Saturday, August 28, 2004

Home Alone

I am home alone in the house I grew up in.

My parents have gone to a surprise birthday party. It's hot and humid outside, so I'm sitting indoors in the air conditioning instead of out by the pool. I bought some tan in a can, so why suffer and subject myself to possible skin cancer later on?

It's odd being here. In some ways it's comforting, but in other ways, totally disconcerting. Take the pool for example. My folks put it in 20 years ago. Twenty years! The concrete sidewalk around it has settled and I'm constantly stubbing my toe. They had to put in a new liner a few years back. On the one hand, it's the pool I remember. On the other hand, it's totally foreign to me.

My dad was watching CNN Headline News and there was a blurb about preparing for terrorist attacks in rural areas. This after reading in the local paper that the state police have been inspecting all trucks along the highway for the past few weeks, because the road eventually leads to NYC, and the republican convention is taking place next week. We are several hundred miles from NYC, but you've got to stop the terrorists when they least expect it. My dad asked me where I thought the terrorists would strike first. I told him I didn't think they would.

Naive? Maybe. I just can't be bothered to get worked up about it. My parents came of age during the Vietnam war. I remember them being really spooked during the Iran hostage crisis in 1979. And upset during the Gulf War in the early 1990s. And I'm not. I grew up in the age of high tech war. All I know is what I see on television. I've never really confronted having people I know and love go to war and die.

We were in the pool last night and I was teasing my five year old nephew. He doesn't know how to swim but he's tall enough to walk in the shallow end. I was keeping his floating bar bells just out of reach. He got excited and slipped and went underwater. I froze for a split second and the reached down and scooped him out. He wasn't hurt but he did swallow a bit of water.

At first he didn't even know how to react. Initially he laughed, but then he started crying. Amazingly enough, he got back in the water although by that time he was shivering and shaking all over. I apologized to him later and he told me "I'm just a little kid." That got to me. Not having kids of my own, I'm not around them very often, and maybe I did have unrealistic expectations of him. Maybe I was being too hard on him. It's hard to know.

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