When You Least Expect It

So much of our lives are built upon expectations.  We plan our higher education based on the expectation that we can have a career doing what we love.  We raise children on the expectation that they will succeed even beyond what we ourselves as parents have achieved.  We marry, with the expectation that our partner will be there by our side until one or the other has met their end.  

On the simpler side of things, we expect to be scared, emotional, or laugh when we go to a movie.  We expect hunger to be sated by dinner, and we expect to have thrills and fun at an amusement park.

We expect to be entertained at a concert, enjoying an artist or band plying their trade in front of us.  Then...the unexpected happens.


The decidedly UNfamiliar, and UNexpected sounds of automatic gunfire.  To the vast majority of Americans, the sound of a fully automatic weapon is something they’ve only heard in movies.  To the average concert-goer, it may have even sounded like ambient noise, or fireworks.  Those of us seeing the horrific videos coming from Las Vegas EXPECT to hear the gunfire, which it is why it is so easy to discern in said videos.  To 50 plus people, it was the last thing they heard.  To thousands more, it will be something they will never forget.  

I AM familiar with the sound of automatic gunfire.  In fact, I personally carried an M249 SAW (a “machine gun” in simpler terms) during my time in the Marine Corps.  I spent hours cleaning it, firing it, and spending time next to others doing the same.  When I EXPECT to hear automatic gunfire, I am familiar enough with it to tell you exactly which type of weapon is producing the sound.  No doubt, there were at least a few veterans in the crowd that have similar experience.

Only, it was unexpected.  No veteran expects to be watching a favorite artist take the stage, strumming a guitar, and hear shots buzzing from over 1,000 feet away.  Much less do teachers, nurses, students, police officers, children, and parents expect it.  This wasn’t a war zone or location in a contested area.  This was Las Vegas.  This was a retired accountant, who apparently lived an unassuming life about an hour’s drive from the city.

So far, there has been no motive for him causing this tragedy.  No past criminal records, and no affiliations with political ideologies.  There have been no reports of apparent mental illness.  We know nothing, other than where he lived, what he used to do, and that he owned a lot of guns, all purchased legally with a background check.

Nobody.  Not his brother, not his girlfriend (who was apparently in the Philippines at the time), not his mother or the FBI, and certainly not the concert goers expected this.  The entire situation is leaving people dumbstruck.  

I’ve been searching for meaning in all of this.  I’ve been looking for a way to relate it to my own widowhood.  But I can’t.  The only similarity or metaphor is that there are more than 50 innocent people unexpectedly dead, now sharing an afterlife with Megan.  It’s simply a goddamned tragedy, and I could find nothing more at the forefront of my mind to talk about today.  Politicizing it, debating what could have been done to prevent it, arguing and ranting and name-calling on social media, changing profile pictures and using hashtags aren’t going to change one goddamned thing about this episode.  

I’m not angry.  I’m really not.  Chalk it up to my own recent developing self-awareness and beginning some counseling perhaps, but my instant reaction is not one of anger.  It’s not fear or anxiety.  It’s not wanting to yell and scream and hit something. It is mourning and solemnity.  It’s a feeling not of my “give-a-damn” being busted, but rather that I should give a damn about the here and now, because the there and then is never guaranteed, no matter how much one expects it.  

Hope for the best, but expect the worst is something I’ve said for years.  It’s supposed to prevent severe disappointment.  Really, however, I don’t think I should expect anything.  Expecting the worst has, over time, made me pessimistic.  How it should read is “STRIVE for the best, and expect the unexpected.”  I never expected Megan to get her first lung transplant...but she did, and we got three more years together, all the while, I was expecting her to go into rejection at any moment, where I should have been enjoying our “new” life together.  

The casualties and victims at the concert were doing just that.  They were presumably simply enjoying themselves, being entertained, listening to music, and maybe even having a beer with a loved one.  They were striving for an enjoyable evening, and in this case, the unexpected turned out to be a tragedy.  It doesn’t change the fact that prior to this, they were living in the moment and enjoying the life they had been given.

 Without expectations.

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