Alone the other night—Michael having gone out of town again—I sat down for a rare viewing of the PBS News Hour with my rewarmed pesto pasta and a glass of red wine. Calvin was in the room next door, cooing and shrieking and no doubt biting the netted canopy above his bed and/or its vinyl padding. I’d just put him to bed after suffering through some of the loudest screams I’ve ever heard him make. Regrettably, I managed to make one or two (or three) myself.

In the dark room on the television screen a young man with wavy hair and dimpled cheeks reported on the weather. A student meteorologist, his delivery was confident, though unpolished, which was part of his charm. I found myself rooting for the lanky weather man as he gestured and remarked on the expected temperatures and the possibility of rain. He ended with a big smile that took a chunk out of my heart realizing how I’ll never be the proud parent of a boy like that.

I ate my noodles and sipped my wine in relative silence as Calvin drifted off to sleep. Several of my favorite talking heads appeared and began imparting intelligent details about the latest headlines. The journalists covered stories about the economy, the presidential race, singularity, and the future of technology. They ended with a sickening story about an unarmed man arrested, beaten and tasered to death—murdered—for attempting to reenter this country illegally to join his family in San Diego.

The man, who was handcuffed and hogtied, was kicked and clubbed and tasered five times, once as long as twelve seconds as his body convulsed, his brain in seizure. The video and eye witness accounts proved he was in no position to resist the border patrol officers who, in my mind, were no more than cowardly, bullying criminals themselves. He died from a taser-induced heart attack leaving behind his wife and several small children. And although he was doing something illegal, I don't call that justice. I call it hateful.

I thought about the immigrant and his family, about how he cried for help, about the dozen or so officers that swarmed around him like a pack of wolves hungry for flesh. Then I meditated on Calvin, all tucked in and warm sleeping in the room next door under the sedating wash of his antiepileptic drugs. I thought about how lucky he is to be alive, to have a father, to be fortunate enough to have been born into a family of relative privilege. I thought about the hell that I felt I’d been living an hour or so prior during Calvin’s screaming ... how that was really no hell at all ... how I should be thanking my lucky stars and hoping for better lives for those around me, for those who are simply trying to eke out a better life for themselves and for their kids.

And I went to bed alone that night just like that poor man's widow, and yet not like her at all.

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photo by Michael Kolster

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