Flash in the Pan
A Quarterly Posting at Tiny Lights
All Is Dread
by Maggie Manning
While having my first cup of coffee on a recent sunny morning, I caught the "teaser" on the Today Show: The body of a 17-year-old girl, missing for a little over a week, had been discovered in a shallow grave on the edge of a lovely San Diego park. I immediately had two contradictory and equally strong reactions: to leap up and turn off the news, and to watch, in horrified fascination, as the details of her death were revealed. I always feel this way when I hear this kind of news. Like the clichéd rubber-necker who slows down to see the horrific aftermath of the highway collision, I am both drawn to and repelled by this kind of situation.
Do all mothers feel this way or do all parents freeze in fear when they first hear the story? Maybe they also breathe a sigh of relief: This time, thank god, it's not my child.
I don't know how others react but when it comes to the well-being of my 16-year-old daughter, I am the stereotypical mother tiger. I would do anything, and I mean anything, to protect her. But I can't always.
Is that man looking at her? (Doesn't he resemble the picture circulated of the recently released level-2 sex offender?) Is it safe for her to spend so much time on Facebook? (What predators lurk on-line looking for easy teenage prey?) Why does she insist on wearing low-cut tops to school? How can I help her retain her innate friendliness while helping her understand the world's ever-present risks?
The fact that she has learning disabilities and is cognitively and socially delayed complicates matters and heightens my anxieties. I often find myself walking a very thin line, indeed. This line leads to my worst nightmare. I get the call and arrive to find my beautiful girl, beaten and savaged, barely able to see me out of swollen eyes. "I'm sorry," she manages. "I'm sorry I disappointed you, mom." I can do nothing but hold her hand and try to choke back the tears that threaten to drown me, to cancel out a lifetime of love.
Maggie Manning lives on the edge in Geneseo, NY.
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