Tuesday, January 24, 2012

The Longest Month

today I'd like to share something I wrote for the newsletter where I work, for my column: Through the Window

It’s February, arguably the longest month of the year.

Oh, I know it’s supposed to be the shortest. But has it ever felt like the shortest? With gloomy weather, the middle of tax season, the second month of a new school semester (in most cases), and all the questions a holiday for people in love can raise, I maintain that this is a very long month.

And somehow, tradition has determined that we begin this month with Groundhog’s Day, a day on which it seems the entire country gathers round the burrow hole of this critter awaiting its prognostication about how long it will be before Spring arrives.

The pressure!

What’s a rodent to think? I’m sure he’d rather be sleeping in his snug bed rather than hauling himself out to listen to human’s clamoring for sage advice on whether or not Spring will arrive early or take another 6 weeks. I know I would. And if he is very rotund, which I’m sure he’d like to be after all that eating he did last fall, I imagine — oh I know — it’s not going to be easy to peer around himself and find that shadow.

Another thing. The question seems to be ‘early’ or ‘another 6 weeks’. Well, I grew up in the Northeast. Six weeks from February 2nd is mid-March. That is an early spring!

So, why do we stand around, watching a hole in the ground for a sleepy furry brown critter to waddle out, turn around a few times, and waddle back to bed?

Well, obviously we like tradition, especially quirky little ones like Groundhog’s Day. They’re fun. And, there’s a certain amount of making use of what could be called Nature’s tool for predicting. I think it’s also a desire to know. What is coming? How do we handle it? What’s happening? We want to be prepared, so we look for answers.

Sometimes that means watching to see the reactions of an animal to its habitat and trying to interpret what they mean. Sometimes it means time spent in school, studying the teachings of others. Sometimes it means looking to another source for knowledge, and celebrating with snow angels.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

At Year's End

I've been waiting over a year to write this post.

Elsewhere I have mentioned that as our oldest son completed college in 2010, he was caught up in the job market vagaries like many of his co-graduates. Ultimately he came to stay with us and work on building his future.

During the interval between then and now, he has renewed his Basic EMT certification, receiving it at the National level, acquired his Intermediate EMT certification, and is currently working on his Paramedic cert. He has put in many, many, many hours as a volunteer at a local fire station, and this Christmas he was recognized for, among other things, his Fireman I and II certifications.

He also got a job, working for an ambulance service in the next county. He now divides his time between clinical runs with our county ambulance for his paramedic training, his volunteer firefighting (where he often acts as an EMT), his classes, and his job with the ambulance service. Occasionally he is home.

His latest event was a training weekend during which he got to rappel down an 80' tower.

We are immensely proud of him, not only for these achievements but for what they  mean in terms of his hard work and perseverance in the face of personal difficulty. It is no easy thing to go live with your parents when you believe you ought to be out on your own conquering the world. However, it was that rappel down the tower that brought home to me what he's doing.

Like every other firefighter, EMT, police officer, and military service person, he has prepared himself to put everything, even his life, on the line to provide protection and care for others.

Online news photo from the Fayetteville Observer of our son's crew working an accident. He is wearing his fire helmet,  squatting beside the driver's side door (profile).

Facing up to his choice of a profession has not been easy for me. No parent wants to court the possibility of losing a child, whatever the age. I could never contemplate such a career for myself. I might die for someone, but I wouldn't volunteer for the circumstances that create the risk. He does.

Some people in service never fully realize the risk. They suspend their recognition of their own mortality completely. Others acknowledge the possibility, even the probability, that it could happen. They'll say the odds are against it actually happening, but they will also look you straight in the eye and tell you the risk is worth it. To them, it is the right, even the only the thing to do.

Watching our son train and hearing his philosophy and feeling his desire to be part of this extraordinary community of responders did something to me. I began to understand as I never could before how families of these people do it. There is something tremendously awesome about a responder's dedication. It creates a hallowed ground you have to respect. I may wish and pray for our son's safety, but it would be disrespectful -- and wrong -- to ask him to take another path. We can only be proud of him for this, and humbled by his choice.  Way to go, son.