You know, my kids make fun of me sometimes when I say the world’s gone nuts. Or that I’m going to buy a mountain, put a big fence around it, and take my entire family to live behind that fence.
I have one grown child whose family lives in the city. Not Chicago or NYC, but one of those areas that’s a wannabe metropolis. Seven of them. The entire area is referred to as “the Seven Cities”. My only daughter and her husband, and four of my granddaughters still live there. In the hood. And when I say it’s the hood, I mean I have personally sat on their porch on a summer evening and listened to popping noises and said “Who’s setting off fireworks?” Only it wasn’t fireworks, it was gunfire. Police sirens and ambulances round out the nightly symphony.
My son-in-law is a huge hulking fella. Rather imposing, so I worry a little less about their safety than my own Mother probably did about mine when I had to take my children and go try on city life and bought a home in East Baltimore. (Ok, I worry a lot less, because she went out and bought us all burial plots at that turn of events, God rest her soul.)
I don’t care how big you are, or how smart…and they’re pretty sharp, the pair of them (and fantastic parents)… you cannot stop a bullet. You can’t stop violence from touching your kids, and planting yourself in the middle of an urban area likely to be a war zone for a bunch of little turf hungry hood rats that fancy themselves “gangstas” doesn’t do much for your odds or your sense of peace. Or your mother’s.
Last night, right at the edge of dark, my daughter was forced to run upstairs with the girls. There was shooting in their neighborhood. Close. Too close. The young men who were being shot at jumped over their backyard fence and the next door neighbor’s. My son in law spent the next hour helping the police department round up the bullet casings. In their own front yard. Bullet casings. Where my grandbabies run barefoot all summer. Where they are lucky they were not hanging out, as they often do, on such a beautiful evening.
I wish my tendency for hyperbole was at work here. It’s not.
Bullets. Whizzing within literal inches of where six of the things most precious to me in this world lay their heads and eat dinner. Thankfully, no rounds hit the house. Or anything with a heartbeat, including the fence jumping young men, who, of course claimed they had no idea who was shooting at them. Or why…after the police rounded them up from behind my daughter’s home where they took cover.
The kids were already flirting with the notion a move up this way. Closer to family, not in the city. The hardest thing about being a parent of a grown child is remembering you’re not in charge anymore. On the phone with mine last night, it was all I could do not to demand they pack their stuff, this instant, and come the hell home. To hell with your family autonomy, do what I say and right freaking now, because I don’t want to bury any of you. Get your collective rear ends back to where if you hear gunfire, it’s someone putting meat in the freezer, not someone’s child in a box. I want to put my foot down. This is enough. No job, no city paycheck is worth this.
But I can’t. They’re adults. I have to respect their decisions as a family, and right now that means living where they are.
I didn’t sleep much last night. I doubt they did either. Your children may grow up…but they never stop being your babies.