Last night, I had a terrible nightmare.
No, not the recurring nightmare I have that McDonald's publicly announces that they're discontinuing the McRib (though, that one is horrifying), but a truly stomach-turning, tear inducing, when-will-this-night-end kind of nightmare.
Last night, I had a terrible, terrible nightmare that we lost our daughter..and by lost, I don't mean we couldn't find her, but I still can't bring myself to say what happened. Let me explain:
My wife and I (and apparently my daughter, though I didn't realize until later in the dream), were on a big pirate ship in a large pool that belonged to President Obama (okay, I know this sounds ridiculous already, but I'm just telling you what happened...). I noticed a large wave coming from the middle of the pool and realized this pool was about to be drained. I started screaming for everybody to get off the ship and I jumped to what turned out to be a really, really large ledge, like the one by the back window of a car behind the back seats. I took my wife's hand just as all the water and the ship flushed down into this huge drain. Everybody who was on that ship was dead.
I was shocked by the experience (wouldn't you be?) and, of course, angry at the President (there's a shocker), but I returned to work where people were surprisingly insensitive. There were two other people at work who had lost children on that ship and everybody was cracking jokes. It was at that point that I realized I had lost my daughter. I began screaming at everyone, asking what was wrong with them, how could they be so insensitive. Every ounce of my being was sated with despair. I was barely able to breathe through the sobs and I prayed that it was all a mistake, that I would just wake up.
And I did. Thank God.
I immediately rushed to my daughter's room and just held her for a few minutes, then went to my son and did the same, realizing the crippling experience parents go through when they really do lose a child. Unfortunately for them, they cannot wake up from it as I did.
I began to think about the vacation we just took to Hershey Park. While there, my wife noticed a father and daughter sitting on a ride together. By 'together' I mean they were sharing a car, but they were sitting on opposite sides of the car looking away from each other. The girl was maybe 4 years old. The father looked like he wanted to be anywhere else but there.
In contrast, when my brother and I rode the rides with our children, we buckled up and pulled the kids tight to us. We smiled in anticipation of the ride, then laughed with each other from start to finish. I could not imagine any place in the world I would have rather been at that point in time. What could have been so important to that man that he was upset about being there? Did he want to ride a different ride? Did he want some cotton candy? Did he want to sit on the inside of the cart?
Worse yet, how common must this attitude have been that the little girl wasn't even attempting to engage him?
It was sad.
There is nothing in this world more precious to me than my daughter Isabella and my son Caden. I always felt I was a pretty giving person, but I never truly understood the concept of being willing to lay down your life for someone until these children came into my life (which puts me in even more awe of our soldiers who do this on a daily basis for complete strangers).
I try to give my children every minute of time I can. I caught myself yesterday falling into the trap of, "In a minute, honey. Daddy's got to do this or finish that..." While mowing the lawn, my daughter asked me to come look at the castle she'd built in the sandbox. I told her she'd have to wait a bit. As she began to walk away, I stopped the mower, turned off the iPod and told her, "You know what? Let me see that castle now. I can't wait." Her eyes lit up and she sprinted back to me, grabbed my hand and pulled me to the sandbox. Taking that two minutes of my time made her SO happy and what did it cost me? Nothing. In fact, it made me feel great, too.
The first thing I did at work today was pin up a picture she made for me yesterday and now I'm counting the minutes until I can go home and play with her and Caden. I feel so sorry for those people who never get to feel the unconditional love of a child, or worse, who are given that love but squander it.
All in all, everything turned out great. The McRib will still have its limited runs and my daughter is safe and sound. I would, however, avoid any pirate ships owned by Barack Obama.
Better safe than sorry.
J.E. Braun is the author of Paranoia, a 9/11 survivor's tale. 10% of profits from sales of Paranoia will be donated to the Twin Towers Orphan Fund (www.ttof.org). For more information, please visit www.jebraun.com.