Thursday, February 17, 2011

Are you living a chosen life?

At Thanksgiving I learned that my son Marty’s winter band tour would dip into Mexico. Monterrey, to be exact. Due to increasing drug war violence—and despite the fact that Marty has been gunning for banditos since a young age, as this picture shows—no one in my extended family thought this part of the tour was a good idea.

As the facts filtered in, I forwarded them to Marty in an unrelenting push. From Thanksgiving until Christmas, when the tour was scheduled to lauch, an additional 8,000 people had died, bringing the total killed due to Mexican drug violence to more than 30,000. Travel advisories had been posted. The children of diplomats in the very city where he was headed were evacuated. Monterrey was listed as an increasingly dangerous locale.

The evidence was overwhelming: for one show, this trip was too dangerous to justify.

In response, Marty pointed to the odds of getting killed on his daily drive to work. My experience tells me this about about odds: someone is always on the losing side.
Current estimates are that one out of four pregnancies ends in miscarriage. I was on the wrong side of those odds.
The chance of repeat miscarriage decreases to one in ten. I was on the wrong side of those odds.
One in 10,000 American takes his own life. My husband took his.
Only 3 out of 1,000 guns owned by Americans will be used in a suicide. My husband used one of his for this purpose.
Like many who’ve seen too much in their lives, I know bad things don’t bypass you just because some statistician says it’s unlikely.

To his credit, Marty read and responded to e-mail after e-mail full of reasons why he shouldn’t go. In addition the band was set to go, he had a renewed passport burning a hole in his pocket, and there was an irresistible a groundswell of interest in hardcore among Mexican youth.

His conclusion:
[Because] I will either be on a bus, in the guy running the show's van, or in the venue, I feel like my safety is fairly well accounted for. I'm never going into any public places or interacting with locals outside of the hardcore scene. We are strictly going in, playing, and leaving.

There's probably nothing I can say to you that will make you think it's a good idea but I hope some of this at least helps.

If Marty died I would miss him terribly, but death will one day claim us all. I was more concerned about reports of kidnapping. Starvation. Torture. Dismemberment. Ugly, drug war-fueled stuff. Americans unable to ever find out what really happened to their loved ones after they disappeared in Mexico.

Because Marty was 21, once I delivered the facts there wasn’t a whole lot else I could do. But while I still had the chance, and so I wouldn't regret it for the rest of my life, I took the opportunity to say: “Please, don't go.”

He went.

And he came home, praise be, and once he was back in the country he called to tell me that.

Despite a small snafu with paperwork that required him and his bandmates to return to the border, all went smoothly. They had their guard up, but ran into nothing frightening, although their host told them he sometimes hears shots in the night.

Once Marty left for the tour I was surprised at the way my worry lifted. This wasn’t about keeping him safe, after all. I realized then why I went to the wall on this: if Marty was going to put his life on the line, I had to make sure he did so while living the life he wanted to live.

In failing to waver despite the mounting evidence against that trip, Marty told me: This is the life I want to live, and I’m not going to let the odds determine my pursuit of it.

That Marty. A chip off the old block.

I too am living my dream against phenomenal odds—I’m trying to get a novel published. But every now and then, someone does succeed. And I’ve fit within the small odds so many times before, why not now? Granted, getting published might not kill me, but I might just die trying. On my tombstone I want written:

“She died pursuing her dreams.”

I want nothing less for my sons.

As for Marty and me, we weathered this storm. We’re still tight.

But when his band left the country on a three-day tour last weekend?

Even though their destination was peaceable Canada, Marty decided not to tell me until he got back.

Are you pursuing your dreams? Are your children? I'd love to hear about it.


Anonymous said...

Several years ago our daughter went to Cuba with a class from the University of VT. We stated our concerns to her. She went anyway. She returned safely, but with many questions. Our daughter has her chosen life. My chosen life is fluid and ever changing. Shouldn't I want the same for my kids?

Thoughtfully, Phyllis.

Lisa R. Tomarelli said...

A timely post---I am about to experience a similar letting-go: my son has the opportunity to go to London for a week-long performing arts camp...this April! Not a big deal except that he's only 14 and I walked with him to the bus stop up until last year. Prayers for God's peace are helping already. There are stages in the letting go and once a decision is made, I find it easier to trust God more. And so I continue my own pursuit, but making sure to live life in the process. The memoir will be written. I owe that to my kids, too.

Kathryn Craft said...

Phyllis: Thanks for the follow-up chat by phone! Thanks for sharing your story here.

And Lisa: Ayayay, 14! I remember when Jackson applied to and got accepted to the Sounds of America Honor Band and Chorus. He was 16 when I dropped him at Dickinson College for several days of rehearsal, and then he was off on a six-cuntry European tour--for a month! He'd never been gone from home for more than one night before. He knew not one single soul on the trip. But he said: "Mom, how bad can it be, they're all musicians!" By the time we returned to Dickinson a few days later for the farewell concert, he had already been composing barbershop quartet music with another singer in his spare time. :) They truly let us know when they are ready to spread their wings.

Lisa R. Tomarelli said...

SIX countries?! My brain is trying to wrap itself around one!