On Monday, David and I briefly hung out with my grandfather, Papa, on our drive back up north. Papa continues to inspire me with his sweetness and curiosity. Despite his advanced dementia, he loves to ask questions.
“So are you two married?” he asked. “Yes,” we said and smiled. “And when did you get married?” “Two years ago! At UCLA! It was beautiful. You were there and you walked down the aisle with Betty,” I said, remembering that pretty Saturday afternoon, standing in Dickson Plaza, the sun glittering through the trees as I looked out Papa, Betty, and all our family and friends. An incredible day at a very special place.
Papa is notable for many things. His kindness and generosity to family, his perseverance and grit, and his impressively thoughtful and ahead-of-his time perspective-he was an exercising, health nut long before it was cool.
One thing Papa is not: fashionable. I like to think he was far to busy living his life; he never had time to care about trends or clothes. Which is why I find it funny that one of my favorite gifts is Papa’s old, burnt orange, cable knit sweater. It’s wildly unattractive and I have no idea how I acquired it. Nonetheless, despite multiple moves, and many KonMari-tidying-up urges to throw it away, it’s persevered, and I’m wearing it today.
Today, I’m wearing orange, burnt orange to be precise, in honor of human life. In honor of the over 90,000 human lives that have been lost to gun violence, since 20 children lost their lives in Sandy Hook. I’m wearing orange because I’m tired, and scared, and cannot believe that this violence continues. And still, no action in Congress. I always think David’s old roommate’s response following a mass shooting (how horrific is it that there are no so many, I can’t remember which one?). “To the ‘today is not the day to talk about gun control crowd,’-you’re right. That day should have been yesterday.”
Fear and helplessness are potent anxiety ingredients, but it is so hard not avoid feeling overwhelmed. Tonight, as I pulled on my orange sweater and filled out my mail-in ballot, I felt in some small way like I was doing something. Recently, our friends were talking about single issue voters. I realized (to slight dismay) I’m a single issue voter. I’m now very solidly pro-Hillary, but after wavering this fall, I fell quickly in-line after her opponent hesitated on gun control during the first Democratic debate.
The stakes are too high to hesitate, and too high for it not to be political. The loss is stomach-turning.
I’m struggling to process yesterday’s tragedy at UCLA. These horrors are far too frequent, that on the one hand, they almost require emotionally numbing for the sake of sanity preservation. At the same time, numbness gives way to acceptance, and we cannot accept this.
We can’t accept that yesterday morning was the last day for a professor, a father, a Bruin. It’s unacceptable that an entire campus, an entire community, my amazing friends, spent hours in fear during a lock down. It’s just wrong the gun lobby’s $400 million in income and assets grants it unrelenting control over our legislature. It’s wrong that action continues to stall.
So, on this Thursday night, I’m trying not to get too overwhelmed, and instead, curling up in this sweater. Thinking of that beautiful campus, and the remarkable people it brought into my life. And hoping for progress.