Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Sad Anniversary

At just about this moment last year, katy called me at work to say,
"Dr P called out sick."
"What?!?" I responded in mock alarm.
That was so unlike him, it was newsworthy...

Little did we know that the term "newsworthy" was about to become the central, understated adjective. Nor did we know that at that moment they were all still alive, but not for much longer.

More updates followed: "I guess he's in W. Hospital... He must have had a heart attack or something b/c otherwise they would have taken him here... We can't get in touch with Jen..."

Then the next call: "They're gone. Jen and the girls are gone."

At eight months pregnant, I was just getting the feeling that "everything was gonna be alright." In terms of our baby and the impending delivery, my fears were turning into confidence and excitement.

In a flash I was weakly shouting into the phone: "What do you mean?!? What are you talking about?!?" I couldn't hear that she didn't have all the details. My instincts told me to get more out of her and tell her, "Get out of there- GET OUT OF THERE- Get OUT of THAT office..." Fight or Flight inside of me translated to: Her safety is my safety; my safety is our baby's safety; and I swear my first cogent thought was, "If this is some kind of mob hit, her location is next."

Get. Out.
And the crawl the fuck out of there.

Admittedly, I was starting to lose it... Katy, stunned, trying to hold herself together, and momentarily regretting her decision to tell me this over the phone, asserted that she was safe, we were safe, and perhaps I should call my mother. I did just that and was crying before I even got the information out to my mom. We didn't know who did this, why they did it, or if more things would follow. Since learning the answers to these questions, I realize that I was seeking to believe that the societal contract had not been broken. i was clinging to a sense of normalcy that would never exist again. Somehow the what, why, how should have comforted us and provided a measure of security; but coping in the aftermath of a violent, truly random crime teaches you one or two things about how false any "sense of security" might be. There's no truth to the perception that if you "follow the rules," you and your family will be safe.

The last thing JHP ever said to me was, "I can't wait until this baby is born." I thought about that over and over again in the days after her death. The last thing I ever expected was to be attending her funeral with him still inside of me. That day, I'll never forget, the baby was going NUTS inside of me. I don't know if he was responding to my stress hormones, or if the length of time I was seated made us both uncomfortable, or if it was just his normal amount of activity that I perceived differently. It was one of the only times in my pregnancy that I could barely (mentally) handle that there was a thing inside of me... I was aching with anxiety and needed my space and this kid was crawling, and scratching and groping me from the inside. I wanted to scream... run screaming, but that was obviously due to more things than the baby.

We don't talk about it much. Especially katy. She learned her lesson early when i sent her to therapy and when she brought up the reason for her visit, her therapist started her own diatribe about how hard this has been for her and her family. This has been a prominent topic all over our state this year, but Katy has rarely opened up about it. She has endured a year of pt visits full of sobbing elderly men and their vengeful wives. The detailed depictions of revenge out of the mouths of grandmoms stuck with her in a more upsetting way than the wordless crying of the grandpops. Their doctor's family had been killed and they needed to talk about it even more than they needed their prescriptions refilled. At times too exhausted by her own grief to protest, Katy sat on the sidelines listening, to her patients, to her pregnant wife, even to her therapist- one part of her not willing to compete for support or "grief status" and another part expertly compartmentalizing.

We still shy away from acknowledging that this happened to us because, I mean... it didn't happen to us. But, it kind of did. In a completely startling way, the way the WTC coming down on sept 11th happened to "all of us," the torture and murder of this family happened to everyone who's heard the story. There seems to be something disgusting about "jockeying for position," but if we can ignore that for a moment- this did happen to our family in a much more personal way than to the towns' people in general.

Our friends are gone- so it turns our stomach a little more to see them in still-frame on the TV, and it burns our guts when we hear people say, "He's doing better than I expected." We go a little crazy when we hear ass-hats assert what they would do ("I would just kill myself") or what they "would have done" if they were the dad or were in the house. And we generally ache for what will never be- dancing together at weddings, celebrations of graduations, loads of un-delivered jokes and advice...

Over and over this year I've tried to stop imagining what it must have been like for them in that house. They must have at some point (fear aside, torment aside, danger aside) been thinking, "YOU HAVE GOT TO BE KIDDING ME?!?

When I can't help myself out of the semi-destructive mindset of "What must have been going on in there," I seek some glimmer of comfort in the nightmare. i find what I seek in the idea that an extreme sense of irony and disbelief might have crawled into their minds at certain points. A break from fear or pain.


The mind's way of looking for the punchline of the joke. I don't know why that comforts me, but it is something about the human spirit transcending misery and taking a moment to normalize the abnormal, to acknowledge and protest a glitch in the matrix...

It's raining now- intermittently drizzling and pouring- just like it was on the 23rd last year...
Katy and I will spend the day separately- occasionally considering the insanity, of what has happened to our friends and by extension to us. We will spend a lot of the day trying not to think about it; or pretending that we are not thinking about it.

But just to put it out there, we miss these women. We hope they are somewhere having some fun. We hope they are watching over BPJr. We hope he can feel our good intentions towards him... we miss him too. He's done a good job of preserving their legacies. When we think about our friends, we find ourselves trying not to think about how they died, but how we can work like they did to make the world a better place...

No comments: