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We Want You To Listen

I found myself in a courtroom again recently, but this time I was there as a plaintiff in a civil matter instead of as a newspaper reporter.

As I took a seat and waited for the judge to arrive, I glanced around. I checked out the at-ease lawyers in the front row and the anxious faces of the unsettled masses in the back.

woman looking to her left

Photo by Rene Asmussen on

Me? I was relaxed. The only discomfort I felt was at the point where my sore hamstring met the hard, wooden bench. I’ve been inside courtrooms dozens of times. I’ve reported on federal drug trials, police misconduct trials and capital murder trials. I was in my element.

Crime Scene Interviews

As the judge delayed her start by 30 minutes, I reflected upon the early years of my career. As a police scanner crackled, I’d whip out a map and push the speed limit to get to a crime scene. I’d look for witnesses, bystanders and family members to tell me about assaults, robberies, vehicular accidents and shootings that ended in deaths. I wanted their story.

If family members weren’t on site, sometimes I’d look them up the next day, drive to their neighborhood and stand outside their home, wondering if they’d want to talk or get angry for the intrusion. As their door cracked open, I spoke in a hushed voice.

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When We’re in a Cage

We’ve got a cage in our living room. There’s plenty of space for a bowl of water, a compact bed and turnaround provisions, but it is, nonetheless, a cage.

Tuffy gives me the sad face. He knows this face works to get what he wants. Droopy eyes. Lowered head. Closed mouth. But not this time. His foot is hurt. He’s staying in the cage.


Tuffy perfected his “poor me” look after his original injury, a severe cut to his foot after escaping the yard.

I’m in my own cage. No bars. No enclosure. But I’m not able to do as I please. Not right now.

Like Tuffy, I’ve been nursing an old injury. Three years ago, I crashed and burned on my bicycle and tore my meniscus in my left knee. As I write this, I’m waiting for the results of my MRI. My doctor suspects the meniscus has been further damaged by the ins and outs of life.

I’ve been in many cages throughout life. Sometimes because of temporary physical limitations that illness bestows upon me. Sometimes because of unpleasant circumstances willed upon me by others. Failed romances. Broken hearts. Job disappointments. Lost opportunities. We try to push through, get to the good stuff, but find ourselves stuck in place, licking a wound.

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Why Do We Do This To Ourselves? The Saddest Birthdays: What Would Have Been

I want to tell you that my daddy turned 81 this week, that I made him a German chocolate cake, treated him to a big buffet lunch and gave him a beautiful card. But that would be misleading.

The truth is, he would have turned 81 – the same age Mom was at death – if he’d lived 14 years longer. My daddy died in 2006 at age 67.

lighted candles on cupcakes

Photo by Pixabay on

I’ve read plenty of stories about children reaching the age a parent was at death. Outliving that marker. Meaning drips from the milestone. I’m not there, yet this birthday haunted me.

He could have lived this long, I thought to myself. He could have been 81. He could still be here. With me. With us.

Why do we do this to ourselves?

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