Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Painful Presumptions

Pre-sume /verb/ suppose that something is the case on the basis of probability
[The New Oxford American Dictionary]

He went forward on the presumption that He had the necessary understanding of the situation to equip himself for success. The elderly Gentleman (assumed to be the next-door neighbor) told him that after the locked door was overcome with the assistance of the ax (offered by the Gentleman for that task) He would encounter some resistance due to the rug that the occupant of the house customarily kept rolled up against the door as a deterrent to cold draught. And, indeed, after smashing the lock mechanism with said ax, He did, in fact, realize a firm, but yielding, resistance quite natural to a heavy rug. Hence, after persuading the rug to allow the opening of the door for a distance barely sufficient for his body to crawl through, he flattened himself to the floor and projected himself into the smoke-filled room and made his first attempt to evaluate the situation.

Having never before confronted a burning building, He was encouraged by the realization that the long ago learned (from sources not remembered) theory that there would be a space at floor level where the smoke would be eight or ten inches above the floor itself. And surely this was the reality that He encountered, as into that narrow space He crawled, and inched toward the room where He could clearly see the flames hungrily consuming every element and surface. This was the room that the neighbor had told him that the three children were normally in. Three small children who had been left by their mother who had gone for a quick visit to the store that was but around the corner. Three small children whose voices had been heard screaming for help just a short while before He had appeared upon the scene.

And now He was trying, through the acrid, oxygen-starved haze of that narrow corridor at floor level, to locate the children. Back out of the room He came to recharge his lungs with air. Choking, spitting, and coughing out disgusting remnants of that life-denying gas, He steeled himself for another entry. Again, He pushed past the rug-impaired opening and extended himself still further into the kitchen and toward what seemed to be the now fully consumed dining area of this small tinderbox of a dwelling. No luck … nothing … not a single child in sight and the heated chemical residue of all that the flames were converting into toxic gases scalded his eyes and his throat.

Back out, across the tiny deck that served as the back porch and into the small yard that was itself becoming engulfed in the stench of the fog from the fire. This time the neighbor was there with water (from some source that was not noticed) and offered to cool and wash his face. The water was gratefully accepted and used to wet his handkerchief, which He placed over his now-parched mouth and nose for his last foray into the hellhole of that inferno. He could only think of three small children who had not been heard from nor seen for what was beginning to seem like forever. Cursing the weight of that damned rug for its bulky resistance, He pushed yet again into now known territory and this time beyond until his lungs demanded retreat. Failure! With the mucous of a pulmonary system ridding itself of intruding threats pouring from his mouth, his nose, and even his eyes, He heard the arrival of the fire fighters.

To the first Firefighter to come into the back yard (where He and the, now still and silent, ancient neighbor stood) He yelled the information that He presumed to be a statement of all pertinent facts. The Firefighter gave him a look that was a puzzlement to him though it lasted but a fraction of a second. Then, to his astonishment, this huge (or so he seemed, clothed, as he was, in all of his fire-fighting equipment) fellow simply took a seat on that self-same tiny porch. The Man just sat there … “How absurd” He thought. He had just moments before used that surface as a launch area for entry into the chamber of unspeakable horror. “How can he be simply taking a seat and not doing anything?” He thought and wanted to scream.

Then … calmly … with measured deliberation … that Fireman leaned back, reached behind himself, around the still-open door, and, obviously (from the grimace of effort registered on his face) grasped that rug that had thrice been such an impediment to the would-be Rescuer, and pulled forth ... not a rug … oh no … a small boy! Cradling the inert form in his arms and hurrying toward the waiting medical equipment at the front of the blazing structure, the professional Angel of Mercy looked at the pair of dumbstruck observers and said “The children always go to the nearest door … and that’s where we usually find them.”

He had gone past that child three times. He had presumed the bulky weight to be what He had been told to expect there. He had presumed that He had all of the information necessary to do his best for the best outcome. He was ignorant of unknown probabilities. It is now thirty-seven years later and He still feels … really senses an actual awareness of the soft, ungiving weight of that little boy’s body as He pushed against it. He had cursed it for its impediment to his efforts to reach the children. Every time He now hears or sees a fire truck on its way to affect a rescue He instantly relives that moment. That boy would be somewhere around forty five years old now … but he is not. He never had a chance to be. And I … that’s right, I … will never stop regretting the presumptions that I made that day.

If there were no other reason for my efforts to share my perspectives … my ‘lessons learned’ … my little insights into this business of life ... the provision of an expanded set of possibilities for your consideration would be reason enough. I will do everything that I can to equip you with a wider understanding; a broader scope of outlook; an awareness of a more useful set of possibilities for your use in your entering into whatever areas of unknowns that present themselves to you. I can never accept the possibility that my reticence could leave you vulnerable to the pain, the unhappiness, the disappointment of missing the potential blessing of any experience … because your presumptions were left minus an expanded scope of possibilities that I could have offered you.

When I pledge myself to you as “Your Friend and Servant” (as I so frequently do) there is always, in my Soul, an awareness of the weight of some ‘rug’ against which you may be pushing in your life. And I must help you see the life potentials that could be there if only you know where to reach … what to grasp … perhaps, how to react.

To that end, I remain, as always, Your faithful Friend and willing Servant,

(originally penned 29July2005)

(IMAGEs: Through the gracious courtesy of Ian Britton,


lime said...

hugs, ok? 37 years (now 39) is a long time to bear a sense of regret. (i hope it has not turned to guilt)

you reveal your wisdom by learning from the experience and sharing what you've learned.


John-Michael said...

Nope! Not guilt. But an abiding place that can best be known as one of those "Wish-I'da"s. You know ... the sort of thing that justifies the "Do-Over" in a sport or game. But I salve the perpetual ache of it by laying this story out (for those who have not known of it befor) once every year or so. I feel that I have then honored that boy's memory. And hopefully made some beneficial use of the emotional/mental scar that remains.

Thank You ... for YOU, Sweet Lime. I love that Person ... "YOU."

lime said...

well, that sounds like a healthy response. i'll give ya another hug anyway....just cuz.

Crystal said...

All I can say is hey! I SURE DO LOVE YOU! I really try hard to never think of those so called do overs. I will throw myself into a emotional frenzy every time. You are such a strong and aspiring person, I just wanted you to know that;o)

I'm trying to catch up with all your posts!! I've missed quite a few too! GOOD READING I TELL YOU!!!!

John-Michael said...

And I will readily accept, and return, in kind, your "just cuz" HUG, Darling Lime.

Lovingly ...

John-Michael said...

I surely do than You, Sweet Crystal. You brighten the day!

I love You.

Suldog said...

Wow. God bless you, my friend.

God bless.

John-Michael said...

I suppose most of us carry some Stuff with us that is made bearable with the allowance of God's blessings, Dear Friend Jim. And I have no reservations in acknowledging the living reality of You, Darling SulDog Man, are manifestation of that very blessing. I mean that! You do, in fact, bless me as an ongoing Lifter of my spirit. and I love You for it.

CrazyCath said...

I read this first many weeks ago.

I feel your pain now as I did then. Always remember you did your best. No one can do more than that.
What is good about this sad, sad outcome is that you have learned, and that you share your learning humbly.

And for that I am grateful. Bless you.

Just Joni said...

We all make presumptions and if it were our nature to be perfected by them then we would not have the humbling experience of truly living and feeling the storms in life...the bittersweet rain that we can either taste or drown serve his memory justly through retelling the story, but don't be too hard on the gave it an honest attempt and that alone makes all the honest attempt.
hugs to you today ~

Jules~ said...

Dearest John Michael, the many levels of emotion that wash over me as I read your story and fathom what you carry. The bravery that you even tried...not once, twice, but three times is amazing. There is no way you could have known. I am so grateful you do not bear the burden of that. Instead you choose to share with others and bring honor to that boy.
Thank you for sharing your heart.

John-Michael said...

Isn't this the good thing in getting to know each other, CathDaughter? This talking about what is on our mind ... that is current stuff. And sharing those thoughts that have occupied a place in our minds for longer periods. Isn't this how we really come to know each other in depth? Beneath the "obvious" of today's considerations ... all the way into those places that are part of the formation of our attitudes, opinions, and feelings.

I am so glad that I have Friends for whom this slice of my life is familiar. For they have the benefit of having formed their own personal inclinations on the elements of it. And those for whom the disclosure of this aspect of my life-walk is a new revelation ... they can a awaken some fresh, new consideration about our relationship. I do, indeed, like this "getting to know each other" that happens here. Thank you for pointing it out.

Lovingly ...

John-Michael said...

You just visited a sweet memory to my awareness, Darling Angel, Joni. Your caring and loving words remind me of what I said to Matthew (my son) so many, many, times, "Did you do the very best that you could do right then, Son? Well, if you did that, you did as well as anyone, who participated, did. No one can ever do better than the best that they can do." (this, usually, as he was despondent over, and/or frustrated with his cerebral palsy-hampered performance in some effort.)

Thank you for your Love, I Love all that You are!

John-Michael said...

This experience is one of many that, combined, motivate my sense of urgency in giving all of whatever I can give ... to equip everyone whose life I may touch with ideas, insights, or encouragements that might enhance their prospects of successes in their lives. My desire is to spare anyone the lingering pain of an awareness of Opportunity lost.

Your loving kindness is so appreciated, Darling Jules~.

aims said...

Darling JM - You are far braver than so many - at least you tried. So many would stand and stare and do nothing.

The boy was probably already beyond your help - and your regrets over the years for someone beyond your help are futile. Sweet - but futile.

However - you have given a profound lesson here JM. I will always remember it.

Thank you.

John-Michael said...

My Darling Aims, my regrets are born more of the imprudence of youthful ignorance than those circumstances that I do recognize for what they were. What I regret is my failure to slowly, systematically, and prudently examine each step of my response ... instead of taking the suppositions of a third party as fact and bypassing the Realities that were neglected as consequence of my ignorance. The experience slapped me with the importance of slow, deliberate, and thoughtful consideration of a matter as I engage it.(And someday, maybe, I will master that. [not likely {smile}]) I am markedly better in that area now. (Thank all that is holy!)

I love your caring and encouraging Spirit, My Darling. And I do Love You.

Corey~living and loving said...

OH my heavens. Your story caught me unawares....and I have no idea what to say. something like that would certainly stick with a person regardless of ability to put it into perspective. Regardless of understanding that you did your best.....regardless of knowing it wasn't your fault. Just being there is enough to forever change your life.
Many hugs.

John-Michael said...

Thank you, and again Thank You!Corey My Love. You "get it" once again. There is no rationalizing or reason that mitigates the effect of that moment in my life. No "logic" nor justifying can ever dilute the sting. And You know how I now live with the compulsion to urgently entreat others to employ every device possible to avoid ever having such an item to carry through life. It never gets lighter to bear ... regardless the years.

How I do appreciate your insightful and empathic Soul. I most humbly Love You. You "get it."

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