Friday, July 27, 2012

Wanted? Dead? Or Alive?

One week in.  This process just began for some people one week ago.

One week in, I was surprised on some days that I was still alive myself.  I remember my first trip to the grocery store.  I bought Pepperidge Farm Oatmeal Bread and a pound of butter.  I wore butter colored Old Navy pants and a pink t-shirt.  I saw a woman I knew.  Her name is Jody Kimball.  It took about 20 minutes door to door.  Every minute was difficult and surreal.  That was one week in.

I'm really sad to say that this has happened before.  There have been other public shooters since Leslie's.  And I think about her every single time.   I think about all the best friends who have been left behind.  They are part of the reason I started this blog.

But this one was different.  It was different from the very second I heard about it, even though I didn't know then that it would be this kind of dramatically different. 

I went to my friend Amy's that morning to babysit her daughter and my special baby bff, Sophie.  This is the Amy that my regular readers will remember 'found my purse.'  (Love you, Upstairs...always.) She and Soph were still in bed so I let myself in and got in bed with them.  We played with Sophie for a while and then I asked her, in a way that isn't rude, even though it seems rude in type, why she was still there.  She was supposed to be at work.  She said that she just needed a little more time with her baby because of the shooting.  And I had no idea what she was talking about.  She said there had been a baby shot at a mall.  And I said immediately that I didn't want to hear about it.  No babies, no malls, nope.  Sand, head, bury, please.  Not forever...just not right before I was responsible for that sweet girl all day. 

Around 10 am Sophie went down for a nap, so I lay on the couch and napped myself.   Not long after I fell asleep my cell phone (unpublished number) rang.  I picked it up and it was a reporter.  Woke me out of a dead sleep.  He asked me to "share my thoughts on this tragedy."  It took me a few minutes to even figure out what he was talking about because I didn't really know anything about it.  And it pissed me off.  I hate "personal interest" reporters.  )Sorry if you're that kind of reporter...I don't hate YOU, but I do hate your job.)  I told him that my thoughts were that in was, in fact, a tragedy and I hung up on him.  And then I sat and stared at nothing for about 45 minutes.  What WERE my thoughts on this tragedy?  Then the phone rang again.  A different number this time but I let it go to voicemail.  It was another reporter.  Why?  Why this shooting?  Why didn't they call me any of the other times?  I have no idea. 

But I think, it was because he was caught.  And he was alive.  And we were all going to have to think about him.  And think about him...and think about him...  At least me, anyway.

People say you're not supposed to give the shooter a name because that's what he wants.  I think that's sort of understandable, but kind of ridiculous.  How do you know what mass killers want?  Seriously, if anyone is capable of truly understanding what mass shooters want, then I don't want to know that person.  You SHOULDN'T know what they want.  You shouldn't be able to comprehend him in any way.

And not only that, they NEED a name.  Hes the Batman shooter.  He's the Dark Knight killer.  He's James Holmes.  He IS.  "That shooter" doesn't work for me.  Because I already have one of those.  If he doesn't get a name, then I don't get to talk about him.

And I have to because he's all I think about.  Pretty much all the time.   Every time I say his name I cry out.  Not tear up...cry out.  I cried out loud when I typed it.  I cry almost every time I see his orange headed face on tv, on facebook, on the internet.  I'll be honest, it's taken me several hours to write the last two paragraphs because I cry so much.

But I don't want to stop.  I have a compulsion to read and watch and know everything I can about him.  I want to know what other people think about him.  I am obsessed with James Holmes. 

I want to know what he's thinking about right now.  I want to know what he ate for breakfast.  I want to know if his teeth are crooked or straight.  I want to know what he has on his bedside table at home.  I want to know how clean his bathroom is.  I want to know what he smells like.  I want to know what his voice sounds like.  I want to know what games he played as a kid  What kind of beer does he like?  Does he have a grandmother?

I think about James Holmes when I am doing yoga, particularly child's pose because my face is to the mat and no one can see me cry.  I press my nose into the mat and I wonder if he's laying in his bunk in jail on his stomach pressing his nose into his mat.  Is he curled up like I am?  Is it to relax his soul the way I get into child's pose or is it because he is afraid?

I think about James Holmes when I am eating.  Does he eat when he needs comfort like I do?  If he did, what would he eat?  Or does he eat nothing when he's nervous.  And then I think how I wish I was that kind of person.  Because then I might still have an obsessive compulsive disorder, but at least I'd be thin.  And then I hate myself for a few seconds because I wished I was like him. 

I think about James Holmes when I am driving.  Did he drive fast or was he really careful?  Did he store that stuff in his car?  Was he worried someone would see it or did he hide it really well? 

I think about James Holmes when I look in the mirror and I wonder if he thought he was ugly.  Because I think he's pretty cute in his university I.D. picture.  I would have gone out with him.  Did he like the orange hair?  What part of this plan did the way he looked play  because I know it had something to do with it. 

I think about James Holmes when I am with my parents and my brother.  What would he say to his parents?  What did he say to his parents on a normal day before all of this happened?  Did he hug and kiss them?  Were they an affectionate family?  Did he have inside jokes with his sister? 

The worst part is that I think about James Holmes when I am going to sleep.  I lay in my bed and I wonder how he sleeps.  Not in the way that you might think, can that monster sleep at night?  But how does his body lay?  Does he snore?  Does he cry?  Is he scared of prison?  Does he miss his mom?  Then I cry because I miss my mom but I don't know how to tell her any of this.  And then I go to sleep and sometimes I dream that he kills Leslie but then he tells me that he's sorry.

Every day it gets a little worse.  I cry most of the day unless i have something else to do.  I don't stop thinking about him.  I just stop crying about it because it's like he's just there, but not being James Holmes. 

When I am not thinking about him, I am worrying about how messed up I must be because I think about him all the time.  I think about how I am obsessed with him but not with the victims he killed.  I think about how mad I would have been if ANYONE had thought that about Leslie's killer and not about her.  I think about how maybe I am a bad person because I think about bad people. 

I think about whether or not I want him to be dead most of all.  It's part of everything I think about.  I've always been against the death penalty.  It just doesn't make sense to me.  I thought I would die myself before I ever thought seriously that someone else should be dead...deserved to be dead.  

Leslie's killer was shot by the police.  He was still inside the mall, still shooting, and the police killed him.  He died just three minutes or so after Leslie did.  I know his name.  His name was David Logsdon.  But I rarely ever think about him.  He is part of this story.  But he is also part of the past.  He was dead before I ever even knew that my friend was gone.  There was no death penalty.  There was life preservation and that doesn't bother me. 

I remember the night my friend Brooke and I went to Leslie's apartment to get her burial clothes that I told Brooke that I needed to get in her bed.  We did.  I smelled her on her pillows.  We cried some.  I asked Brooke, an ordained minister, what she thinks happened to David Logsdon's soul.  I asked if she thought that he and Leslie were both with God.    And when I made peace with what I thought about that, he was gone for me.  I chose to never have another feeling about him.  I did not hate him.  I did not feel sorry for him.  I didn't wonder what he ate for breakfast, that's for damn sure.

And maybe that's what this is.  Maybe James Holmes is getting everything I wanted to think about David Logsdon but wouldn't let myself. 

Mostly I just want to know how.  How does this happen?  How?  How does a person get born and have a mother and play games and eat sandwiches and then kill people?  If he's dead, I may never get to know.  But if he stays alive I may never ever stop thinking about him.  This is probably the saddest week since Leslie died. 

And I guess that's how I feel about this tragedy,  Mr. Reporter. 

Get a dog. Get a life.

Some of my posts seem like they come all at once.  I write from my iPad a lot and the iPad does not post to blogger well so I save them.  Also, sometimes I think more than others.

I wrote this a few weeks ago because I saw the picture I use as my profile picture on my old, old livejournal.  

Neither of the creatures in the profile picture I use are me.  I am not the curly haired beauty or the fuzz faced stunner.  The photo is the incredibly lucky capturing of the sweetest moment between my two constant companions...Leslie Elizabeth Noble and Truman, my Old English Sheepdog.  Leslie was laying on my bed while we listened to music (because we were total geeks who hung out like 14 year old girlfriends an slumber parties sometimes even though we were over 30) and Truman was using his most sincere puppy dog eyes to garner an invitation to join us.  Leslie, not a dog lover, was won over that day.  She was a Truman fan from then on.  And I mean, come on...who is NOT a Truman fan? 

My advice to the grieving....get a dog.  Or a cat.  Or a ferret.  Whatever.  One of the most overwhelming feelings you have when grieving your friend is guilt.  And no, I don't mean the "why wasn't I there?" and "why didn't I do something?" guilt...although you may have that.  It's the "why can't I stop thinking about anything except how sad I am?" guilt.  When a family member dies, everyone has a certain expectation and understanding of how terrible it must be for you.  Dead sister = license to be flat on your back with grief for a week or two.  Or maybe that's just in my head...  Either way, I think it's pretty normal for those of us left behind BFF's to feel that way.  When I lost Leslie, I seriously felt as if my arms and legs had been removed and bricks were laid on my chest.  And then I was asked to carry on with my life in that condition.  I not only lost my best friend, I lost a connection I had to my childhood which was so often spent with her.  I lost a special bond to OTHER people I knew through her.  I lost my social life.  I lost my phone conversations and my workout routine and my shopping mirror and voice of reason in matters of the heart.  And how do you tell someone that you are sad enough today to be unable to function because you have no one to do the stairmaster with? 

Oh, and then the guilt that you are sad because of a stairmaster...  Your best friend was just shot in the head.  And you're sad because you have no one to make you feel better about your sta-dri workout capris being a bit tight in the bum. 

And you can't talk to her mom because, well, it's her mom.  She just lost her baby.  And in the worst moments of my grief, I could not relate to that pain.  And you can't talk to your mom because she's feeling grief, too, but, at the same time, she's feeling relief.  Because it wasn't you.  And you understand that.  But it doesn't help YOU because you can't find relief ANYWHERE in this situation. 

And you can try to talk to your friends.  But they'll tell you stories about how this or that happened to their friend....but if their friends aren't DEAD, then you want to scream.  Because if their friends aren't dead then it feels like there is no way they can understand and to suggest they can is ludicrous.  (My thoughts on "understanding" changed dramatically over the last five years, and I want to share that with you...soon...but right now I'm talking about that initial all encompassing grief so it's not relevant here.)

You can't talk to HER friends because you're all just blind people looking for the same button...

But you can talk to your dog.  I know that sounds ridiculous, but it's true.  Truman saved my life in those first few months.  He was the only person (and I realize I said 'person'...sue me) who never tried to make me feel better.  I am not suggesting there was something wrong with people who did.  It's a natural reaction and it was BECAUSE they loved me.  I do it, too...even when I know it's impossible.  But Truman didn't..  He had no feelings about anyone or anything in the entire world, but me.  There was no way to be selfish around him.  Had I suggested to Truman we might think about someone other than me, he would not have even comprehended the idea.  He listened.  He loved.  He hugged.  And he never, ever left.

Get a dog.  Get a life.  Get your life back.  It works.

Wednesday, July 25, 2012

I miss you, stranger.

When your friend dies, especially if the death is publicized by the media, you will be shocked at how many people reach out to you...people you've not heard from in years....maybe people you don't even like. And, if you're anything like me, your first impression of them will be "ambulance chaser" and you'll be annoyed, even offended. But, before you dismiss them as completely insincere, consider this piece I wrote after the suicide of a local news celebrity in November of 2011:

 I've been remarkably moved by the death of Don Harman (a local and well-loved weatherman on a local morning news network, for those of you not in Kansas City). Don committed suicide on Tuesday night.  Like so many other Kansas Citians, I'd watched Don that very morning like I did every single weekday morning for the last ten plus years.  I would wake up and turn on the tv while still in bed and turn it up loud so that I could hear it in all rooms of the apartment/house.  For the last four years, I have had to leave my house at 6:50, and when Don gave his 6:45 weather report I'd know it was almost time for me to leave. When I lived in Pittsburg, KS for my graduate degree in 2008, I was so desperately homesick.  Fox 4 was the only Kansas City channel I could get and Don and the others every morning made me feel at least a little connected to home for a little while every day.

A few years ago I would have felt weird about being so emotionally tied up in a television personality.  But the events of my life in the past several years have taught me something very important:  When tragedy strikes something or someone that affects you, there is an incredible need to make it say outloud to someone, "I knew her."; "I have been there."; "I am part of that."

After my life long bosom friend, Leslie, was murdered publicly in 2007 in a mall shooting, I got letters and phone calls from people that I had not heard from in years, from people we barely knew from high school, even from people who were actually kind of mean and snotty to Leslie and I and our friends in middle school.  Honestly, my first reaction was to be offended.  I was pissed off that people who didn't know her and love her the way we did would try to get involved. I was so consumed with grief that it was hard for me to comprehend that people who were not grieving WITH me could grieve her, too. 

But then I realized that none of them expected this to happen any more than I did.  They were shocked to find, just as I was, that mall shootings and rampage killings aren't just in Dallas and Colorado and on the news.  They are real.  They happen in our city, and to people we people we once people who are in our high school people we went to camp with when we were in Girl Scouts...and to people we were mean to in middle school.  They wanted to reach out to me not to be a part of something that they didn't deserve to be a part of, but to grieve for someone that WAS a part of them, no matter how close. 

 I recently met a man from Joplin who told me that, before this spring, when he said he was from Joplin, a lot of people responded with "Where's that?"  And he said that it was weird, but true, that that would never happen to him again.  And people (like myself) who had spent time in Joplin will always feel connected to that tragedy...even though I knew no one personally who died there...because I had been there.  It was a part of me, no matter how close.

And Don Harman's suicide is like that for me.  Don WAS a part of my life.  He was in my life every day. I saw him more than I saw members of my own family.  He gave me information that impacted my daily life.  He told me when I got the day off work (snow day!) and when I needed to scrape my windshield and when I needed to put the car in the garage.  He made me laugh.  He did School Day at the K which all of my students and I looked forward to so much.  I never met him in person, but in a way, he was my friend. And I know a lot of Kansas Citians reading this feel the same way.

I can't say that I wish I understood how he was feeling because the kind of pain that could bring on suicide is something that I cannot comprehend and do not want to know.  But I do wish that he knew what a negative impact his death would bring to the hearts of so many.  Part of his illness, I know, was the inability to understand that the people and the city he left behind would hurt beyond measure rather than be "better off." But I do feel his loss and I am so sad for him, for his family, and for my city.
And I need to reach out now and say outloud that I knew him; that I hurt, too; that he was a small part of me and that part is empty now.