When we lived in Colorado, Mama worked for the local women’s shelter. The staff of three provided services and shelter to women who were victims of domestic abuse in our town and the surrounding communities.
That meant that many nights of sleep were interrupted by phone calls from the police and long conversations with victims or even visits with them. Mama spent days at the shelter, working with women to put their lives back together, presenting programs at the high school, and accompanying women to court. It never ceased to amaze me how many people struggle with domestic violence, how severe it was on a regular basis, and who some of those involved were.
It was a small town, and if you didn’t know someone, you knew of them. Rather than six degrees of separation, I would guess that there were about two. So, when Mama would describe her workday and talk about some of her clients and the perpetrators, they were often people we both knew, saw around town, did business with, and so forth.
Somehow, all of that was not as disturbing as what happened in the neighborhood next to mine this week, where one co-owner of our favorite coffee shop shot the other co-owner, who managed to get into her car and back it through the garage door before collapsing on the front lawn.
A neighbor heard the shots, found the woman and called police. When the police arrived, the shooter released a two-year-old to them and barricaded himself inside the house. After a day-long standoff with police, the shooter took his own life.
I don’t think it’s the fact that they own our favorite coffee shop. That might have something to do with it, since we somewhat knew them, but they were the third owners and our closeness with them wasn’t so different from our relationships with victims and perpetrators in Colorado.
I think it might be the presence of the two-year-old that sticks with me. 3B is a two-year-old and so I feel that I have a fair idea of how someone his age reacts to situations. It crushes me to think what kind of effect it would have on him to see something like that…and so whenever I think of that two-year-old, it crushes my heart. My chest feels heavy.
It makes me think of how careful I’ve become since having 3B. I don’t do it for my sake–in my delusional mind, I’m still 18 and will live forever (and The Cure doesn’t suck yet)–but I do it because I’ve lost both of my parents and I know what a crushing blow it is. Of course, god willing and the creek don’t rise, eventually 3B will lose me and I assume it will be a blow to him too, but I’d like to put that off as long as possible so that he’s best able to deal with that.
It reminds me of all those times I called Mom and started the conversation with, “I’m OK, but something happened.” Or those times when someone else had to call for me. Or when my five siblings made that same call. It’s a wonder Mom’s hair wasn’t white by the time she was 50.
So I think too of the parents of the woman who was shot, and of the man who killed himself. If my heart is crushed just thinking about it, how do their hearts keep beating?
Then I realize that another 10 minutes have spun away as I sat and stared off into space, thinking about this. And I go back to work or laundry or reading or eating or walking the dog. There’s no epiphany, no moment of clarity, no understanding. There’s just the next step and then the next one after that.