IMR: 1998: May: 21 -- Thursday, 11:34 p.m.
Our Apartment, Makiki, Hawai`i
"Elmopalooza," the music-video counterpart to the hot-selling Sesame Street album, is in the VCR. The Fugees were just funking up the alphabet with Big Bird. Now the Mighty Mighty Bosstones and The Count are doing the "Zig Zag."

I guess it's inevitable that the absurdly cute -- Elmo, Winnie the Pooh, and unfortunately Barney too -- will soon haunt every corner of my being. Jen has fallen head over feet for these trappings of toddlers, from children's videos to a vintage set of Little Golden Books sent over by her mother. While "The Wheels on the Bus" brings back memories, I just can't get into them like my wife does.

I mean, you should hear her do "The Three Bears." She does all the voices and sound effects, too.

Oh, I'm sure I'll come around. Someday, I'll be able to go to Disney films and buy Tickle-Me-Whatevers without uttering a single word about rampant commercialism and today's over-diluted "educational" media.

But I guess I'm not ready. Not just yet.

(Shawn Colvin and Ernie? Okay, that's a little cool.)

It's weird how some aspects of parenthood have yet to emerge within me, while others feel as if they've been there forever.

Now, for example, I'm completely powerless against television commercials that exploit cute babies. Even if they're selling baby seal pelts, if a bright-eyed proto-person is wearing it, I'll want to buy one. And the child-in-peril plot twists of even the worst made-for-TV movies damn near bring me to tears. "I feel your pain!"

Today was my second day as stay-at-home dad. We took two trips out, one to the corner store and another to the park where we watched a bunch of senior citizens learning to tap dance. Katie "jogged" for over half an hour, and played with her toys -- the foam blocks from Greg and the rattle-type-thing from the Masakis -- until they outright frustrated her.

It's amazing. She has the instinct to grab and manipulate objects. Now all she needs is to control them well enough to not thunk herself in the face.

All was well until, yet again, Katie blew her top shortly after 7 p.m. It didn't get to the paralyzed, open-mouthed, bright-red stage, but it was an ordeal nonetheless. She didn't stop crying until we were halfway to Tower.

With all the screaming, you'd think she'd have a head full of pearly whites by now, but so far, her gums sport only curious bumps.

Teeth, I think, are the only things development-wise for which Jen and I are growing impatient. Otherwise, though, she's growing way too fast.

Jen often says, "Why does she have to grow up so fast? She's so beautiful and perfect... everything from you and me that's good, and none of the bad."

I used to struggle for an answer, but the one I came up with a few days ago seems to have warmed her heart.

"She's in a hurry to grow up," I said. "She can't wait to tell you she loves you; to make you a Mother's Day card out of macaroni; to get you a nice sweater for Christmas."

I experienced the most mind-bending moment of synchronicity this afternoon. I also came as close as I ever want to get to a national tragedy.

I had just gotten home from campus, and Jen and I were scarfing down our lunches before racing her off to work. While we were packing the diaper bag, the phone rang.

It was Martha, an old friend from my earliest days at Ka Leo, now working as a producer for the evening news at KHNL (the local NBC affiliate). And she was frantic. She wanted to know if I had the latest Student/Faculty Directory for UH.

While I searched the apartment, she explained why she needed it.

"We just heard that the sister of that kid who went off with the gun in Oregon is a student in Hawai`i," she said, speaking at a million miles an hour.

Having spent the day holed up in the BusAd building, I didn't even know what she was talking about. It was only the lead story on every national news program this morning, but I was clueless. I also didn't have the phone book.

She sighed and thanked me and hung up.

Five minutes later -- just as we were walking out the door -- the phone rang again.

It was Michelle, former Ka Leo copy chief and journalism classmate -- the recent graduate we couldn't find on Sunday. And she too was frantic.

"You know that kid who shot a bunch of people in Oregon?" she asked.

"Yeah?" I said, still lying.

"His sister is a friend of mine, and she wants me to help her," she said. "But I don't exactly know what to do."

She said her friend had been hounded by the media all morning, so she offered to put out a press release to keep them at bay. She needed help wording it, and wasn't even sure how she'd get it out.

Marching out the door, baby in hand, I gave her as many suggestions as I could. I also told her I'd be able to help disseminate the release, since my days with the 'Venue left me with a group-fax list that included every newspaper, radio and television station in town.

She said she'd consult with her friend and call back.

"How weird is that," I said to Jen. "Out of the blue, two people -- who I don't see all that often -- needed help and thought of me at the same time. And not only that, but it's about the same thing."

Of course, I still wasn't clear on what Martha and Michelle were talking about. So as soon as Katie and I got back home, I tuned in to CNN. And there it was, at the top of the hour.

Kipland P. Kinkel, 15, reportedly opened fire on his classmates this morning at Thurston High School in Springfield, Oregon -- about an hour east of Eugene.

Expelled for bringing a gun to school only yesterday, officials say Kinkel returned to campus this morning with a .22-caliber rifle, jumped onto a table in the school cafeteria and fired into the crowd of about 400 students gathered there. One student was killed, and at least 23 were injured. Six remain hospitalized in critical condition.

Several students, including one that had been wounded, tackled Kinkel and held him for police. He's expected to be charged as an adult tomorrow, although Oregon law dictates he is too young for the death penalty.

Apparently acting on statements Kinkel made while in custody, police then went to his home where they found two bodies -- one man and one woman -- shot to death. The media so far only says they are "believed to be" the boy's parents, but as Michelle would later assure me, they most definitely were.


Three news cycles later, Michelle came over, and we tidied up the statement. Essentially, it said:

Kristin Kinkel, a senior majoring in speech pathology at Hawai`i Pacific University, is the sister of Kipland Kinkel. She is not making any further comments. She would like the media to give her some peace.

We sent it out shortly before 2 p.m. I made sure KHNL got it first.

Michelle said Kristin -- with her help and the help of friends and coworkers -- had already gone into hiding. The hope was that the release would occupy the wolves long enough for the story to fade from the front page.

I think the media frenzy will last a bit longer than a day, but I hope she did get some privacy as a result of our efforts.

I cannot even begin to fathom the kind of loss she's facing. I mean, Michelle said Kristin told her that the only family she has now are her friends in the islands.

And all this went down less than a week before she was to graduate. By all rights she should be celebrating the beginning of her new life, but no doubt she will eventually be summoned back to Oregon, interviewed and cross-examined about lives that met an untimely end.

Both Martha and Michelle also shared a few similar thoughts. "Kiss your wife and baby tonight. Don't ever think you have it rough. Be thankful of the life you have."


© Ryan Kawailani Ozawa · E-Mail: · Created: 21 May 1998 · Last Modified: 27 May 1998