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Only the Names Have Changed

They say every war is started over a woman.


Or by a woman.


This one was no different.


Only this one was started by the woman that I married.


And a woman who worked for the police department as a 'Community Service Officer.'


Everything about the two of them perfectly conspired to create this incredible clash at that place and at that moment.


One of them was the iceberg and one of them was the Titanic.


And they were about to meet.


When it happened, neither one of them had any idea of the shitstorm that it would unleash.


Around the whole fucking world.


It was the first week of December... three weeks before Christmas.


It was a Saturday and I was working at the office desperately trying to catch up with things.


I always seem to get really busy right before Christmas.


I had my kids with me because my wife was at some jewelry convention or something and I wasn't gettin' a thing done.


Everything seemed alright... I mean... nothing in my world was all that exciting.


It was all good.


Life was comfortable and cozy.


Just like how the passengers on the Titanic must've felt when they were a mile away from hitting that iceberg.


I had three wonderful kids... a wife that I loved... business was good... I was happy...


It seemed like there was nothing extraordinary about my life at all.


I was 'Joe Everyguy.'


I sometimes look back on that wonderful domestic boredom and tranquility fondly while I try to remember what life back then was like.


Because I know that after what I've seen that I'll never be the beneficiary of 'ignorant bliss' ever again.


My kids were going out of their mind with their own boredom until one of them suggested that they clean up the office... and that they gather up all of the change that they'd found and they could take it up to the Super Store and dump it into the bucket for the Salvation Army.


You know... the guy who wears the Santa hat and rings that bell out in the cold in front of the store around Christmas time?


They wanted to help someone else.


I was really touched that they'd taken it upon themselves to do that... and as I tried to do my work I kinda sat back and thought to myself that it really was a wonderful world... that everything's alright... when your kids do something like that on their own you've gotta be doing something right as parents.


It really was a special moment.


I had this warm feeling inside and I thought 'it's gonna be a really nice Christmas in a few weeks.'


I looked forward to watching them open presents on Christmas morning.


The girls had found a little basket back in the warehouse and they used it to hold all of the change they'd found while cleaning.


It seemed like such a 'little girl' thing to do and it made me smile.


It was like something out of one of those 'Little Golden Books' I'd read to the girls at bedtime.


Eight dollars and twenty nine cents.


That's how much change that they collected.


I helped them count it.


They were proud of their accomplishment so far and they were glowing when they talked about dumping it in the Salvation Army bucket there at the Super Store.


I was really proud of them.


I think it was the last time I can remember the world or life itself feeling so right.


When my wife arrived to pick up the kids I told her that I didn't get shit for work done... and I asked her if on the way home she could take the girls to the Super Store to donate the change they'd collected.


She was touched too and she smiled a really warm smile... the kind that lit up the place... the kind that sealed the deal about 'everything being alright.'


The kinda smile every guy wants to see his wife smile.


Everything felt just so right.


Like when everyone said goodnight to each other on 'The Waltons.'


My little family was warm, happy, safe, together and about to go and do a really nice thing.


The iceberg was only blocks away now.


If only...


As I kissed her goodbye I handed my wife one of the point and shoot cameras we use at work to document stuff.


I asked her to snap a few pictures of the girls donating the change... dumping it in the bucket.


I was so proud.


I just wanted to have a couple of pictures to remember this moment by.


The last moment that everything was alright.


Just before my family's entire world was turned upside down.


The little ones got all bundled up and I helped them into the station wagon and gave everyone kisses goodbye.


The youngest one seemed to fall asleep as soon as I buckled her into the car seat.


'I was gonna get some work done now' I thought.


I had the office to myself.


I noticed it'd turned cold... with a crisp wind out of the east driving a little sleet in front of it.


It was starting to get slippery out... ice was beginning to form on the pavement but that car had all wheel drive so I didn't even worry about it.


I sat back down in front of the computer and the warm thoughts about what the kids had done seeped into every part of my body.


A moment of transcendental happiness.


It was the kind of moment every parent cherishes.


The moment when you feel like you've done right.


I might have sat there and savored that feeling for five minutes... I don't remember... but it wasn't that long.


I was really enjoying that moment when the phone seemed to ring louder than normal.


I looked at the caller ID and it was my brother.


He was working as the bellringer there at the Super Store that night.


Instantly my world was shattered.


It was one of those moments that are so surreal you feel like it's all a big joke.


But no one would joke about something like this.


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Taken on July 9, 2011