The headline of this post is exactly what went through my mind on my call with my mom. It happened just the other day. I was heading up the 405 freeway here in Los Angeles to pick up my daughter from school and decided to check-in with my mom in Florida to see how her day was and what was new.
We usually chat every other day, if not every day. My father died last year of pancreatic cancer and my mom is by herself in the Sinkhole... er... Sunshine State. They were together for 56-years since laying eyes on each other across the school lawn as 16-year-olds back in 1956.
They fell madly in love and, in true rock n' roll rebel style of their day, eloped to Idaho and married at 18. They raised two kids and never looked back. Now, she can only look back when it comes to the love of her life because cancer came and snatched him away.
While I've always kept in constant contact with my parents, I'm sensitive now to ringing up my mother more often and sending her emails and such. So, as I hit the 405, I made my hands-free call to my mom. As you read our conversation below, keep in mind that up and until this point, my mom and guns go together like Boehner and Obama.
It went like this:
Me: "Hi Mom, what's happenin' down there?"
My Mom: "Oh, hi honey, I just got home."
Me: (thinking she was at the grocery store again) "Oh really... where were ya'?"
My Mom: "I was shooting guns at the shooting range." (as if this were a daily occurrence)
Me: "What? Wait... YOU were shooting guns?" (as a visual of my mom in goggles and ear plugs firing off shot after shot at some target came screaming into my head -- wtf?)
My Mom: "I went with Hank (who?) and we went down to fire some guns."
Me: "Who in the hell is Hank?"
My Mom: "He and his wife live a couple of houses down"
Ah, thank God he's married. I had never heard of Hank and didn't like the idea of some gun-totin' desperado sauntering into town and whisking my mom off to shoot guns. That wouldn't end well on so many levels.
Me: "So, why are you shooting guns? Did something happen?"
My Mom: "No. I am going to buy a gun and I wanted to learn all the safety guidelines and how to handle a gun."
Me: "But, again, why? Wait... you are going to buy a gun?!?!
My Mom: "Yep."
I never like it when people reply with a "Yep." It means their mind/opinion is already made up. Clearly this was the case with my mom.
Me: "So nothing happened, but you want to buy a gun because... ?"
My Mom: "I just want to feel safe in case something happens. In case someone comes into the house... you never know Tony."
Me: "But mom, you live in a very nice, exclusive over-55 community... NOTHING ever happens there. Is this because Dad is gone and you feel a bit vulnerable?"
Mom: "Not really. Well, maybe a little."
Me: "So, how was it?
My Mom: "Oh Tony it was so much fun!"
I nearly made an unscheduled exit from the 405 at 70-miles an hour taking three cars with me. I'm thinking, fun?? FUN??? WHO is this woman?? What next -- a picture of Obama and Boehner arm-in-arm, hoisting beers as they toast an actual budget deal? But I digress.
My Mom: "Yep (again with the yep!). I shot a .22-millimeter and a .25-millimeter and I have a really good aim. I nailed the bullseye."
Me: "Oh My God! This is out of control. So, then what happened?"
My Mom: "I think I'm going to buy the .25mm. "
Me: "And this goes where??"
My Mom: "In the bedroom next to my bed, but I'll have to register it first and then get my permit."
As my mom says those words I pull into the parking lot of my daughter's elementary school. I see hundreds of five, six, seven, eight and nine-year olds bathed in Southern California sunshine lining up to be released to their parents when the bell rings.
The bell rings.
With smiles, a bounce in their step and open arms, the kids run to their parents. Hugs, kisses and love manifest in a swirl of goodness. Safe and sound. Hearts beating. Full of love. A school day in America has come to an end the way it always should.
The scene is not lost on me as I'm trying to comprehend the conversation with my mom. This is not Sandy Hook Elementary. But, as brains do, mine flashes a thought. This WAS Sandy Hook the day before the shooting. The scene was the same.
Just then, I see my 8-year-old daughter come out of the side door of the school led by her teacher.
Me: "Mom, gotta go... I'm here at school."
My Mom: "Ok sweetie. Love you. Tell Bella I love her."
Me: "Ok Mom. Love you, too."
As I open the car door to step out to meet my daughter, I am enveloped by the sounds of kids laughing as their parents happily greet them. The air is electric with excited chatter.
My daughter sees and points to me, her teacher waves and lets her leave the line. She runs, pink Disney Princess oversized backpack-on-wheels behind her, across the pavement. With a big smile and a one-armed hug, she says, "Hi Daddy-o! I missed you today!"
I close my eyes, hug my daughter, caught between the Scylla and Charybdis of guns in America.