Life isn't fair. No one said it would be. God doesn't promise fair... in fact quite the contrary. But He does promise his presence.
So, God is present with me now... and He even present at the Brookfield Zoo, in spite of my current frustration.
I've blogged before about our trips to the zoo. I took TJ there the day after Leslie died. He learned of Mommy's departure for Heaven sitting under a little tiki-style umbrella over a hot-dog-on-a-stick and a fruit punch, right beside "Stingray Bay", one of his favorite exhibits. Leslie used to take him there several times a month. We paid a pretty penny for a "Family Plus" membership-- unlimited parking and admission for the 3 of us, and we could even bring along a guest on each visit... discounts on food, dolphin show passes. It was awesome.
It WAS awesome.
As much as TJ got to go, most of his visits were during the weekdays in the warm-weather months. He and Leslie typically needed to get out of the house to do something, just for their shared sanity. They'd wake up, see a sunny and mild day outside, and decide spontaneously to head to the zoo. (Of course, this past summer, such visits were not as frequent, as Leslie would need help-- someone to drive them, etc...) But it was nice, because it's only a half-hour drive, if that, and they could get there, have fun, eat lunch, and then be home in time for TJ's nap. A few times over the course of each of the last 3 summers, we'd plan a Saturday visit, where we could all go together. Anyway, it was well worth the money we spent on the membership-- so many special memories there... memories of Mommy that fill TJ's mind.
So this year, when our membership came up for renewal, I placed a call and informed them of our "situation". I said I was calling to renew, but was curious how we make out the 2nd membership card-- the one that was formerly Leslie's. (Membership card and photo ID are required both at the parking lot gate and the admissions gate.) Apparently, we could pay a little extra and have them issue a "Caregiver" card... but the problem was that we had to declare ONE specific caregiver... And I have NO idea what TJ's child-care situation is going to look like 2 months from now, let alone ALL of next year. I asked if they couldn't just issue the 2nd card to TJ, and use his birth certificate as his ID at the gate, and then admit his caregiver that day as his "guest". No-can-do. Members must be 18 or older.
You can see where this is going...
I wrote a letter to the director of member affairs at the Chicago Zoological Society. I boiled our story into a one page summary-- how special the zoo is to our family, the tragedy of the last year, my desire to maintain the membership and TJ's opportunities to visit the zoo regularly. Yesterday, Ms. Director called me back. It was all I could do to maintain my "professional courtesy". And tragically, I fear that I failed at maintaining the level of "lovingkindness" God desires me to administer in such situations.
No grace. No consideration. No alternatives. No exceptions. She merely offered her "heart-felt" condolences and then proceeded to say, "If we make one exception to one member, then we need to make every exception to every member..." yada-yada... I asked her, "Is it such a bad thing to make exceptions for ALL little kids with dead mommies??" Like I said, I confess that the "Society's" lack of grace was exposing the limitations of my own, in this situation.
We talked in circles, my stating the inequity of the situation and offering alternatives (which I mentioned above), her stating that the rules are the rules and no exceptions would be offered. Finally, before saying anything I'd truly regret, I just concluded the phone call:
"Well. I guess I can thank you for your time, in reading my letter, offering your condolences, and stuff. But basically, what you're saying is that you are not willing to make any accommodations. And what that means to me, is that a 3-year-old boy will not have the same access to the zoo next year that he has enjoyed each of the last 3 summers, simply due to the fact that his mommy died. I'm not one to pout about someting 'not being fair', but there is just something horribly unjust about this. I guess this is a part of being a single dad that I'm just going to have to get used to-- that this concept of 'family plans' and 'family passes' just doesn't apply to me anymore. Again, thank you for your time, and I'm sorry my 'business' and TJ's story is not worthy of your offering any accommodations. Goodbye."
I know I'm not alone in this type of battle. I've heard from so many single moms and dads out there, who certainly brush into this type of thing on a regular basis. I'm frustrated with my lack of awareness and/or compassion in these regards through the first 31 years of my life, before I had the "opportunity" to experience them first-hand.
So anyway... I guess we'll just have to find a new "special place" that TJ and his caregiver can enjoy on a regular basis next year. Sure, he and I will still make the occasional Saturday trip to the zoo... (his love for the place outweighs my "self-righteous indignation" which suggests I boycott)... We'll just end up paying more per visit. When I think about it, it's not really about the zoo--we'll still be able to enjoy it together... TJ just won't be able to go as often as he has in the past. It's really more about the apparent injustice of such a "kid-focused" and "family-friendly" organization being completely unwilling to make a compassionate decision or compromise.
Oh well. As I said to Ms. Director... it's their prerogative. It's their business. Their decision. Just like it's mine to stop my membership. Unfortunately, that's all the noise I can make in my frustration, and it's just such a small, tiny noise, in the grand scheme of things... Well... there's that noise, and the one I can make on this blog-- thanks for letting me vent. I just needed to feel some compassion, I guess.
Everyone needs compassion,
A love that's never failing.
Let mercy fall on me.
Everyone needs forgiviness,
The kindness of a savior,
The hope of nations...