At 6:30 a.m. on the couch with my mug, I’m mildly surprised to hear on the radio that any of the schools are open today.

Maybe I’m more than mildly surprised. Perhaps on some level I am deeply astonished at this and other news but I cannot touch it and be there for my son at the same time.

Preteen, he’s pretty self-contained. It’s hard to tell when and where it’ll come out. After 9/11 he and his friends played “suicider terrorist” daily on the jungle gym. And following a school lockdown last year when a knife-wielding teen gang-banger roamed the neighborhood, he asked for a cell phone and a Taser.

No dice, I told him. If you need more power we’ll put you back in karate.

He made a sign and taped it to his bedroom door: War Room. He gazes at guns in the Sportsman’s Guide catalogue. He knows every rank in every military branch plus police. He just wants to be ready. Youth mixes not with any sense of futility. At age 18 it’ll be gun first, tattoo second and tough ’round the clock. In his spare time he plans to study mechanical engineering.

Speaking of police and futility how about that NIU Police Chief Grady: big guy, straight back, the look of Ultimate Jarhead about him. He returned not so long ago from a gig teaching Iraqis how to police themselves. Ever the irony queen I can smell it but am too weary to reach.

A tad preoccupied I dodged the recycling bins on the way back from school and got hung up on the frozen slush rubble at the end of the driveway. Steve and Bill came over to help and we commiserated about the babies killing each other. A lot of people must be preoccupied this morning. Bill says he saw three in the ditch on his way home from work. Steve says his girl can’t believe there’s no good reason. We talked briefly about strategically placing oneself near fire extinguishers.

Between the three of us we cleared the slush rubble in no time and are ready for the next storm.