My daughter, Casie, has a friend she spends a lot of time with. I'll just call him Tee. He's smart, funny, and very gay, and her hair has never looked better. Physically, the two resemble one another enough to be siblings.
Tee's grandmother is in town and has fallen in love with my daughter. In the past week, she's taken them to the play bingo, browse at the mall, and out to lunch and dinner. I finally got to meet her yesterday.
She chatted on for about ten minutes about absolutely nothing. I bore easily from superficial conversation, so asked her where she went to school and what she did for a living. That's when the conversation got interesting.
"I graduated in nursing," she said, "and I worked as one for the Army."
"Really? That must have been exciting."
"Yes," she agreed. "I was stationed in Iraq during the first Gulf War..."
Tee's grandmother told me about injuries and the dead and the stress, and the illness that led to her early retirement.
She said, "I developed Gulf War Syndrome."
She described the the chronic fatigue, muscle aches from head to toe, headaches, and sensitivity to chemicals. The symptoms would come and go, at times the pain was just miserable, and it took over three years before her doctors stopped telling her - and other affected soldiers - that it was "all in their head."
As I listened, I wondered about something I'd read the same day.
"It sounds a lot like what the Gulf oil workers and some residents are experiencing from the spill," I said.
Her voice turned sad. "It wouldn't surprise me," she said. "It wouldn't surprise me at all."
She'd already read about the condition 109 workers contracted called TILT, short for Toxicant Induced Loss of Tolerance.
A rose is but a rose by any other name.
Today, Casie told me that Tee's grandmother, who lives near the charming coastal city of Savannah, Georgia, invited her visit in late July.
"She said she'll pay my airfare. Please Mom?"
I know the ocean currents. I know that the toxic witches brew in the Gulf of Death will spread up the east coast by the year's end. I know this, not from reading those stupid, panic sites, but from the hard science of the Gulf Loop and the Ocean Conveyor Belt, and from this abomination of man's stupidity resulting in still gushing oil, now anywhere from one to four million gallons per day. Already ocean wildlife is fleeing the most toxic, low-oxygen areas for safety, even if means them moving into more shallow waters.
Casie hasn't been to a pretty beach since she was a little girl and I had money to burn in Florida. The ones around Savannah are nice too, from what I hear.
I have no idea if a hurricane will come along and blow toxic fumes across that area. Never did I think I'd have to think about this kind of insanity while raising a child. Never would say I no, either, if the weather is calm.
I loved the beach so much that the first summer I had a car, I drove an hour to get to the nearest one three times a week. I'd go alone with a book and a sandwich to heal from my first broken heart. The ocean was calming and did it's magic. In my 30s, I was practically packed up and ready to move to Florida but my mother worried the hell out of me to not go. Here's a sample of our conversations:
"The Klan will lynch you."
"Lighting will strike you."
"Come on, Ma."
She looked at Xavier, who was six years old.
"An alligator will eat him."
I paused. The house I'd picked out - yes, I had even chosen one in the Tampa area - had a lake that was literally a stone's throw from the back door.
"Eh," I shrugged, "he'll be okay."
"I like gators Mommy," Xavier piped up. "I sat on one!"
"Yeah baby, I know."
Indeed he had, at Gator Land. He had waved his hand in the audience and got chosen to sit behind the gator handler. Mr. Gator was five or six feet long, but had his mouth taped shut.
Finally, my mother got to me.
"I'm old," she whined. "I'll die up here all alone."
"Then come with me! How many times do I have to beg you?"
"I can't leave here. It's my home. I'll never figure out how to drive to the stores down there. I don't want get lost or be stuck in the house all the time."
I gave up and stayed. Had it not been for the adoption agency unexpectedly placing my daughter in my arms the following year, I would have regretted my surrender.
Every now and then, I wonder how our lives would be different had I moved a year or two later after the adoption was final, but by then, my mother really was getting a bit more frail.
Such mixed feelings! How do you be true to yourself, yet loyal to those you love when their needs are greater than your heart's desire?
I don't know, I only know that true love sometimes requires great sacrifice. I made a pact with myself, however, that I would never, ever stand in the way of the dreams of my children, no matter how much I may need them one day. Whether or not I can keep that promise to myself is yet to be seen.
So now, my daughter sat before me, awaiting my answer if she could have a week at the beach in late July... and all I could think of was damned hurricane season and the possibility of toxic winds carrying sickness up to Georgia.
Finally, I stuttered, "Probably yes, but for now, it's a we'll see."
I felt like such an idiot, but to hide this, I explained wind patterns - again. Before it was just Mama writing about some far away problem, but this time Casie listened carefully since it might affect her, all the while quite possibly thinking, Mama is worrying too much and needs a vacation more than me, or worse, Mama done lost her damn mind.
Yeah, I'm sure some of you parents out reading this know it be's like dat sometime.
At least Casie didn't laugh at me and call me crazy. I'm sure that's what I would have done to my father at age 14 under the same circumstances, and my mother would have been laughing at him with me.
You see, she was a DC city girl, but my dad grew up farming in the Midwest. He learned from nature and knew the weather, and when he talked about it, it's wasn't nothing as banal as "Nice day today, huh?"
If he were alive, he'd be glued to the The Weather Channel and the Gulf oil news worse than me, and had his own personal preparedness evacuation plan ready... just in case.
And bitchin' nonstop.
In these times where Orwellian-style public relations is king, and sweeping problems under the rug and cover ups are the norm, it's like this. Until something is on the front pages and in the news with whoever "is in charge" talking about it, the gravity of a crisis either doesn't matter or doesn't exist. As long as we think we won't be touched by it, many of us sit back and say, oh, that's too bad - for them.
We are rarely "them" - until we are - and this is my greatest fear, that that day of reckoning is almost upon us.
Meanwhile, there are:
1) Those like me who are scared. We know the situation is very grim and thus have good reason to worry, but all the omissions, along with the misinformation leaves a void of just how bad is bad?
2) Those who like to scare others. They make up shit for fun, like the bozo who said it was raining oil in New Orleans, or this person who has video of the live stream stream oil well leak where you see a door open in the background. This alleges that the whole thing is being taped in a studio. Betcha he shot that through an aquarium.
Then there's the guy who video taped a field and said "the birds" had migrated to his state when they usually don't. I didn't see no fuckin' birds. There were some in the distance on a telephone wire, probably a bunch of summertime crows, but he didn't walk his azz over there to show them, or the alleged birds in the forest.
Or they scare folks to profit by getting their name out there as an expert, or selling DVDs, books, and/or memberships to their "informative" websites,
Or to push their beliefs, i.e., Armageddon, 2012, or a New Word Order plot (yes I think the NWO exists and that mega-corporate globalists will take advantage of the situation, but I think greed-based gross negligence is the culprit; like the bumper sticker says: Shit Happens); or the lady on YouTube who said the dolphins communicated to her that they're just fine because the oil leak wasn't that bad.
3) The ones in charge who are too scared to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, because they don't want to get sued, lose their political positions or jobs, or go to jail.
All of this leaves me feeling exactly like this person who left a comment at this blog:
There is so much we are not being told about the bad effects of this spill on whales, dolphins, fish, marshes, people, and so on, it is frustrating to also see these crazy, over the top stories.
Do you remember Dr. Dolittle and the creature the "push-me-pull-you"?
That's what this is like.
On the "push me" side, I want to know a lot more about how bad this really is.
I want to hear credible figures about how much oil is coming out, I want to know what is going on on the sea bed, I'd like to know about all the fish and animals.
I want to know if and when the oil is going to go into the Gulf Stream, and what that means for all of us.
What will happen if a lot of the oxygen producing plankton dies?
This is a bad enough situation, and I hate feeling that there is a lot of high priced PR talent working to make sure that the bad news does not come out.
On the "pull you" side, I want these morons with their oil rains and their evacuations of 20 million people to go shit up a tree.
It is an odd feeling, to be simultaneously ready to believe that this is the single worst thing ever to have happened, ever... and also to want people to chill the fuck out.
That video of the oil rain guy made me wish that the man from "Mutual of Omaha's Wild Kingdom" would come up behind him with one of those tranquilizer darts they use on bears.
Maybe I just need a cocktail.
Amen, and me too.