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I am really finding it difficult to drag myself through this day. Unexplained, unexpected, feelings of exhaustion swim over and through my body. I want to lay my head on my pillow, but instead I am hiding in my glass walled office reading book reviews in the Washington Post.

Minerva, whose husband is a bus driver, has just read online that a bus driver has been doused and set alight in Brisbane. It is not her husband, she has rung to check, but she is none the less, rather emotional. This incident, coupled with the four tragic deaths this week at Dreamworld, has made everyone reflect on mortality.

Mr FD visited a friend from high school this week. The friend has vascular dementia and substitutes odd words for the words he can no longer remember. Friend’s wife took Mr FD to task for not visiting when we moved to Brisbane in 2002. According to wife, “he was very upset” that we did not visit. Mr FD is now upset that he did not visit. The thing is, I don’t remember an invitation to visit. We sent a card and a letter every Christmas; they replied with a card, though no details of health, happiness or family. If we did not visit them, they did not visit us. When do the actions of one become somehow worse, more unforgivable, than the matching behaviour of another? Do they get the moral high ground because now he has an illness? Life has too many complications and rules.

Our Senior students have about three weeks of school left until graduation. One of my students has applied to join the elite engineers’ unit in the military – the ones that find the bombs. Why, I asked. “Someone has to do it miss, so why not me?” I argue that if no one joined the army then there could be no war, but he stares back at me like I have just proclaimed I have seen an alien. His father died two years ago, his mother has only him and his sister. How can you do that to her? I ask. What I am really saying is, how can you do this to me? I know I will watch all news reports for his name for a very long time. These kids slip into your heart.

During home class, my little family of students cluster close to my desk. They are like a little litter of puppies rolling around and near me, even the seniors. I would not be surprised if one curled into my lap one morning. Today, my army bound student sat at my elbow, as we discussed life’s lighter moments. How can you make such decisions at this age, boy? How can we allow them to make life and death decisions at this age? I want to tell him he can’t do it, but I merely ask, again, whether he has been given the date for his induction. No. Time to change his mind. Time to make him realise that life is too precious, that things happen to people, and – but he won’t will he? When we are young we think these things always happen to someone else, don’t we? Untouchable. Mistaken.

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4 thoughts on “

  1. I have always been repulsed by military recruiters coming onto high school campuses to lure young men and women into the service with promises of free college education, job training, and a paycheck with benefits. A seventeen-year-old isn’t mature enough to make a thorough decision about committing to military service for three years (in the US: not sure how long a committment Australia’s military asks of a new recruit); plus, the recruiters offer cheap prizes to lure students in—a free hat, camouflage-patterned t-shirts and jackets, even video games and free electronic devices. My son’s closest friend in high school decided to enlist in the navy in their senior year, at the height of the Iraq war, and even tried to persuade my son to join up with him. (He would have received a bonus if he brought in a friend with him.) Happily, my son had already made up his mind he was going to college in the Northwest and tried in turn to talk his friend out of the navy: but the friend was a boy from a poor family led by a single mother, with a younger sister and brother. The paycheck and promises offered by the navy looked very good to him. He had done badly in school, and he had no interest in continuing with anymore formal education. All he wanted to do was get a certificate in auto mechanics, which he could do for “free” through the navy’s training program.

    Since then, my son has had very little contact with his former BFF. They went their separate ways: his friend became politically conservative and left one too many rants on Facebook, which my son muted. My son went in the opposite direction and is decidedly more left wing than anyone he went to high school with. The friend got married and is now a father to two children; my son feels marriage and parenthood is something one should put off until one has the money and security to support children. I feel bad for my son’s friend, but it is the life he has chosen for himself. I would not be happy had my son chosen that path, but in the current economy, there is so little for working class young men like my son’s friend.

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  2. I can relate to the scolding from your friend because you didn’t visit. Somehow I am always the one who is expected to initiate anything. Lunch or dinner plans? “Let’s get together, call me!” How about you call me! Yes we do get guilt when things like poor health happen but friendship is a two-way street. Your students sound great this go round. I love your description as puppies! Many kids make decisions that will affect the rest of their lives. Some are more simple like marriage and children (well, maybe that’s not simple). Others may involve death or lost limbs. Let’s hope for the best for your student.

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  3. i find it crazy here that people can join the military and go off and fight – aged 16 I believe? and yet not be allowed to drink alcohol legally until 21…… ???

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  4. I really admire your student’s decision, while simultaneously dreading it.
    Agreed on the visiting vs expectations vs health vs invites vs… whatever.
    WTH AU (or are you in NZ? I literally cannot remember)… I thought only the US was currently being insane with mortality vs reality. Give Trump another minute or 2, I’m sure he’ll trademark it!!

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