Learning the Ropes

Tonight at dinner, my little ones listened attentively to their daddy talking about the Rope Rescue, Awareness and Operations course he has been taking this past week. He’s in class from 8-5 learning how to tie ropes that can lift anything from a person to a vehicle weighing up to 10,000 pounds.  It’s an odd thing to have him home with us every night instead of his normal shifts. I wonder what military families do when they are used to operating without one person for so long, and then they come back, and everything is wonderful, but strange?

We talk obliquely about how these different knots and procedures can be used to support a person.  “This one can be used to tie a person’s hands together, so you could put them on your back and bear-crawl out if you had to.”  Dear Lord, please let him never have to.  “Would this work for extrication, like up in Seattle?” I ask.  His eyes meet mine over the chicken fettuccine alfredo that had to be reheated after the Cub Scout meeting ran long, and he nods once.  We move on quickly to the next topic and the little ones watch with big eyes as daddy demonstrates another knot.  My little guy can’t wait until he’s done eating to run and get his Cub Scout rope.   His little hands try to mimic his daddy’s as they deftly wind and twist through the air.

I imagine the families in Seattle sitting around the dinner table just like this when their world, literally, shifts and sweeps them from this life into the next.  I can’t stop thinking about how quickly life changed for them, and I feel helpless thinking about how little we can do for all those affected by this horrific tragedy. The news is full of talk about how the mudslide could have been prevented, all the reports and warnings published years ago, and the blame is flying everywhere.  Hindsight, of course, is always 20/20.

But how can we judge, when we are told in multiple reports  and warnings about the importance of eating right, daily exercise, getting enough sleep so our brain cells don’t permanently die off, and yet we continue to order those chili cheese fries (my personal weakness this month), put off those early morning runs, and sit up way past our bedtimes surfing the internet.  Our little ones learn by watching what we do.   They so want to be like us, learning the ropes on how to make their way through this world.  Their eyes see everything, tell us things we didn’t necessarily need to hear: “Your hair is super-funny looking this morning, Mama” or “Why is your tummy so soft?” as he’s laying on me, after a tickle fest.  They see how my eyes stray to my cell phone in the middle of conversations with them, distracted by the technology I tell them is bad for them.

At bedtime, my little guy adds in a name I’m not familiar with to the long list of loved ones, human and furry,  we keep in our nightly prayers.  “Is he your friend?” I ask.

“Not necessarily.” (I love it when they co-opt our own adult-sounding phrases).

“Is he one of your classmates?”

“No, he’s in the other 3rd grade class.”

“So, why are we praying for him?”

“Because he got hit by a baseball, on his cheek and he has a big thing there now.”

“You mean it’s swollen.”

“Yes, he’s hurt, so I want to pray for him,” he says in an exasperated tone.

Duh, Mama, that’s what we do.  We pray for people who are hurt.

I”m still learning the ropes, too, it seems.

For all those families in the aftermath of the mudslide, the survivors still searching for loved ones, the rescuers and first responders hoping against hope to find someone still hanging on, tonight we pray for strength and courage to continue on.

Today, I am thankful for teachers, big and small who teach us the ropes in life.  I am thankful for the brutal honesty of children who help us see ourselves as we truly are.  On a completely different note, I am grateful also for whomever invented chili cheese fries, which I’d like with a side of willpower please.

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