed. He remains in the hospital tonight. He has told the police that the kids were walking up to the door and when they saw the man with a shotgun, they turned and ran. Whether they had rang the bell or not, this is something they were doing in the neighborhood on that spring evening.

Mr. Bishop has hired a good lawyer or two. He was arrested that night and released the next day on a $10,000 cash bond. Today he was arraigned and his attorneys say that night he was awakened from a deep sleep thinking someone was breaking into his house. The judge ordered all guns to be removed from his home and to have no contact with the Jacob or his family. He is due back in court the first of July.

Jacob's family has filed suit against Mr. Bishop for medical costs and other unspecified expenses.

Some of you may recall an incident on the other side of the city last October. I wrote about it here:

There is a Kentucky Law passed in recent years that says a person in their home feeling threatened can kill someone meaning them harm. This has pretty much been how it is forever, but the Legislature felt it needed to further underscore this with a law. So today I can keep a gun loaded and in my home for protection. Unfortunately unlike Mr. Bishop a lot of gun owners share the house with their kids, spouse and friends. Often they become victims of the gun.

The thing is there is a huge difference between a rock and a gun.

There is a huge difference between a kid ringing a door bell and a gun.

The reality is when you have that gun in your home it's more frequently the only solution you can think of to solve a problem that if you didn't have the gun so handy, you'd solve another way and all involved could be home in their beds that night.


  1. Hi there, Charlene... I saw a segment about the camp for the children whose parent had died in war... it was so touching.

    It has to be different, I guess, from losing a spouse due to an act of war...

    The story of the death of your Daddy was equally poignant...


  2. I'm glad to hear about the camp to help children who lost their parents in these wars. It amazes me how leaders blithely go to war not seeming to care about all the devastation it causes. And when you speak out against a war you are unpatriotic.

    It is extremely rare to need a gun to defend yourself. We aren't living in the Old West. I find it disgusting of people to go around shooting trick or treaters at Halloween and now this! Children ringing doorbells! So very sad. So very stupid.

  3. Loss is the worst of all experiences, and the loss of any one of my children or my wife is the source of my greatest and most profound fear. It paralyses me sometimes...

    You manage to express such tenderness in your blog, Charlene. Thank you.

  4. The girl in tonight's broadcast story said she was concerned that she would not remember her dad. I would have liked to tell her she would always remember but I know people are not alike.

    Honestly, this is why I blog so my kids, and hopefully my future grandkids, will have something of me to remember.

  5. Cool phone picture. I used to work on those. A long time ago.

  6. Poignant, compelling. Vintage Charlene. Thank you.

  7. Guns in homes create a strange sort of comfort/and need to protect. Alabama has that same sort of weird law. It is rather strange what makes people feel "safe".

  8. The story of losing your father is very touching. The idea for a camp for children who have lost their parents is a good one -- one, however, that I wish had no need.

  9. Thanks for posting. Interesting blog. Great information.

  10. Charlene comments on the comments:

    Red Shoes: Thanks.

    Belle: The disturbing reality is a culture that believes a gun is the answer to safety. If you pay attention to incidents with use of a gun in the home, it's rarely a safety issue.

    Koops: Thank you.

    Beach Bum: I appreciate my Mom's journal, which I am currently transcribing. Though it makes me want to ask many questions too. I think we remember people more than through the written word for memory is from our point of view and unless you write about things as you live them, a written record is from the viewpoint of the writer.

    Mike: Feel free to swipe the phone picture! So, were you a lineman at the phone company?

    Christopher: Thanks.

    Jilda: I think a gun in the home is more like walking a tightrope, but that's my opinion.

    Kathy A: I wish the same thing. I think about all the promise and potential lost in these wars.

  11. My God this is horrific.
    I couldn't agree any more with you when you say "The reality is when you have that gun in your home it's more frequently the only solution you can think of to solve a problem that if you didn't have the gun so handy, you'd solve another way." I say that all the damn time. It's no accident that places like Canada have so fewer crimes and less guns.

    My mom died when i was 13. The older I got the more I missed her. It is not something you ever get older. I saw that news broadcast about this camp and said to my husband...I would have loved a camp like that. But in 1969 that was not available. But then again if it were my father wouldn't have done it anyways.

    Great post.

  12. We've learned so much over the years about childhood mourning and the grieving process. It's important that children be allowed a place to safely mourn and to have interaction with others who understand their feelings. I applaud this woman's efforts.

  13. Shooting a 12 year old as they are running *away* from your front door seems at best recklessly stupid (i.e. if it's just a scare tactic) and at worst evil beyond words! - Easy access to guns and people, it always ends in tears.

  14. Ohmygawd, that breaks my heart. I wonder how many times that tragedy has played out, when guns are too readily available. We have strict gun laws in Canada. That man would still be in jail for what he did. Children are children are children.

    What a sad story!


Comments are encouraged.