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Domesticated, Not Demasculinized

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9/11 was a glimpse into my own mortality, not the country’s

Posted by doatmon on September 11, 2006

I have read a lot of 9/11 blogs on here today.  Some have been heart-wrenching.  Some infuriating.  It is impossible to have not been touched by that day in some way.  Everyone has their story/stories.  We were in the process of moving from Washington, DC to Columbus.  I had arrived in August, 2001, but my wife and ours dogs arrived in our Ohio on 9/10/2001.  I drove right by that helipad at the Pentagon at exactly that time EVERY day on my way to work in Georgetown.  The thought that I could have looked up and watched that plane come in … And one of my fraternity brothers was one of the lucky ones.  He escaped the World Trade Center.

But instead of talking specifically about that day, the aftermath of that day or any of the political implications of that day, I want to discuss a theme from that day.  One thing we all came BRUTALLY face-to-face with five years ago today was our own mortality.  Like 9/11 itself, everyone has a story about realizing they are not invincible…but you could feel the entire country coming to grips with its collective mortality all at once on 9/11.

Whether it was a story of a flight attendant just doing her job or a NYFD firefighter just doing HIS job…people realized that when you walk out that door in the morning, there’s no guarantee that, for whatever reason, you will walk back through at the end of the day.  I dealt with that like everyone else, it took time to fly again, to drive without looking up at the sky involuntarily at every loud noise.  But there was a big difference between my life then and my life now.  Since then, I have become a parent.

This past week, as silly as it is, individually I re-visited this issue with a drastically different psychological result.  I have been experiencing a medical condition which was both painful and frightening when you consider the possibilities.  I have undergone every test devised by any devious inventor, including the “buried alive” machine, also known as an MRI.  Bottom line, all were negative, I’ve been told that I am perfectly healthy, if a bit rotund, and this is just one of the human body’s quirks, albeit a painful (and expensive!) one.

But it wasn’t the excruciating head pain or the highs of percosets that I will remember from this incident.  It was the connection I felt to my daughter and our unborn child and the utter paralyzation that I felt when I thought (no matter how ridiculously) that connection might be severed.

With our doctor telling us that he “thinks” #2 is a girl…I am not really thrilled about the thoughts of multiple prom dresses, three coinciding menstrual cycles and paying for two weddings.  Some people have savings accounts, I have already started the psychologist fund…is it wrong to put my daughters’  mental health in a de facto layaway plan?   Brock…focus…you had a point.

Right.  Right.  Severing the connection.  Like parents everywhere I have hopes and dreams for my daughters.  And like parents everywhere, I am an INTEGRAL part of those hopes and dreams, whether they like it or not.  I have dealt with my own inevitable death.  My wife and I have discussed contigency plans.  But how do parents reconcile the fear that they will never see their children grow up?  How do you reconcile the fear that your children may live those hopes and dreams WITHOUT you, not ALONGSIDE you?

That’s what I’ve found myself thinking about as this 9/11 anniversary wanes.  Following that day, we heard over and over again that we had to laugh again or the terrorists will have won.  We had to fly again or the terrorists will have won.  We had to buy porn again or the terrorists will have won.  Okay, maybe I was telling MYSELF that one.  But there are no discernable enemies in our everyday lives.  Just death itself and regardless of laughter, air travel or pornography, death will win.

The ONLY sufficient answer I have found comfort in is cliched, over-used and perhaps poorly translated, but Carpe Diem.  That’s the only thing we do have control over.  How we live our lives and what we pack into each and every day, that’s OUR choice.   I may not to be able to hold my daughters’ hands throughout their entire lives.  But I can make memories right now.

As a result, I ignored my pain meds and painted my daughter’s “big girl room” last week.  I put together her godforesaken toddler bed.  We played Dora in the bathtub even though I couldn’t see through the pain.  On this 9/11 anniversary, I can only hope that those 3,000 souls who lost their lives and the countless thousands of military and civilians who have died honoring their memory since, put together their share of toddler beds and gave their share of baths.

I truly believe they did.  I have to.

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