June 23, 2008
Early into Kindergarten I was taken to the doctor and given an emergency examination. My parents had an urgency which, at the age of five, I had never sensed before. Our family physician wrote a prescription and sent us home. I remember thinking nothing of it until I was spoon fed this foul mixture and I gagged before swallowing it. Also, my folks woke me in the middle of the night to give me this same elixir once more.
Youth and the fog of memory cloud one’s perspective and make the image in the rear view mirror of the mind a bit fuzzy. I needed the medicine, yet I wasn’t sick. Back in 1968, things were a lot different than they are today. I didn’t even have pediatrician. But, the fact remains that something happened to give my parents and the doctor a scare.
A young girl in my class died of viral meningitis.
She passed away at the age of five, and it troubles me that I do not remember her name or even her face. Perhaps as I write this, there's mother and a father who pause each day to recall her laugh, gaze at her photo, and shed a tear forty years later. By now they are elderly, perhaps they are grandparents; yet, how could they forget her?
My life and that of the little girl crossed at one point. Though the thread was thin which connected us, there was indeed a portion of the fabric of space-time where we shared a common patch of Earth and we were steered along a congruent path toward maturation.
To a greater degree, her parents towed the same line, and they stood at the edge of that plane of existence which I shared with their daughter. Is a tiny ripple of one youthful life so great as to cause a wave of emotion vibrant enough to continue to intrigue a grown man?
Four decades have passed and I still think about my classmate. She has the effect of keeping me focused as my life is supposed to have significance. I will explain.
My cynicism has caused to me to question my life’s purpose. I’ve derailed the concepts of destiny and fate having any sort of influence over me. Yet, I am able to connect the dots from many events throughout my past which, when held up to the light, spin a story of divine guidance which can not be ignored.
The players who’ve accompanied me on my journey thus far, including, family, friends, teachers, co-workers, and some victims I’ve encountered during my years in law enforcement, have all contributed bits and snippets of truth and awareness which only occurs to me when I cast off the cloak of skepticism and become open to the charms of serendipity.
I want to recollect this fated young girl back in elementary school. I can still see where she sat in class and the back of her head. With her brown hair clasped together to form pig tails, she sat upright in those first days of school and listened Mrs. Sisti teach us the ABCs. Is it fair that I made it this far in life and not she? What does it mean when a young person dies? How do I validate my additional forty years of breathing in exchange for being lucky enough to not get sick?
My conscience is not equipped to deal with transience, the algebra of survival, and cosmic disproportion. For this reason, I am compelled to assess my endurance, to make good on an unearthed vow evoked by my introspection and unadulterated scrutiny of what I deem to be providence. Why do I live? How am I so fortunate; and what is the toll for continuing along this thoroughfare, this life?
For the sake of so many before me, and including this girl of whom I write, I will endeavor to be a good person. My goal shall be to contribute something to the rest of us. Each day, I give a bit more, I think, as I follow a new string I've discovered with my eyes wide open and my mind cleared of wretched disbelief.
My children have passed the young girl in age; and, hopefully I will never mourn, God forbid, in the same manner as her parents do to this day. This girl, this fleeting life, still teaches; though her responsibility was never to die; but to grow.
There is a photograph buried in an archive of snapshots and Polaroids at my dad’s house. Captured on paper in one of these collections is an image of me in Kindergarten. I remember when this class portrait was taken; and, the young girl was not there that day. Her mom and dad no longer took her to school by then; and, she never hanged her finger paintings in the hallway with the rest of us for Open School Night.
I intend to dig that picture out of the drawer my father keeps his memories in. The will is there, but not the effort. Perhaps I will find it one day when I sit back and consider my life and how I got here. Sometimes, whenever I recall everyone I knew over the years, a little girl nudges me and reminds me that she was alive and that she mattered in this world. Her parents should know that a new filament has been cast across the dimensions between life and death, and their child continues to weave herself into the cloth of someone else’s being. I shall secure this lifeline offered me by my classmate and keep myself grounded with the concept that I will justify my existence and fulfill my obligations.
Many years ago, a mom and dad lost their daughter. This man, a boy in her Kindergarten class, will never forget her.
Kindergarten physician viral meningitis parents space-time classmate life journey serendipity