It is strange to think that at any given moment we are all surrounded by the immediate potential for both joy and tragedy. One week ago today, Friday May 31st, was a day that my family had been anticipating for a few months. After practicing law for thirty years and then sitting on the Virginia Beach Circuit Court for fifteen years, my dad was celebrating a well-deserved retirement.
Although we were not able to be there for this event, all of the grandkids secretly got together and put together (with the help of Uncle Hap) an order to present my dad with his final motion. It was a motion to no longer be a judge and become a full-time pop. The order was signed and notarized and after some family photos, hugs, and tears my dad made his way out the door to a line of friends and co-workers singing “Na Na Na, Na Na Na, Hey Hey Hey…Goodbye“.
It is a career and send off that anyone would be envious of.
Shortly after my dad walked out of the courthouse for the final time, a suspect walked into Building 2 of the Virginia Beach Municipal Center a short distance away and robbed 12 individuals of the same opportunity.
Selfishly, it sucks that I even have to mention that when all I really wanted to do is congratulate my dad on an amazing career.
A few years ago I wrote a blog post (More Love. Less Hate) based on my attempt to process the conversation I had to have with Nolin about the Pulse Night Club shooting near us. Although I tried to shield him from any news related to that event, Nolin was hearing bits and pieces and I realized that it was difficult for a kid to make the distinction between chasing his sister around the house with a Nerf gun, and the permanent impacts a real gun can have.
I never published the post, because in all aspects of my life (except when debating with my dad), I try to stay out of politics, and leave everyone to their own beliefs. However, I went back and reread that post this past weekend.
Several years and several tragedies later, not much has really changed. Again, it is not up to me to make judgments or even chime in on the gun debate. I believe that everyone has the right to their own opinion, and there is absolutely nothing that I can say to either strengthen someone else’s opinion or change it.
One line from that post, however, that I did take away from my conversation with Nolin on why we chose not to have guns in our house was simply that I have never once heard a story that starts with “One day I pulled out a gun” and then concludes with something along the lines of “and was surrounded by a group of puppies wagging their tails and licking my face.”
Until that happens, I am choosing to focus my efforts, not on changing opinions, but what I can do personally to make the world the magical place full of opportunity that my parents did for me growing up.
And I feel pretty confident that the addition of a Full-Time Pop will go along way in that goal.
After years of public service and helping countless individuals, I also want to wish my dad an amazing next chapter. He experienced a storied career, and I know that he will enjoy countless hours laying out on the back deck getting sun and completing his promised two-hours of housework a day for my mom.
I am also certain there will be many more shirts vs. skins matches in the years to come…let’s just hope Pop stays on the shirts team.
So nicely done. The emotions of last Friday were all over the place. Our family enjoyed the high emotions of a career well done. Twelve other men and women had their lives cut short that took emotions to the lowest point for 12 families, many friends and coworkers. Today’s VA. Pilot editorial encouraged everyone to take advantage of life each day. Life can be short and unexpected.
Patrick: Such wonderful tribute to your dad! Looks like it was a great day for the O’Brien clan in his courtroom that day and I know you were missed but your presence felt. Thanks for sharing your words on the contrasts of that day. We are blessed to be ever present today and I wish your Dad and Mom the best of everything in the years ahead of them. God bless us all!