Prayers for Gayle and Paul Grenier
Lori P, and Summer,
Last Fall my friend and I were walking around Highland Park above the Pittsburgh Zoo when suddenly she hit me in the arm and stopped us in our tracks. “Listen,” she said, “what is that?” From down over the hill and through the trees came these screams like I’ve never heard before.
I uttered the first thing that came to mind, “Sounds like a mauling.”
In retrospect, I know now what I was hearing—screams of men, women and children witnessing and trying to stop a two year old boy from being further mauled by the most ferocious dogs on the planet. A young mother had accidently dropped her baby boy into an African wild dog exhibit.
So as I’m listening and trying to wrap my mind around what I was hearing the first image that entered my mind was a sort of wicked roller coaster ride. I knew, however, that the zoo had no roller coaster—just a small carousel and a slow moving train. No, these screams were of a magnitude I had never ever been exposed to—not in any amusement park, not in any movie, not in any life experience—until then. And these were sustained, hysterical screams full of terror, rising and falling in the most surreal of intensities.
She and I looked at each other.
I now had the image of a big, burly, brown bear barreling around the food court mauling little girls, mauling men.
“Let’s walk down,” She said. So we did.
As soon as we reached the mural wall near where the kangaroos are kept, we hear over the loud speakers an announcement of a zoo emergency requiring everyone to take immediate indoor shelter.
As we were walking on the sidewalk of the road in front of the administrative office four lit-up police vehicles flew by. Moments later we heard a series of six shots. Then minutes later there was an announcement that the zoo was closed for the day and everybody was asked to exit.
I tell this tragic story to draw our attention to a certain emotional reality operating in the hearts and mouths of certain others who reflect upon events like this from the outside.
You see, later that week as I was walking around the reservoir above the zoo I heard a lady say to another lady some pretty malicious things about this bereaving mother. At the point where she said, “I would shoot myself if I were her,” I stopped and told them what my godly grandmother was doing. Ceaselessly, with tears of compassion, she was interceding for this mother, for the father, for the family, knowing that she could not even fathom what this experience has done to them.
My grandmother has since left this earth for heaven, but her daughter, my mother is still with us. I was adopted at birth to a fundamentalist pastor and his wife. I do thank my grandmother and my mother for my christian heritage—for introducing me to Jesus and nurturing me in my relationship with God. But to this day I have a better relationship with my father than I do with my mother.
My father turned out to be an abusive man—a sometimes sick and sadistic monster. Once, at around the age of four, my father made me do something utterly degrading to punish and humiliate me so that I might learn a proper lesson. Afterwards, I went out to my mother where she was standing at the stove and cried, “Mommy [save me].”
My mother was cold and psychologically paralyzed. She was simply unable to protect me from this monster, this pastor, her husband, and my adopted father. And such went my life until she had the courage and the strength to leave him. I have little memory of my life before this extrication. My mother seems to have less.