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SaraKay Smullens

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A Wake Up Call

Posted: 03/25/09 12:49 PM ET

A Wake Up Call

It is the kind of call that strikes terror. Our youngest daughter, a lawyer in Manhattan, called two days after being punched violently in the back of her head and knocked to the ground. The attack, not a robbery, happened in broad daylight a few blocks from her apartment.

Our daughter did not want "to make a big deal of it." When the police came she told them that going to a hospital was not necessary. No, she could not identify the man who attacked her. She could only remember his strange eyes.

Two days later, still not wanting to "make a big deal," she called her stepfather ,a doctor, at his office and told him of escalating head pain and nausea. She had been told by her on call health care physician to go to the nearest emergency room and wait. This response was not acceptable to my husband, who has been taking care of my children as if they were his own for thirty years. (How he and I distrust Woody Allen, but that's for another time!) "You have to see a neurologist now," Stan insisted, and he made it happen.

When my husband called to fill me in, my mind flew to January 3, 1979; but the years felt only like seconds. I was in the middle of a protracted divorce. Overnight half of my daughter's little face had grown double in size. What was being treated as pink eye had morphed into life threatening orbital cellulites. Money was so tight; the weather was freezing; I did not have a car. Budgeted to the penny, I did not have the cabfare to take my youngest child to the hospital. With her in my arms, her fever rising, I hailed one anyway; and he refused to take the money I did have.

I know my great fortune. My daughter had health insurance; she was treated and recovered; I had work; I made a life. Parents of the 8.1 million children in America without health insurance would gladly sleep on a cot next to their children's beds as I did. The over eleven million out of work, if given the opportunity, would gladly work morning, noon, and night to make ends meet, as I did.

From that time to this my nightmares about helpless children and the parents who cannot protect them have continued. From that day to this I have continued to do what I can to support those committed to the safety and opportunities of children and their vulnerable families. And to explain, in any and all ways that I can, that uncared for, unprotected children, devoid of opportunities, put all we hold dear in jeopardy. And to show that the most violent among us have been treated the most violently. And that violence can be not only fist, foot and hand, but also voice and word.

I was brought back to today when my husband explained: "She does not want you to come to be with her for any exams or tests. She wants to take care of herself."

I respected my daughter's wishes. I did not go to New York.

A few days later, feeling much better, our daughter called. This time the call was to me. She wondered if I knew the whereabouts of an old photo of her and a childhood friend she has met once again.

No luck yet with the photo. But I did find the pearl buttoned, long white leather wedding gloves of my daughter's Grandmother Kate, her namesake. They are in the mail.

I would bet anything that the man with the strange eyes who brought such danger to our youngest daughter never received one iota of her gifts or the fortune of her mother.

 
 
 

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