His Name Is Noah Pozner.

jujulaw:

2 years ago today. #NeverForget

Originally posted on Dyke in the Heart of Texas:

NoahPoznerThis is Noah Pozner, forever six because of the unspeakable madness of Friday, December 14, 2012. A news reporter prompted me to write this blog on this very sad Sunday. He looked into the camera and asked if the viewers remember the killers’ name in the Columbine killings of 13 years ago. Two names quickly came to my mind, which I refuse to put in this blog. The reporter then asked if I, the viewer, remembered just ONE of the victims’ names at Columbine. My stomach tightened and I felt personal disgust, at the realization that I could not come up with a name. Then it hit me, that is the ONE reason this American shame continues.

The sick aggressors’ names are rattled off on the evening news as each mass shooting occurs. The next murderer wants his name in that infamous club. It has to STOP. This plague on…

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‘Tis The Season

It is that time of year once again when people tend to smile more readily, you catch them humming a holiday tune. The driver that flips you off for daring to be in the lane they want at the mall, even they have those delightful (insert sarcasm) antlers attached to their Dodge Minivan. Everything you eat has a hint of pumpkin or gingerbread flavor…the drunks in front of the courthouse are sipping peppermint schnapps. You have to love December, right?

As I have learned this Fall and Winter, it just takes one morning for your life to change. I will add this caveat at the beginning of my tale. I merely dipped my toe into the deep lagoon of cancer. There are thousands of people fighting a battle today that is all at once tragic and triumphant.

The doctor entered the room smelling of cigarettes and said, “Well, that’s a bad biopsy, but don’t worry, I know a good oncologist.” I had uterine cancer. The doctor went on to say that uterine cancer is the best cancer to have because it has about a 95% cure rate…we just take everything out. I told him he just ensured me several weeks of worry…had it spread? The doctor said to not worry and began to throw dates at me for the surgery.

I was all at once in a fog. I responded to the doctor’s flippancy with this comment, “What if you came into my office and I told you that you were facing 2-20 years in jail? Do you go home thinking you are a lock for 2 or do you worry constantly about the possibility of 20?” We humans usually worry about the worst thing that can happen to us. The doctor laughed, but got my point.
He told me that uterine cancer spreads first to the lymph nodes and lungs usually. I immediately started coughing as I walked out to my car.

So I went to the hospital for all the pre-op tests, including a full chest x-ray. I told the tech, “Hey, I didn’t do this in 1996 when I had my gall bladder out!” The 20 something tech responded, “Ma’am, we do this on all ladies over the age of 50.” Nice. Two days later one of the nurses called me at my office to say I had a nodule in my right lung, I would need a CT scan with dye injection. Wait? What?? Should I be worried?? The doc and Google says that uterine cancer spreads to the lungs in lots of women!! Long pause on phone…”Ma’am, we will call you back with a date for the CT scan.”

I had the CT scan the day before Thanksgiving and waited seven long days thinking that I now had cancer that was spreading. My gynecologist had already helped me get an appointment with an oncologist and further tests and a possible second surgery were going to be discussed. Dr. Google told me I was basically screwed if the cancer had spread to my lymphatic system. I choked down a turkey dinner and nervously waited…for seven days.

You start thinking about your own mortality. You think about the ups and downs of your life. At no point during the waiting period did I ever get scared of dying. However, I was petrified of having to wage a battle with the Big C…and eventually losing it. It just pissed me off, I was supposed to drop dead of a massive heart attack one day…not die of uterine cancer!

You want to have a dark season and strain to see the light? Try going through a divorce and getting a cancer diagnosis all at once. I tried to focus on good stuff, like the possibility of being so sick that I saw size 12 again. Tremendous friends and family members circled the wagons around me for which I am eternally grateful. I waited.

The doctor’s office called and said the lung nodule looked benign…two doctors agreed. Just come back in 3 months for a follow up scan to see if it grows or starts to look, my term, “cancery.” I stopped coughing.

I had the surgery, a full hysterectomy. Not such a tragedy at my age…although I felt the pain of the younger women I saw in my same situation. They were fighting cancer and saying goodbye to the possibility of biological children.

I consulted with the oncologist, she reviewed my pathology reports and decided after reviewing the size and location of the tumor in my uterus…that I had about a zero chance that the cancer had spread to my lymph nodes. I am going back to the oncologist in a couple of months for some follow ups, but she basically has declared me cancer free.

In the grand scheme of things, looking back now, it was indeed just a quick slap to the face. I have such empathy for the women I sat with, in the waiting room, at the local cancer treatment center. Such strong women…I knew as I sat there I was not a member of their club. I am a complete wimp.

If I had the misfortune of having the cancer spread…of dying of cancer…I would not have engaged in a “courageous battle” as the obituaries say. I would have whined, bitched, and moaned all the way to the end. It would not have been pretty with me. What is that saying about people getting what they can handle? I got the “Wimp/Level 1″ version of a cancer diagnosis. I respect all women facing a cancer diagnosis. If you are reading this and in a battle with the Big C…be strong….I am in no way making light of your fight.

So, I dodged a bullet. I find myself smiling when the stranger in the elevator is humming Frosty the Snowman and my pumpkin latte tastes just a little bit sweeter this year. I am going to appreciate those small moments I preach about this December. Life is fleeting and can change in an instant.

My gift this year didn’t come in an envelope or a box. It wasn’t tied with a pretty red ribbon around it. It was two words uttered by an oncologist during a conversation I thought I would never, ever have. “Cancer Free” What a gift indeed? I think I’ll go be jolly…’tis the season.

Ida May.

The two teenaged boys decided to cut through the woods that separated their subdivision from a busy strip mall, in the middle of the small suburb of Fort Worth.  As they were talking about a possible pepperoni pizza, after looking at music CDs at the Kmart, they both saw Ida May at the same time.  Starting at a pair of pink house slippers, they scanned up to see her abused 83 year-old body, laying on a bed of weeds, under the hot Texas sun.  The two boys ran screaming towards a chicken wing restaurant on the edge of the shopping center.

Ida May had  been murdered the previous night in her own home. The murderer, was her next door neighbor, Charles Simpson (pseudonym).  Simpson was a transplanted felon and violent offender from New York.  Ida May had befriended him and had grown to really like Charles after he did a series of  small repairs to her neat, ranch-style house.   Charles had committed the sexual assault and murder with careless abandon.  Leaving so much evidence that it led swiftly to his arrest and just two days later he was in my department’s holding cell, waiting on a transfer to the county jail.

What I saw at that crime scene remains with me today, many years later.  What Ida May suffered through, before her heart just couldn’t take it anymore, was unfathomable to me before this case.  I don’t know if I have ever fully processed it, just how evil one human can be to another.  I cannot express here in this blog exactly what I saw, only to say the level of torture the victim endured was at a level none of us on my police department had ever seen.    Hannibal Lecter would have run screaming from this crime scene.

Charles Simpson was evil incarnate. I walked into the holding cell area, looked at Simpson the first time, and it just didn’t compute.  He looked a little like George Constanza on Seinfeld. As I walked towards him, he was standing with his head squeezed between the bars, screaming about …now get this…..”Inhumane treatment.”   It had been 5 hours since lunch was served and “You fucking dyke!  You better tell the kitchen staff to bring me my dinner!” I leaned in and spoke ever so softly to Charles.  “I was at the crime scene.  I saw first hand what you did to Ida May.  The unfortunate thing for you tonight  is that this fucking dyke is responsible for your dinner.”

This was a small department and we wore many hats.  One of my jobs as the officer in charge of the shift was to come to the jail once on the evening shift, dispense dinner, then get back to patrolling my district.  The dispatchers monitored the jail camera feeds at all other times, for the four cell jail. Simpson knew he was in for a terrible dinner after our first encounter, he just didn’t know how terrible.  I walked into the department’s kitchen, pulled a frozen chicken pot pie out of its box, jammed a plastic fork, right in the middle of it, and proceeded back to Simpson.  “Hey bitch, this is frozen!!”  “Well, I told him,  the Chief said to give you dinner, he didn’t tell me I had to heat it up!”

I checked with the Texas Department of Corrections a couple of years ago and found out Charles had died in prison, a slow agonizing death as a result of cancer.  I actually smiled, that was more punishment than the lethal injection that had awaited.

Ida May didn’t deserve to die that way.  Her resting place was never supposed to be in a field behind a Kmart.

I write this today, because I ran into one of the teenaged boys last week. He remembered me because after that long ago, awful day, we would occasionally  chat whenever he was about town and flagged down my patrol car or I saw him at the high school ball fields.

I often blog about very small perfect moments in your life that you should hold onto..snippets of perfection, to tuck away.  The moments sustain you and make your life a memory bank of happiness to guide you down your path, especially when times get very hard.

Well, this now 40 year-old man told me he was a forensic pathologist. The terrifying moment at first eyeing those pink slippers had changed the trajectory of his life. He chose a career that allows him to contribute and help prosecute the Charles Simpsons of the world. He chose to never forget Ida May. He chose to never forget a day that most people would surely block out. My practice of small perfect moments yielding goodness was now being joined by a moment of darkness…darkness turned into light.

Ida May lived a long, productive life. She had a family, including ten wonderful grandchildren. She loved thy neighbor and believe that all men acted out of the kindness of their heart, not at the call of their inner demons.

Life is weird. A kid going to buy a Nirvana CD sees something that will become the catalyst for years of good work in his community. What a great thing he has done. What a great legacy for Ida May. A woman, I too, shall never forget.

What Are You Wearing?

Juju walked casually with a group of her fellow “band geeks” to the cafeteria one rainy Spring day in 1975.  The group of 7th graders walked together and in fashion; t-shirts, patched blue jeans, chukka boots or sneakers, evidently the uniform of the time.  Juju playfully ribbed a girl named Gayle about her lunch box and the girl turned and pushed her.

Juju’s return, non-aggressive, shove was met instantly with a man grabbing Juju from behind and around the neck.  The kids called the hold a “snot lock.”  Juju felt pain and a jerk of her neck as the shop teacher yelled in her ear, “You little shit, boys don’t hit or shove girls, got it??!!”  Gayle yelled, “Juju is a girl!!”

With that the shop teacher, missing his left index finger, relinquished the snot lock on Juju, as she turned and glared at him.  “You all get yourselves to class!” was all he said.  No apology was heard as the woodwind section trotted off to Mr. Nettles in the band hall.  Juju’s face was red, a result of the hold and her embarrassment.

Juju had left her house that morning in the safe confines of her father’s  car.  He was retired and enjoyed driving his seventh child to seventh grade, even though it was only about a mile and a half away through the middle-class suburb.  Juju’s father loved his Cadillac Fleetwood and would rest his left arm out the open window, holding his unfiltered Camel cigarette.  He never said a word about Juju’s appearance, even that day when she was sporting a Roger Staubach football jersey, faded blue jeans, and white Chuck Taylor high tops.  Even after retirement, Juju’s dad often got up and dressed in his starched, linen chef’s shirt.  Juju wondered if her dad missed cooking for hundreds of people, he often seemed sad.

Seventh grade was the hardest year for Juju in her academic adventure.  Puberty and snot locks were not making Hurst Jr. High all that fun.  The next year would bring organized athletics for girls, but in 1975 Juju found herself in a band hall, holding an oboe she would never be proficient in.  This will get better she thought, but when?

Juju had a 1970s “shag” haircut in 6th grade and that had helped her from rude people calling her a boy.  The summer before 7th grade though, Juju’s mother had encouraged her to get a shorter style and that seemed to exasperate the problem.  Juju looked in the mirror hanging over her bedroom dresser.  Do they really think I am a boy she wondered or do they know my secret?  Juju had become 100% sure that year that she was indeed different.  A childhood of unusual thoughts had become pretty clear in her 13th year on earth.  Juju looked at the poster of Starksy and Hutch on her wall and back to the mirror.  She didn’t think she looked like a dude.  What are they seeing that I do not, she thought?

Juju was seated in algebra the next day when an envelope was handed to her by one of the office ladies.  “Welcome.  Please accept this invitation to the National Junior Honor Society.  The swearing in will be held this Saturday at 7pm with a reception to follow in the school cafeteria.”  Juju was getting a drink from a water fountain after class when a hand was felt on the back of her head.  Her head was pushed into the water stream, as she quickly released the button.  “Ha, you queer!!  You like that?”  That was the last time Juju ever used the water fountain until 1978.  Which was okay, it cut out all problems going to the girls’ restroom.

Saturday evening came and there were Juju’s parents, seated in the second row. Juju was wearing a dress her mother had made her wear, finding it wadded up in the back of her closet. Who knew her mother could iron it back to perfection in less than 10 minutes? It had been purchased for a relative’s funeral the year before and banished by Juju upon returning home. Uncomfortable in the flower print, she ambled up to Mr. Arnold, the school principal, and gladly accepted her certificate and honor society “gold-plated” pin. As she turned and walked back to her seat, she noticed the big smiles of Jim and Jewel, her parents. She hadn’t told them about the shop teacher or the fact that she spent her days thirsty. Juju knew she was smart, and that fact seemed to bring happiness to her parents. Let’s just leave it at that she thought. I will be the smart one…the one that stays out of trouble and reports none. Some day people will stop thinking I am a boy, or calling me that just because they mean something else and want to hurt me.

1976 brought 8th grade and the death of Juju’s father. Funny how when you are sad about things you don’t think it will ever go away…until something bigger and sadder happens. Grief brings focus for sure. Time passed and things got better. Juju learned to surround herself with people that liked her no matter what shirt she was wearing, or what her hairstyle happened to be. Some of her new friends were even “sporty” girls like Juju. She sat in the bleachers one day and watched the cheerleaders practice their routine on the gym floor. She was waiting for them to clear out so volleyball practice could begin. Juju noticed that even though the cheerleaders were not wearing their red and white uniforms, they all still dressed very much alike, down to the same hair ribbons keeping their pony-tails in place. We all leave the house in a uniform Juju thought, whether it was her Dallas Cowboy jersey, her dad’s chef shirt, or the cheerleaders and their halter tops. How we present ourselves is a big part of who we are on the inside.

After that day, Juju wore what she wanted and cut her hair as short as she desired. She was who she was and there was no changing it. Juju knew she was different and sometimes people would stare or comment. Their intention might be one of mistake or pure ugliness, it would not matter. Juju was going to wear her uniform with ease and self-confidence…and with that “gold-plated” pin. Thanks for the smiles Jewel and Jim.

Standing Ready

The round-house punch came from the left and hit me squarely in the left eye.  My head wobbled back and forth, think Wiley E. Coyote when he gets hit with a frying pan, then his head snaps back to original form.  Only I wasn’t in a cartoon.  I was wedged in a druggie’s bedroom between his bed and a dresser.  A 17-yr-old was tripping out and his parents had called 911, unable to contain his violence.

Me and my back-up and good friend, Dave, had arrived at the house about the same time and approached the front door.  The kid’s father was totally frustrated and alarmed.  “My son is high on something and very violent, he has locked himself in his room.”  An ambulance was called and the goal was to get the kid on a gurney and to the hospital to be checked out.  Neither parent said they had been harmed, so arrest for assault/family violence, was not considered.

I got permission from the Dad to “open” the bedroom door and Dave did so with one good kick.  I entered the bedroom first and quickly scanned for weapons within the kid’s reach.  He stood there and spewed obscenities as I scooted sideways between the bed and dresser…wanting to get my hands on him.  Dave was right behind me as we moved to get control of this potentially dangerous situation.

I inched closer to the kid as he was screaming a diatribe fueled by dope.  I was about to latch onto him when the punch hit me.  Feeling pain, anger, and embarrassment all at the same time….I wobbled.  Being wedged as tight as I was…I did not go down for the count.  He was a good sized teenager and the punch came with a great amount of force and adrenalin.

Dave lunged for the kid as I grabbed him with both hands and we threw him backwards onto his bed.  The fight was on for a couple of moments, with both his parents watching from the doorway to the bedroom.  We drug him out to the front porch of the house.  I had one handful of hair and with the other I grabbed him by the belt of his jeans.  We secured him on the gurney and off he went to Parkland Hospital in Dallas.

I could have charged him with aggravated assault on a peace officer, but I did not.  The parents thanked us for our help and off we went to the next call in our district.  Dave laughed at me after he saw I was okay.  Hell, he laughs about this till this day when we start talking old “war stories.”

A very small and somewhat routine call got me punched, it could have gotten us killed.  You never know what you are walking into when you answer a call for service as a cop.  The kid could have pulled a gun and the story would have ended quite differently.  He was out of is mind…we were careful, it still happened.  The kid needed to go to the hospital and we had a job to do.  We did what his own parents could not do.

Why do I blog about this today?  Well, because I had a bad experience with a police detective recently.  I found myself cursing my local police department and generalizing all of them as cowards and idiots because of this one guy.  We get caught up in generalizing people, groups of people…cops especially when we see news stories like Ferguson, Missouri.

I post this today to remind myself and my readers that there are thousands of good cops out there.  They are on the front line, doing the grunt work, much like my call to help the druggie’s parents. They do the job everyday, mostly without complaint.  It is a thankless job and it is done for low pay and with terrible hours.

Every call to 911 is a cry for help.  The caller never says, “Hey, send over that asshole that gave me the speeding ticket the other day!”  No, they say, “My son is out of control!!  I need help now! Please!!”

Pause and be thankful a complete stranger stands ready to take a punch for you today.

I’m Letting it Go

So, October is fast approaching and with it will inevitably come the 29th. That day will be the 93rd anniversary of my mother, Jewel’s, birth.  On the 30th, I will probably feel somewhat better.  You see, my mother died on October 1, 2004…she was 82.   I think she got screwed over; her mother and her mother’s mother lived to be 93.  I know that sounds weird, but Jewel would agree with me.  We always counted on her living till 93.  The fates didn’t allow it and I have been angry for 10 years.  I am vowing right here and now to let it go on October 29th.  You might argue that Jewel would not have wanted the anger and sadness to be in me for 10 years…and that would prove you didn’t know Jewel.  She would be kind of happy I have been tormented and pissed on her behalf.  Okay Jewel…I carried the anger for you, but I enveloped it in a cloud of love.  I am letting it go this next month.  It will take its leave and what remains will be pure love, wrapped warmly for years in our genetic code that yields seething temperament, but pure love.

The truth is that most Americans don’t live to the age of 93. Jewel would love that I carried the torch for her, but would have been the first to point out that thousands of her peers never made it out of the war theatres in the Pacific and Europe alive. Never making it out of their twenties, let alone living to comb grey hair. “The Greatest Generation” had a bunch of self-indulged people we call the Baby Boomers. I don’t think we are dealing with our parents’ deaths too well. I am not a 52 year-old orphan, I am a middle-aged woman whose parents are dead.

I have been going through a life-changing event the last several months. I was accused of being a different person since Jewel died. The accuser meant that I had changed to my detriment, I would have to agree. Just as births change the patterns of our lives, death leaves its carbon print all over our psyche. I have toughed it out…I have made it, probably in error, without the help of drugs or counseling. I cannot believe I am typing these words, but I choose to be happy.  I vow to work on it with the same due diligence I gave to the resentment these past years. If you see me you might not see it on my face, as I have a frown wrinkle between my eyes, of which Jewel once remarked, “That big crease makes you look bitchier to people.”

So this is it Jewel. I’m letting it go. I am releasing myself of the anger. It is exiting the weathered door with its collaborator, grief. I would have loved to have had you in my life for another decade, for sure. But you had me at the age of 40 and that ensured that your exit would leave me with years of my life without you. It’s okay. You did a good job and I thank you. Can I tell you though that I am mildly irritated that my target year is now 82? Well, hell.

Aside

Juju was actually proud at the moment she puked the three Pink Things into the Six Flags trash can.  She had just successfully completed her first ride on the Mine Train Roller Coaster.  A tall kid, she could have accomplished the feat the summer before, but had balked just as she reached the point of no return on the long ride’s line.  She had turned on her heels that day and ran as fast as she could to the Log Ride.  Hearing the mocking laugh of her sister Junene in the background did not bother her at all, another day she had thought.

Little did Juju know, her time would come on a July day in the summer of 1970.  Juju’s mother and sister had somehow convinced her in the darkness of that night that they were waiting online for the “Mini Mine Train.”  The Mini Mine Train was the sedate little sister to the scary and unyielding regular version.  The comparison of the amusement rides and the personalities of the two sisters would one day ring true to Juju’s adult memory.  On this day however, Juju took her place in the seat next to her mother and the cross safety bar clanged to a locked position.  As the train moved forward, out of the station, Juju looked overhead and read the sign as she flew underneath it…..what did that say???  Juju looked at her mother with all the disgust, fear, and betrayal an eight year old could muster.  As the train zoomed into it’s first sharp turn, Juju could be heard screaming in the darkness, “YOU TRICKED ME!!!”

At the end of the ride, Juju was giggling and running ahead of her mother and sister…off to find her place in line to try it one more time.  The second run took place about five minutes after the pink spewing….Juju was hooked on the speed and the funny feeling the coaster gave to her stomach.  Six Flags would become a yearly stay-cation, adventure that she would enjoy up into college.

 

The park closed on that long ago night at 11pm. Juju and her mother ended up at the Race Car Track, her personal favorite.CP43
Juju would push the pedal to the floor board and pretend she was Mario Andretti. Her mother, Jewel, always game, would play along with her imagination. Mother and daughter were both laughing so hard that tears were streaming down their faces as they approached the pimply, pit crew. There was 10 minutes left until the park closed. Jewel looked at the vacant line and back to the kid begging them to exit the hot rod. Jewel said, “Kid, I will buy you a Coke if you take your foot off that master brake and let her go around one more time.” One dollar exchanged hands and Juju was once again racing around her imaginary Indy track.
One dollar bought that summer memory, decades later it has become priceless. Juju can still remember the motor vibration on her hands as she gripped that steering wheel. Throwing her head back in laughter, laughing into that long ago night, hoping for one more Pink Thing on the way to the car.

Enjoy your summer.