Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Bad Things Aren't Supposed to Happen to Us
The picture above is of me, my brother, and two of our oldest (and still closest) friends, Chrissy Feltovic and Mary Callahan. I'm not sure what Mary is doing, she's either laughing or frightened by something behind Chrissy's back. But either way, it's typical Mary: always in the picture, but never one to seek the spotlight. Unlike the rest of us, who, along with Chrissy's sister Nicole, were constantly fighting to be the center of attention while spending nearly every moment of our childhood together. But that was the only real fighting we did - for no matter how heated our games of Kick the Can, Hide and Seek, and Spud got, the five of us always stuck together. Quite literally at times, as our “bases” had what we called Electricity.
For the uninitiated, a "base" is the designated safe spot in a game (a front porch, a large rock, or even a lamp post) where if you were standing or touching it, you couldn't get tagged, out, caught, etc. And Electricity allowed us to work together to rescue a slow-running teammate who couldn’t reach the safety of base by creating a human chain. As long as one person kept so much as a toe on base, anyone holding their hand (or the hand of the person holding their hand!) received the full benefits of base.
Once, one of us (probably me) got tired of being “It” and tried to disrupt the flow of Electricity by busting through the line and breaking the chain, but a rule was quickly created that made such moves illegal. The logic being that anyone doing so in real life would be electrocuted, so therefore it couldn’t be allowed in the game.
We were great at making rules, but all honesty we didn't have a whole lot of them to follow. We were lucky in that our parents gave us every opportunity to explore and grow on our own. They made sure we were safe(ish), but not sheltered. As long as we were home by the time the streetlights came on, we were free to do whatever our young hearts desired. Of course as we got older, some of our hearts started desiring each other, but even that was done in a playful sort of way.
And now we’re all grown up with kids of our own. But sadly, society has made it difficult to raise our kids the way we were raised. The world no longer feels as safe. Neighbors no longer seem so kindly. And streetlights no longer come on at a preset time, if at all. But my friend Mary is one of the brave ones. She and her husband are throwing over-caution to the wind and letting their two young boys skateboard down the sidewalk, build igloos in the snow, and melt crayons on light bulbs the way we once did. To do so, they had to overextend themselves to buy a nice house in a safe neighborhood with great schools so their kids could have the best. They committed to working long and hard during the week so they're kids could play just as hard on the weekends.
But life has thrown Mary and her husband, Jimmy Kelleher, a curveball. Jimmy was recently diagnosed with MSA, and after only a year, his symptoms have made it impossible for him to continue working, driving, and playing with his kids with the same energy that he once did. To tell you the truth, I'm too afraid to look up MSA to see what the exact prognosis is, but I know it's not good. What I do know is MSA means multiple system atrophy, and it’s a disease similar to Parkinson's but much less treatable. In fact there is no cure.
It's often said that for parent, the death of a child is the absolute worst thing to deal with. But knowing you may not be around to watch your children grow up has to come a close second. Jimmy is a great dad, a loving husband, and a loyal friend, and not being able to provide for all the people in his life has to be the most difficult part of all of this for him.
And to that end, the old neighborhood gang is teaming up with Mary's family to host a benefit to help raise some much-needed money. You should know right up front that the money will not go to help find a cure for MSA. It will not be used for research or scholarships. The money will go to help pay the mortgage and settle some bills, with hopefully enough left over for some Christmas presents. Our goal is a relatively small one, but we hope that the money raised will not only help alleviate some of the financial burden, but also the emotional one Jimmy has been carrying over no longer being able to provide for his family’s needs. We hope that Jimmy recognizes that this is not charity. It is payback for all the wonderful things he has done for people in need. The money we raise will truly have been earned by Jimmy the same as if he were punching the clock.
But even so, Mary and Jimmy were reluctant to go the benefit route when we first brought it up to them. As I mentioned, Mary is not one to seek attention, and both are very private people when it comes to personal matters, so the fact that they would even consider letting us do a fundraiser made it clear to me how desperate things had become.
When I said we grew up playing games, I meant it literally. Those games taught us how to deal with life as adults. Sometimes you win. Sometimes you lose. It's not always fair. But even so, some things just weren't supposed to happen to us. Bad things were not supposed to happen to us. Bad things happen to the people you read about in the papers, or watch on the news. Bad things happen to cousins of coworkers. Bad things happen to strangers, and leave you thinking, “Oh how terrible…” before resuming your own life.
But a bad thing has happened to one of our own, and as much as we want to, we can't change the rules. We can't demand a do over, or holler, “Ollie Ollie Oxen Free!” We can't take our ball and go home. Life for Jimmy is no longer a game, but we are hoping that the powers of Electricity are still as strong today as they were back then. And we need you all to join the chain, to come together and reach out to help our friend enjoy the safety of base.
Here is the link to the facebook page: Benefit for Jimmy Kelleher and the info from the page: