Tuesday, February 17, 2015
I had some unexpected insight in the last twenty-four hours.
I developed a habit of watching the television show Criminal Minds in the last few years. Some people might find this to be an unhealthy habit. The show features members of a specialized FBI unit investigating and pursuing some of the most violent and destructive people all over the country. Some of the people they pursue commit some incredibly horrific and harmful acts on other human beings. Sometimes I have wondered if my fascination with this show is an unhealthy one. I watched a number of episodes yesterday.
Somewhere between yesterday afternoon and this morning I found myself unexpectedly reframing my habit of watching this show. I more clearly understood an aspect of the show that appeals to me. Watching the show inspires me because it contains people (the FBI agents) who live heroic lives. I need heroes in my life. And I realized that watching this show somehow inspires me to walk out the door each morning and keep trying to live a better life. I need encouragement to keep going. I need to believe there are other good people in the world who are dedicated to creating a workable, peaceful, equitable, safe, supportive world for all people.
I feel as if I have experienced a dearth of heroic males throughout much of my life. In the last twenty-four hours I found myself reflecting on this theme as well. The names of my best friends from childhood passed through my mind. Another person who influenced my life is someone I have (to my knowledge) never met. This is the person who, as a teenage boy at the time, shot and nearly murdered my father.
For whatever reason I find myself thinking about that person today. I wonder if he is still alive. Given his age at the time of my father’s near murder in 1982 he would be approximately 46 to 52 years of age today. To my knowledge I have never met him. I do not know his name. I do not know how he became involved with my stepmother all those years ago. If he is still alive today I do not know where he lives, if he works, if he has a family of his own and so on. And I don’t even know if it is all that healthy to find myself thinking about him at all.
That a complete stranger did such incredible harm to my father was a grave injustice. The fact that this stranger was a teenager and shot an adult man was only more outrageous. When a child attempts to kill an adult (who has done no harm to him) there is an added element of outrageousness due to the fact that there is an imbalance in the power of the two people involved. In an ideal world adults should not kill children. And in that same ideal world children should not harm or kill adults who have done nothing to harm them. But of course there are many other scenarios beyond these.
In the horrible calculus of the tragedy that struck my life when I was eight years old I rarely gave any thought to the individual who shot the gun and thereby nearly claimed my father’s life. I suppose it was easier to feel aggrieved by my father whose poor choices ultimately led to such a horrible event being not just a possibility but becoming an actual reality. It was also easy to be outraged by the behavior of my father’s siblings and parents. To this day I have never understood how a group of supposedly upstanding Catholic people could be so incredibly negligent. This has long been my opinion. And nothing that has transpired in the intervening decades has changed my impression of the events of 1982.
I don’t know what I will ultimately do with the thoughts I have had recently about this person whom I never met but whose actions ultimately caused me such harm. I can’t help but wonder if he has ever paused a moment in his own life and wondered whatever became of that eight year old boy whose father he nearly murdered. I see him as both a perpetrator and a victim. With consistent love, guidance and support he might have made different choices.
The days are quite obviously growing longer now. But the cold remains. It will feel more typical of January this week. I feel much better than I did a year ago. I would like to believe that I am continuing to heal. I believe this is true. My ancient anger continues to fade away. My sadness remains. But with the outer shell of anger disappearing it is easier for me to discern what is underneath my sadness. Somewhere underneath my sadness is my strength and resilience. Somewhere within me is the invincible sun I have written about at other times in my blog.