On caregivers, faith, family, and writing…

Published in the Rains County Leader on June 2, 2022:

The people of Uvalde suffered a great tragedy last week, and we suffered along with them. When something like this happens, there is so much that needs to be said, but too many words are the wrong ones. Words spoken or written during times of shock, horror, grief, pain, and anger often come out wrong or are misunderstood by those who hear them or read them, and they end up causing more harm than good. I was reluctant to write about what occurred, but so much heartbreak can’t simply be overlooked.  First, though, I want to share some thoughts about my grandson “T”.

T is eighteen years old, and he graduated from high school this weekend. Even those who are not doting grandparents recognize that he is an amazing young man – intelligent, handsome, talented, ambitious, loving, and caring. A family friend who has a beautiful home with a stunningly terraced back yard overlooking the Brazos River hosted a celebration for him on Saturday, and it was attended by friends and relatives from all over the country. One of the highlights of the evening was when the small professional jazz band that provided entertainment took a break and T and several of his friends took their place. We had missed the concert where his group won the best jazz ensemble award, so I was thrilled to hear them perform in person. I was also thrilled to watch him interact with a dozen of his peers as they played volleyball, engaged in a photo scavenger hunt, and generally enjoyed one another’s company. It was’t always this way.

Life was hard for baby T. He was temperamental, going from sunny to stormy without warning. He was super intelligent from the beginning, but his emotional development sometimes lagged behind, and he found processing life very difficult. But his parents and others who loved him found ways of helping him cope. As a baby, they discovered that swaddling him tightly in a receiving blanking and making a loud “shhhhhh” noise in his ear to mimic the sounds of the womb settled him when nothing else would. As he outgrew that method, T responded to a different kind of swaddling. His mom or dad would take him into their lap with his back against their chest, align their arms with his, and wrap him in a tight kind of reverse hug. Like the swaddling, this contact soothed him, and even though it was often a kind of disciplinary action, he sometimes asked to be held.

Through the years T continued to struggle with emotional and relational issues. He interacted well with adults and with children much younger than himself, but he had problems with peer friendships. He was tested and evaluated by teachers and other professionals without a conclusive diagnosis, but he had a support group that never gave up on him. As he entered his mid to late teens, and especially when he was able to direct his life-long interest in music into the high school marching and jazz bands, he seemed to gain control of other aspects of his life as well. The COVID interruption played havoc with his junior year, but he completed his at-home studies with a last-minute sprint that earned him a place on the honor roll. After that, his senior year was a walk in the park.

What does my grandson’s life story have to do with the heartbreaking event in Uvalde? Maybe very little to many people. We are a microwave society that wants everything right now, and we want an answer to why this happened and how to prevent a recurrence – and we want it right now. Unfortunately, I don’t have any answers, but I do have some thoughts that may lead to more questions.

I’ve written two novels about child trafficking in small town America. I’m often asked why on earth I chose that topic, and my answer is that I was shocked when I learned that child trafficking is something that not only happens “somewhere else” but also happens right here in our little part of the world. Surely I’m not the only one who was naïve about what is going on, and my hope is that my stories help raise awareness of the issue. When I’m asked to talk about my books, I always include suggestions about what we can do to fight trafficking. I include things like educate yourself about the problem, find organizations that fight it and donate or volunteer, or become politically involved in legal solutions. But as I also tell my listeners, I’m not a big picture person. My heart is to reach the vulnerable before they become victims by becoming involved with at-risk children through church, school, and civic organizations where you can interact with children one-on-one in ways that will make them less vulnerable.

This Sunday, during morning worship, we spent a few minutes remembering and praying for the victims of the Uvalde shooting and all those who have been affected by it. My heart breaks for those families who will never celebrate the graduation of their children and grandchildren, the children whose circle of friends is now smaller, and the people who will always wonder if the outcome would have been different “if only…” I respect those who will confront the event head on, looking for those here and now answers.

But as I thought about my grandson, I couldn’t help but think of that other eighteen-year-old who is lying in a morgue after having committed a heinous crime for reasons we will never fully understand. I couldn’t help but wonder if he was a fussy baby, and if so, did anyone swaddle him tightly and make “shhhhh” sounds in his ear? Did anyone hold him in a tight embrace when he had a tantrum because his emotions were too immature to handle what life was throwing at him?

In child trafficking, experts have developed a profile of children who are most vulnerable to predators, and we can watch for red flags so we can protect those potential victims. There is no excuse for what the Uvalde shooter did, but surely there is a profile of those who have the potential for following in his footsteps. If parents, teachers, friends, and family educate themselves about warning signs, could steps be taken to deal with the potential before it becomes a danger?

There is an old African proverb that says “Each one reach one.” There are a lot of children in the world who don’t have the attentive family that T has – so many that the numbers seem overwhelming if you look at just the big picture. But if each one of us will reach out to one of those vulnerable children, we can make a difference.

Blessings,

Linda

Kitty’s Story

Fallen Angel Salvage

Tatia’s Tattoo

Mom’s Long Goodbye

A Long and Winding Road

Comments on: "Thoughts on Uvalde | by Linda Brendle" (5)

  1. Diane LaFerney McDowell said:

    I admit I was hesitant to read this entry, Linda, for the very reasons you outline at the beginning. But I am so glad I did. Very insightful, my friend, and I agree that we all must be more observant and willing to speak up in the correct way. My best to you and your family.

  2. Thank you for sharing these thoughts, Linda, and thanks for what you do to help!

  3. Nancy Niles said:

    Hard subject to address but I enjoyed your perspective. Supporting kids in their sports and achievements is fun and rewarding. But patience and commitment to support them through issues is not easy.
    Like you, I felt the losses of Uvalde were so sad and the young ages of the victims tore my heart apart. This was good reading!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: