June 5, 2007

At which point do you just become too afraid to even live?

I love my Olathe Grandma dearly. Hands down, without a doubt, she has been one of the most influential persons in my life and when she is gone for good, there will be a gaping hole in my heart and life that will never fully close. Never. I don't write about her much here and often, my stories are cute ones that poke gentle fun at her. I'm aware of how this blog has never done her justice for what an incredibly important person she has been in my life - it's something I have in my head to rectify (i.e. a post all about her and what she has done for me). Nearly everything I post about her are things that I have already said to her in person, so I don't feel dishonest in my writings of her. Writings such as this one.

My grandma is a very fearful person. She gave me roller skates, but I could only use them in her basement or 6x6 patio. Sidewalks? HELL NO. I wasn't allowed to play in her front yard because "someone might steal me". I still always, ALWAYS stop for railroad crossings even if there is a light - a legacy passed on to me by my grandma. I've been told countless horror stories over the years and have received yards upon yards of newspaper clippings in my mail. Folks, the world is a dangerous place and this has been drilled into my head since I can remember.

Those of you who live in Kansas City have probably heard of the Kelsey Smith abduction. Saturday evening, around 7:10 pm 18 year old Kelsey Smith went into a suburban area Target, made a purchase, then went to her car. There is a grainy surveillance video of a brief struggle at her car, then the car drives off. Her car was discovered 2 hours later at a nearby shopping mall and no sign has been seen of her since. Of course, this horrifies me. I am sure nearly every one of my Kansas City readers has frequented that particular Target and the nearby shopping mall. This story reeks of "there but for the grace of God go I" --- it is every mother's AND woman's worst nightmare. I don't watch the local news, but I do read it online and I've been checking it throughout the day in hopes she has been found. So, yes. I'm pretty shaken by such a seemingly random abduction.

This evening I received the ubiquitous call from my grandma that immediately starts off with "have you been reading in the paper about that little girl that got abducted?". And yes, I had. Per usual, I got the usual dire warnings from my grandma about how I shouldn't be "taking that baby anywhere." Meaning, according to her, Arun and I should just hole up in our house for the rest of our natural lives.

I still can't help but shake my head when I get firmly admonished by my grandma over the fact that I refuse to be ruled by fear and "brazenly" jet around Kansas City. Just Sunday, as I was driving into Brookside (a very nice urban neighborhood of Kansas City), she got very agitated that I would go into such a "dangerous" area where she reads all the time in the newspaper that they are "shooting people up there" (the same phrase she uses when I "confess" we have gone to the zoo. The zoo!) Okay, yes - there were some carjackings in the Brookside area, but guess what? Carjackings are not limited to Brookside! I do realize that I am going into some dicey areas by hanging out in Westport, Midtown, the Rivermarket, SW Blvd, 39th street, etc. but Kansas City has some very neat, historical areas where my favorite restaurants just happen to be. Am I really supposed to just hang out in my cushy cookie-cutter suburb on the mere chance that I may get mugged? Am I supposed to pass this fear along to my kids? And no, I don't just gallivant around the city. Where ever I go - suburbs or the city, I am careful. I make sure my doors are locked while driving. I try to keep tabs on where folks are when I'm at a stoplight. I rarely talk on my cell phone when walking on the street or in parking lots. When leaving spots where I am using the stroller, I make sure the wheels are locked and the stroller is ready to be immediately folded when I hit the car. I don't dawdle and I take precautions. I didn't work in downtown Kansas City for nearly 10 years for nothing and I ain't nobody's fool.

It's true that my grandma comes by her fears honestly and I can't fault her for them. She grew up dirt poor during the Depression and then later was widowed at the tender age of 24 when my firefighter grandpa died in the line of duty. It was 1947 and she was left with the task of raising 2 children under the age of 3 and half. She didn't have the luxury of taking risks because her children were all she had. I totally get that and respect it. However, I want to LIVE and most importantly, I want to teach my children to take life by the tail. That's all. Or is it?


Anonymous said...

So glad to read your thoughts on the abduction. Oddly comforting, they are. I wanted to help with the search. --LuAnn

flybunny said...

Audrey and I have had a couple of conversations about this since we have been frequenting that particular Target because it has the best selection of baby stuff. She is pretty freaked out so I have to gently continue to point out that this was random (which I know is not neccessarily the case)and that we cannot,as you say, live in fear. It is hard for her to understand but we will keep working on it.

Great post, thought provoking - thanks Cagey for making me think while my brain is perfectly incapable of putting together a coherent sentence!

Ashley said...

Because of your blog I just realized I'm a little (ok maybe a lot) like your grandma! And I'm only 21!! I have a 4 year old son and I pretty much (as has he) haven't been out of the metro area. I've lived in Olathe and Gardner...well when i was like 16 my parents moved to oklahoma but I moved back right after graduation to come back to what my husband calls "my comfort zone". It's true. I couldn't go anywhere else. I am a home-body and I prefer to not go anywhere @ the risk of something happening to me or my son! Drives people crazy but it's me. I never really thought about it as me living in fear, I just thought of it as it's just where I stay because I do. (if that makes sense) Even though I never used to take extra precautions while @ the store or @ a mall after hearing about the Kelsey Smith case, I most definatly will....

Diana said...

I agree with you. I think we do live our lives in fear too much. There are horrible things that happen, but the odds of such things happening to any one of us is still extremely small. I like your take on things: Get out there and enjoy life. Don't do stupid things but don't let fear rule you.

Cagey said...

I am actually fairly fearful. However, over the years, I've grown to love, LOVE Kansas City, so that love for KC overrides my fears. I should have mentioned 2 things - 1) my first high school boyfriend was very familiar with Kansas City and we went into the city quite frequently - I appreciate the fact that he introduced me at an early age and 2) My various jobs in consulting and public accounting in Kansas City exposed me to ALL parts of the city. I had no choice about whether I was scared or not. If a client had to be visited, that was my job - period. Because of those experiences, I am very comfortable and know my way around very well. X lived near the Plaza for years, yet still has to call me for directions. I realize that for many, Kansas City can be intimidating for those that live in the suburbs and this post was not meant to be judgmental. Some of the streets in KC are very screwy and it can be pretty confusing to get your bearings - especially in the Plaza and Westport areas.

I should have also mentioned that my grandma lived in Kansas City at 33rd and Agnes when she was first married in the early 19040s. It was very hard on her to be away from Olathe and at heart, she is a "small-town" girl who still views Kansas City as "the city".

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

I think the remoteness of random abduction, murder & rape is what makes them so terrifying. Intellectually we know that we have an exponentially higher chance of being murdered/abducted by an acquaintance-but it's the fear of being that one in a million, even if you know that intellectually, the chances of you being that one are pretty low.

I feel really bad for her family. I hope they find her soon. As a single, young woman who lives alone, and not in the best part of town, I've learned some precautionary measures. I don't go out walking out past my gated complex at night. If I go out, it's in the car. Doors always locked before I start driving. And while it may seem crazy-I, myself, don't go out shopping to places like Target etc. late and night (for the most part). The times I have, I park right next to the entrance.

I've never held myself back from moving around, having fun, flying (even though I am petrified of flying...even though I KNOW that the chances of anything happening are next to none)-I'm just smart about it.

flowerparts@yahoo.com said...

I moved to Kansas City from a small town in Iowa about 8 yrs. ago. Moved right downtown (8th and Admiral)...then moved into the River Market area. I've worked at the same place in Midtown since I've been here. Lived in the Waldo area (south KC) and have now moved to Overland Park. I don't understand why people think things like this "just don't happen in places like this". It happens everywhere....and I don't fool myself into thinking I'm 'safe' now just because I live in the suburbs. Everyone needs to be cautious all the time.... but you can't stop living...or be judgemental on a certain part of town. There are crazies everywhere...no one is immune, no matter where they live.

Jenny said...

The Kelsey Smith thing has truly freaked me out this week. I can't tell you how many times as a teenager that I drove myself to Oak Park Mall to get something. How often, now as an adult, that I run into SuperTarget or the grocery store late at night for a gallon of milk.
After our neighbor was carjacked and murdered a few weeks ago, I have found that I am jumpy and freaked more often. These things do happen in the burbs, and you can't do anything about it but try to be safe. Last night as I walked the dog in the dark I felt myself getting worked up in a "what if" scenario, what if someone jumped me right here? The dog is just a baby, he would probably bolt. He wouldn't be much help. I don't like that feeling.
I think one of the first times we south Johnson County folk got really freaked out was when Ali Kemp was murdered at her neighborhood pool. It changed a lot of people.
Last night I had dinner with friends on the Plaza. As I walked back to my car, alone, through the darkness of the parking deck, the hackles on my neck stood up straight and I locked my door as soon as I got to my car. I never lock my car door, really. Just lately I've felt more afraid than ever. I try not to focus on it.
I think I need to just stop watching the news, frankly.

Jenny said...

I also forgot to mention that in summers while in college, I waited tables at the Chili's in Westport. We would often close the restaurant around 11pm and then go across the street and close down the bars until 3am. Then walk back to our cars, sometimes alone. In Westport. Was I stupid then? Was I lucky? Was the crime less of a problem? I think A & B, probably.

Monkey McWearingChaps said...

Jenny-my sister and I worked retail and at the town library (the biggest in Massachusetts after Boston Public) respectively, growing up, and my father would wait right outside the entrance in the car to pick us up, late at night. 11 for me, 1 a.m. for her. He didn't want us walking around in the parking lots. I remember how nervous some of my fellow workers were so my father would drive them to their cars.

Some of our co-workers mocked us for being the world's biggest babies, but looking back...damn my parents are sensible :).

I think my mom and dad are disappointed about my sister going into psych but after the first year she's going to have proper 9-5 hours, which is why my brother in law begged her to take that residency. It gives him a heart attack to have her bouncing around Chicago at 2 or 3 am. in the morning when he's not in town to pick her up (which b/c he is the world's nicest husband, he does) and we've already had one incident this year where I got a 3 a.m. call from her hysterical about the fact that her taxi got in an accident and the cab driver started threatening her etc. etc.

Cagey said...

I forgot to mention one of the reasons I know KC so well is that some of my favorite BARS are there. I'm with ya, sister. It's amazing that all these years I've seen very little.

Modern Day Hermit said...

I was about 19 when I moved to Dallas from good ol' New London, MO, population 900. I sure got an education, not because of anything bad but a boss of mine about fell over when I was telling her about the guy who knocked on the door of my little studio apartment at 10pm wearing a cast.

I wasn't even that paranoid until I met my ex-husband who was appalled at the idea of a young woman of 21 going to the grocery store at 11pm and the 24-hour Home Depot at 2am (insomniac with things to do). He insisted on going with me everywhere. It was difficult when I moved to Phoenix and was single after having someone hovering over me all the time, I slept with a light on inside and my porch light on for weeks...and I have a big dog.

I count myself as being really naive back then and I'm much more aware of my surroundings now. I will admit that when I work late at night, it makes me a bit nervous to drive home because I think all sorts of paranoid thoughts of my vehicle breaking down in the ghetto or having to wait on the side of the road. I'm not even sure why. It doesn't stop me, but I just think...

I will certainly agree that stuff happens everywhere though. I grew up near Hannibal, MO and that place is terrible. People getting shot, drug deals...and the population is just barely 20,000! Apparently a lot of drug traffic and riff-raff comes up from St. Louis.

My best friend just moved from downtown Dallas and I was exclaiming how cool it would be to live downtown (I've always been a fan of urban areas as opposed to suburban and the Farmer's Market there is incredible) and she said she's seen people getting beat up from her 4th floor apartment and it is kind of scary, so she moved uptown.

Anywho, I go wherever I want within reason, you won't see me on Martin Luther Kind Dr. in Dallas anytime soon, lol. There is a difference between being brave and stupid, haha.

Christy said...

Alhtough I am not excessively frightened of rough parts of towns, or roller skates, or train tracks, I do have weird fears that are hard to control (much like your granny).

Bless your grandma's heart for being so attentive. She cares about you and your family dearly. She just wants whats best for you.