Dear Ms. Cooper-Jones… I’m Sorry

Dear Ms. Cooper-Jones,

I ran yesterday. If we knew each other personally, you would know that isn’t unusual. In fact, I did some quick math and estimated that I’ve run about 2500 times in the past 10 years. Yesterday was different, though. Yesterday I ran 2.23 miles in honor of your son.

Since that horrific video erupted on Wednesday, I have become distinctly aware that my American experience is not everyone’s. It certainly wasn’t Ahmaud’s American experience. In all of my runs I have never felt threatened except maybe when a car got too close. How did we come to this, I wonder? Is it because people like me have lived in a white, suburban bubble of naivety and never taken the time to look beyond ourselves? Oh, I’ve had Black friends all my life and I am fortunate that my parents raised me to judge a person by their character, not their skin. But I never knew that a posse could still exist in my America. I never knew…

You should know that Ahmaud has had a profound impact on me these last few days. I believe your comments about his character, but what I saw in that video was raw courage. When threatened by a predator, Ahmaud moved forward instead of running away. We need more men of courage like your son in this world. I’m so sorry he is gone.

I’m also sorry you will celebrate May 8 without him from now on. We have something in common, you and I. Every February 13, I celebrate my daughter, Kylie’s birthday without her. She would be 18 now if cancer hadn’t taken her. For me, the loss of potential is the hardest thing to take. It physically hurts to know that Ahmaud and Kylie had something special to give this world and we are poorer because those contributions have been taken from us.

My family had the benefit of being by Kylie’s side at the end and she urged me to fight childhood cancer. That’s what I do with every fiber of my being. What Ahmaud would tell you to do now? He is bringing people together in a mighty way right now to fight this injustice. I would urge you to do whatever you can to keep his name alive, whether that means continuing this fight or something else. Working in Kylie’s memory is all that has kept me going these five years – while at times it is painful, it can also be cleansing.

The loss of a child is so unnatural and overwhelming. Please seek help and surround yourself with people who love you and loved your son. Cry whenever you need to and don’t feel guilty on the first day you don’t. You and I will never get over our losses, but we must learn how to move forward. If I can help with this new journey through grief in any way, you have but to ask.

Ms. Cooper-Jones, I want you to know that I wept for you and for Ahmaud as I ran. And I wept for this country that can’t seem to get it right. I truly hope Ahmaud is helping us turn a corner.

But your son… your son brought tears out of an old white man and got him to write a letter to you. That’s something, isn’t it! Your brave young man is still working hard.

I am so very sorry for your loss,

Mark Myers (Kylie’s Daddy)

 

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A Chin and a Pair of Floppy Boobs

Today is the 83rd of March and if I see the word “unpr4c4d4nt4d” one more time I might scream.

I’ve seen so many reactions to being quarantined and I’ve had my own. This isn’t meant to be a political post, I don’t know what’s right. For now, my family is still sheltering at home although our state is starting to open up. There’s a tension in this. Naturally, I want to be right, but I also want this to be over. My gut (and most of science) tells me it’s too early, but I definitely don’t want more people to get sick or die. So in the end, I suppose I hope I’m overreacting and our fortunes have changed.

What has the virus taken from you? Peace, joy, patience, contentment, rest? I see so many dwelling on the things that this situation has forcibly removed, and few are entertaining silver linings.

If you’ve lost a loved one, this does not pertain to you. I am horribly sorry. Please stop reading now and I hope you don’t take offense.

If you’ve lost a business or are wondering how you’ll make ends meet, again – I’m sorry. I didn’t mean to offend you. I’m looking at something different than economy and realize not all of our circumstances are the same.

Maybe it is my perspective as a father who has lost a child, but since this quarantine began, I have looked for silver linings. Our children are nearly ready to leave the nest and I’ve gotten to spend two uninterrupted months with them. Yes, at times it has been too much. But certainly more than I expected. Silver lining.

Kylie would have loved quarantine. She loved nothing more than being at home with her sisters. She would be a senior in high school this year and would have missed prom and graduation like the rest. But somehow I don’t think that would have fazed her. They are passing events that quickly fade to memory. In years to come, this class of 2020 will wear it as a badge of honor as they go on with their lives – an opportunity my senior will never have.

My other senior is graduating college. She received her cap and gown in the mail the other day. There will be no ceremony, no pomp and circumstance. She will have a degree with honors and enter the worst job market in decades. The loss of opportunity, now that’s something to be disappointed about. Still, I find her to be bored but content.

And me? I’ve decided to give instead of let anything be taken.

I have given entertainment that I typically don’t have time for. I have read 17 novels since we sheltered in place – some good, some bad. But I’ve enjoyed the time. I’ve binge-watched Westworld with my oldest two and Downtown Abbey with my wife.

I have given education – influencing young minds by starring in Shakespeare with Dad (see below) and Pirates with Pop, where we brought the writings of Shakespeare and Stevenson to life for my eldest daughter’s 7thgrade literature class. She said we were going to publish them online for the world to see, but I think she’s lying because I’m not famous yet.

The other thing I’ve given to coronavirus is a chin and a pair floppy manboobs. I definitely gained a few winter pounds. My 19-year-old and I always run on Sundays. But on the second day of quarantine, we decided to run 3 miles every day.IMG_1897

During the initial run, I noticed excessive jiggling. It was a little embarrassing and I tried to flex to keep it down. I nearly tripped because it’s hard to flex your chest while ambling forward. Also, the days when I could intentionally bounce my pecs are gone. They only bounce  of their own accord now. Or did. After a few weeks and pounds, they stopped bouncing. After two months and fifteen pounds, one of the double chins I’ve been growing was gone too. Pretty soon I might toss in a love handle or two!

I’m not making light of the situation. I realize that it truly is devastating for some. But many of the rest of us are focused on the wrong things – out looking for things being taken and not focused on what we can shed.

What can you throw at the Coronavirus that will make you better than you started?