The gunshot, the blood, the murder itself is a heavy stone dropped from a great height into our lives. Immediately everything is violently displaced. Though we continue existing, though what has been displaced settles… the ripples pullulate outward for decades. Generational repercussions lessening until it’s simply family lore. And even then, there is still pain.
A gunshot ended my father’s life when I was a young toddler. A blank canvas exists where my memories of him should be. My father figures pieced together from television shows and friend’s father’s over the years. I can’t recall his smile or the scent of him as he held me close. No sound of his voice rings in my ears. I am left with no wise words or funny dad sayings to repeat to my children now. He is a story. A tale of death.
My mother and grandparents, and aunt and uncle- the first ripple- don’t speak of him. Not much anyway. More now, that decades have passed. For survival, I believe they detached. We do what we have to to keep going. I grew up knowing very little of him. Perhaps it was too painful to share him, to see his pictures, to keep any part of him with us, so for their survival he was banished. His body cremated so there is no grave, in fact, I do not even know what happened to his ashes. This hurts. I would like to know. I searched for things to make him REAL when I was young. And there was nothing. Nothing but a violent death, a trial, a man living in a prison responsible. As I grew older and wiser I searched out more and more details on the one thing I had; his death. I know too much of what happened to my father, and not nearly enough of what made my father my father.
I was raised in the aftermath of a tragedy, a news story, a made for Dateline murder. I wasn’t shot. I feel the ripple effect every single day.
When his murderer was executed; a new ripple was created for me. For this was the first tangible thing that happened to prove my father was more than a story. And what a horrible thing that was.
As a child I often felt detached, a watcher of a movie of my life. It took a kitten, stray and depending only on me to break that barrier. Now I have children and there is no barrier and they feel a ripple everyday. They are far too young to know the details of their grandfather’s death, but they know he is gone since I was a baby.
They know they will be told I love them every time we say goodbye, they know I have hugs and kisses and reassurances for them every I drop them off at school. Even on days when a school shooting isn’t in the news. (Do those days exist anymore?)
I try to lessen the effect on them. The ripple. I try to give them the I love yous, without telling them every time I let you go I think I will never see you again. Because I grew up with that. Everytime I said goodbye to anyone I simply assumed it would be the last time I ever saw them. Because it happened. Because it happens. Because yesterday parents said goodbye to their kids and they will never see them again. Because yesterday 17 children said goodbye to their parents, to brothers and sisters and they will never see them again.
The one thing I have is knowing that my father died standing up for what was right. There is a clear, specific cause and effect for us. I ache every time someone says these tragedies are senseless. These children, these deaths…they’re not senseless, we simply choose to be blind. We refuse to tackle the perfect storm of toxic masculinity, supremacy, lack of mental health care and being able to buy an assault weapon at Walmart easier than getting a driver’s licence or adopting a rescue pet. There is sense behind their deaths. It’s a terrible sense.We must not look away.
These children’s deaths will ripple for generations, those who did not die are still wounded, their children will be, their grandchildren will be. And unless we do something, soon everyone in America will be caught in the maelstrom.
And no offence, but I don’t want you here. I don’t want anyone else here with me.