Sunday, December 21, 2008

What can we do to help?

This weeks news spotlighted two tragedies involving children. One took place 27 years ago- when little Adam Walsh was kidnapped from a Sears while shopping with his mother Reve. He was brutally murdered and decapitated. His father John Walsh began a life long campaign to catch bad guys via “Americas Most Wanted,” TV shows; ironically never able to catch Adams murderer. John Walsh always had a suspect- but the police did not follow the lead- then this week, it was announced that indeed- John Walsh’s suspect was the killer. Case closed.

Then the decomposed bones of little Kaylee Anthony were found in a swampy, wooded area not far from her home. The remains too decomposed to tell the examiner much – other than the bones had not been broken. There is nothing left to tell how this poor child died. I think her mother knows though. Mothers who murder their children are in a category of their own, hopefully with a special place in hell for them. I have no mercy for them.

I was four years old but I vividly remember riding my sister Linda’s old bike out in front of our home on Alemany Boulevard in San Francisco. My parents were outside in the early evening, refinishing their bedroom set. I remember Linda saying to me “Don’t go too far or the kidnappers will get you.” I knew they wouldn’t though, because my dad, the policeman was right there. I probably rode three houses down and then turned around though… I can still feel the memory of fear.

I was cautious. I watched people. My dad taught me to do that I think, or maybe I come by it naturally.

A life long news junkie, I remember one night close to my 32th birthday a year before I had my own son- probably nursing a hangover or working on the next one, watching the news when the story of a missing child broke. Ten year old Kevin Collins just disappeared from the bus stop. In San Francisco! My home! They flashed his photo everywhere. I remember thinking how adorable he was. How could he just disappear? The whole city looked for him. Year after year. I can still see that photo in my minds eye. I can see the anguish on his father’s face too.

Later, there were so many. Mostly girls but some were boys..
Michaela Joy Garecht- 1988 still missing
Amber Swartz –Garcia 1988- still missing
Ilene Misheloff, 1989 still missing
Polly Klaas, - murdered- solved.
Jaycee Lee Dugard- 1991- still missing (found alive 2009!! )

There are too many to name- this would be a book not a blog.

I admit- I have not recently read the details of these cases and the dozens more that followed. But if memory serves me- all of them had some amount of police fumbling. How can that be? On something SO important as a missing child? How could they not cross all their T’s and dot all their I’s?

I understand, if police look at everyone like a suspect… then that means you and I will be suspects too. But... but, what about that old spidy sense which my father had? The one he passed on to me- and me to my son. What happened to the kind of policeman my dad was and the kind he used to work with? The kind that left no stone unturned, and like old hound dogs sniffed out the bad guys.

Why didn’t the officer who stopped Richard Allan Davis the night he had Polly Klaas in his trunk, get goose bumps on the back of his neck? If that is not something that can be taught … can you be tested for it before you get the job? It really should be a requirement for a policeman.

A year after Kevin Collins disappeared I was pregnant with my son Nick and walking up the hill to my apartment from North Beach. I probably didn’t look very pregnant because I was wearing his father’s sweats and a baggy shirt. A man had pulled his station wagon with blacked out windows into a driveway and was looking under the wheel… or pretending to. He asked me if I could help him…and the hair on the back of my neck stood up, my stomach tightened and instead of walking towards him to help I inched away. He pleaded with me to help him- as if I could fix a car… but I knew- I just knew he would have killed me. I reported him and his station wagon with blacked out windows to the police as soon as I got home. I shook the whole way. I hope he never got anyone but I fear that he did. I never heard back from the police.

And people… where do we citizens come in? How about just pay attention? When your mind tells you something is out of whack… a picture doesn’t look right, a child has help me written across their face…listen to it- pay attention- take notes. Get involved- HELP the police. Who cares if they think they need your help or not? They do!

So pay attention. Look at this website. Look at their faces- keep your eyes open for them.

And if you have kids… watch them. The case of Adam Walsh is NOT closed. Someone is out there- and they want to harm someone’s child.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

I owe it to Johnny

Twenty six years and 110 days ago, yesterday, I walked into Scott's Seafood Grill on Lombard and Scott,in San Francisco to have a few drinks with my best friend, Patti. I can't remember now, if Patti told me the restaurant (Lefty O'Douls) called and wanted me to call in... or if some instinct told me to call for messages, but when I did, I was told that my brother had been in a horrible motorcycle accident and that he probably wouldn't make it.

Patti drove me to Santa Rosa in record time. Forcing her little VW to perform beyond it's capabilities. I remember her asking me if I wanted to drive. "No, I don't think I can."

When we got to the hospital ICU we learned he had been flown via helicopter from the accident location in Willits. They repeated that he might not make it. My feet froze, and I couldn't walk in that room where my brothers broken body was lying. Patti walked in for me then came out and told me what to expect. Still my knees buckled when I walked in.

His hands were black and twice the normal size from holding on to the sissy bar (he was a passenger)and bending it parallel to the bike before he flew off. His head was wrapped, but they said they had created a flap to remove the pressure. One eye had been detached and was blind. He looked so broken, so frail. I remember thinking his soul had left his body. He was twenty seven years old.

My sisters and their husbands came, and my mom. My poor mom. Then I called my Dad in Los Angeles. We all gathered in the ICU waiting room, waiting for what, I don't know. Friends brought food.

John's girlfriend Kathie showed up. She was three months pregnant and a mess. She was filthy from horsebackriding  and I remember we didn't want her germs near Johns open wounds, like that would have been what would have killed him. John had been split from his wife, but I called her and she came.

We were all a mess, unequipped to deal with a catastrophe of this magnitude. My mom, who had suffered mental illness all her life was hanging by a thread. The hospital sedated her.

My father showed up the next day I think. He took charge the way I expected him to. He stayed away from my mother who was inconsolable. My dad pulled out his trusty notepad and started getting details and putting together a "report." His years of police training and investigator skills kicking in without thought. He took the names of doctors and nurses, and friends and started putting together the story of what had happened to land his only son in the hospital most likely on his death bed.

My dad must have said the rosary 100 times in the next couple of days.

We left the hospital in stages. Going home to change and then come back. I had no car at the time but I must have borrowed Patti's because I was up there a lot.

The doctors told us that John had minimal brain activity. His brain stem was okay, so he could breathe on his own, and his heart was strong. But his brain, the thing that made him who he was, could no longer function. He was in a coma, but even if he woke, he would not appear to be any different.

The drama grew. My mother went into denial and said she would take him home and take care of him. My father prayed more. My sisters and I cried. I drank. I tried to tell my mom she couldn't take him home. She was so angry, so distraught and of course I didn't understand then, as I do now... that losing your child will make you lose your mind.

The nurses, as nice as they were made a fatal flaw with my mother. They gave her hope.
They told her that if we played the radio with favorite songs and hung up pictures and talked to him everyday that he might come out of his coma. My mom brushed his teeth, shaved him and combed his hair. They would strap him into a chair with something holding his up and she would take care of him. I hated seeing him like that. All I could think was he would hate not being able to use his hands and fix things. He would just hate it.

Eventually people stopped coming to see him. My Dad had to go back to Los Angeles. He was so sad, so distraught. I thought it was best if he left. My dad had left his rosary beads on Johnny's bed. I filed and was awarded guardianship of John. I looked into a lawsuit for him, but there was no money anywhere.

I was told we had to move him to a long care facility. I found one in Vallejo. I hated the place. I knew he would die there. And 110 days after his accident he did. Four days before his 28th birthday.

Johnny officially died of pneumonia. The hospital called me and told me he had it and asked me what I wanted them to do. I didn't really understand the question. Then the Doctor explained. He would never wake up. Never. I asked them would he be in pain if they didn't treat the pneumonia.. no they said we will not let him be in pain. Okay I said. Let him go.

A few days later the mortuary called me to ask what to do with the remains. "Aren't you jumping the gun a a little?" I asked. Silence.
Then "I am so sorry, hasn't the hospital contacted you yet?"
Then the line clicked and it was the hospital.

I had to call my mother. I should have been there for her and I wasn't. I was too selfish to realize this was her child. Her boy.

The day before yesterday I received a long email from my sister Debbie, and yesterday both my sisters called within minutes of each other. None of us spoke of John. But I think we were all remembering him. I sure was.

I try to not think of how he looked when I last saw him. I try to remember the last time I saw him whole. He came for a visit and brought me flowers about a month before the accident.

I hope I did right by him. I hope he is in a better place.

I owe it to him to remember.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

The No BS Doctrine

I'm always trying to reconcile everything. I like it all to make sense to me. I want it to make sense to everyone, but me first. So if someone says something that doesn't make sense or isn't logical or that I know is just plain wrong... then I am compelled to question it- ask why... ask how they got there.
Of course many people can't explain how they get from point A to point B because many people are repeating something someone else said. (and they won't admit that either)
I know I irritate people when I do this. I'm sure it's a character flaw of mine- not so much to be right because if you can convince me you are right- I will back off and even apologize- I just to want to know how people come to their conclusions.
There are people that will never give you a straight answer. I'm not one of them. They make me totally crazy. If you ask what time it is they ask you where. If you ask a point blank- what are you doing? They repeat the question back to you while they try to think of an answer...
I like straight talk. I want the fewest possible words with the most meaning. I don't like everything draped in adjectives. If it's a creative writing class - okay- break out those adjectives... but if you are giving me directions to the airport, and I need to turn left on A- just say turn left on A, leave out turn left on A street at the tall leafy oak tree.
The hard thing is when people ask a question and then don't like the answer. I had a boyfriend a hundred years ago who used to say "to ask the question is to know the answer" whenever he knew his reply was going to be something I didn't want to hear. I guess that was the beginning of the depletion of my feminine wiles. Peaked at 23.
So if you ask me a question, I will tell you the truth. I will not sugar coat it or dress it up in a hug. Because if you are only asking me because you want to hear your own voice, you are asking the wrong girl.
The local radio talk show host just got fired- allegedly for not doing his homework. He opined about everything... and sometimes I had to just turn the radio off. He is an okay guy with a conservative message, and he supports our troops which is a real plus in my book-but sometimes it felt like he was just spreading hate- with no basis I could agree with. There are a lot of things to hate in the world- but have a good reason, and be able to back it up with some facts. Repeating the wrong information and inuendo100 times is not going to make it the right information. I know everyone is entitled to their own opinion... but sometimes those opinions are based on bullshit- so they are spouting crap.
So that is my rant for the day. All probably the least of my problems, but it was here in my head and so I thought I would share.