Monday, July 1, 2013

The Wonderful and the Dreadful

Yesterday was a great day for me. I attended the 39th Seattle Pride festivities with glorious weather, thousands of smiles and dozens of complements on my ninja turtle t-shirt. Really. At least 25 people smiled, pointed, said something or high-fived me as they noted my beloved super heroes. I’m glad I decided to wear it because I considered taking cow suits to the parade. They would have been hot and with the tens of thousands in attendance, I’d tire quickly of the udder tugs and “udderly” quips.
So, with no cow suits this weekend, what could I possibly come up with here?
Well, while I was running out my phone battery taking pictures and counting the unbelievable number of churches marching in the parade, 19 firefighters lost their lives in a wild fire in Arizona. I have a number of friends who are firefighters. Two of them have cowed with me, and last summer they both worked with the crew that was killed.
I always feel pangs of guilt when I’ve been out having fun and I hear of tragedy. That’s how it is though.  It’s the balance of life. When the sun shines on us, it’s dark for the other half of the world. While the wonderful is happening, so is the dreadful.
I also feel guilty when I’m glad that my friends are safe and someone else has died. I always think I will cow with my friends again and write about it for certain, but daily we are reminded that few things are certain.
When I was young my aunt discovered a lump in her breast. My mom was irate at her understandable “why me?” feelings. In what was more of a monologue rant than a conversation with me, I remember my mom yelling after she hung up the phone, “Why NOT you? Why should it be someone else? Really, you want someone else to find a lump? Someone else to get a cancer diagnosis? Why do the kids I see every day have to suffer like they do? Why can’t they have a pain-free and loving childhood? Why you? Why NOT you?” My mom was a child protection worker for 40 years, and I imagine that was one of the bad days. It was definitely the day, though, that I became one who asks “why me?” when good comes to me but rarely the bad.
As I left Seattle en route for home today, my mind is a whirlwind of the mental slideshow from Pride weekend, my catch-up to-do list after a 10-day vacation, what horror must exist for all firefighters and my friends, and naturally an ensuing:  Life is short. What really matters? Am I happy?  Geeze. I need a bike ride.
There was a collection of Seattle City workers marching in the parade: sanitation personnel, office staff, parks and rec folks and firefighters. A tall, lean firefighter walked right up to me (drawn by the ninja turtle shirt, I assume) and put her hand out to shake mine with a friendly, “Why aren’t you a firefighter with me?” This didn’t seem like a pickup line. She was walking in the parade with her significant other and I was standing there with mine. Having lived in my home town for 40 years, I probably don’t encounter new people as often as folks in big cities do, so my user interface is a little off at times—both in how the input is received and the output is delivered.
I quickly retorted, “Because I’m an engineer in Idaho.” She smirked for a second while she tried to find a comeback. Come to think of it, that was a lingering handshake. A couple more pleasantries were exchanged, my friend Willie snapped our picture, and she wished us a continued good time at Pride. I should have wished her continued safety in her profession.
I think we are all wishing all firefighters and emergency workers continued safety today. With the one year anniversary of the fire that took 66 homes in our area, 3 other fires going this weekend and hot, hot days ahead, they and their support crews will definitely be on our minds.
To all of ‘em—those in my herd and those not:  I know it’s not all about how dashing you look in your fire gear, how you masterfully wield a chainsaw, or the games you invent to pass the time when it’s slow.  It’s about something you love doing that pushes your limits and it gets in your core. The summer will not be slow. Please be safe and thank you for doing the job you do.  

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