Yesterday, my daughter asked “Is your blog going to be all about Dad’s case?” The answer to that is No. A blog could never do it justice. I have written a book about Cecil’s case and the far-reaching tentacles it left behind. Hopefully, that book will be on the shelves soon for people to read.
This blog will be about meeting life as it comes to you. For us, Cecil’s case was a turning point. It serves as a place to start the blog. I mean, there’s a lot of material there. I could nuance the thrill of seeing your children plastered on the front page of the newspaper as they leave the courtroom after yet another hearing. I could (and I will later) share with you the humiliation of a Perp Walk. A view from inside the jailhouse lends itself to countless narratives. But this is not intended to be a shrine to what members of my writers group call my 'bitching and moaning' about what happened. To their utter frustration, I’m sure there will be a fair amount of that, despite my best efforts.
But, there will be more. I love vignettes. Some will sting the heart, but others will be humorous. Many other topics flow from the seed. Ambition. Crossroads. Facing Death. Divorce (not us!). War and the havoc it wreaks. Life behind the Iron Curtain. I used to pity myself the uncommon experience. Now, if I can't have what I lost, I am at least grateful for the depth of experience.
In the telling, I suppose it is inevitable there will be musings, and maybe a few epiphanies. One thing I've discovered: the good part of a nightmare is that, eventually, you wake up and realize that, notwithstanding the stink that can happen, real life is not all bad. It’s a matter of perspective, and a determination to look for good things that lie, like a faint heartbeat, beneath the rubbish that has scattered from corner to corner of the landscape you can see.
For us, Cecil’s case was a life changing event. In my last post, I touched on the government’s largess, shall we call it, in going after him. Initially, he and I stood like deer in the path of a Mack truck, waiting for the splatter that would follow. For a year, when we wanted to talk in the house, we wrote notes to each other, then flushed them down the toilet, certain our home had been bugged. It would have been easy to let ourselves be eaten alive. The tendency was to dress up in ‘woe is me’ and wear it all day, every day.
When we caught ourselves doing that, we made a conscious decision to knock it off. First, we turned Woe is Me into Screw Them. That helped a lot.
Then we designated our family life as off limits. We went searching for Normal and made it our mainstay. Whatever calamity waited on the doorstep, our home became our solitude.
When we closed the door behind us, we shut out the nightmare and carried on with our lives. The sons-a-bitches would be lurking the next day, ready with some hideous take on how justice gets meted out but, for those few hours, our life together would be our own.
I don’t mean we sat around in a circle, holding hands and fretting together as a unit. I mean we allowed ourselves to breathe. We would sit before the fire and read. The kids would argue one minute and cuddle under a blanket watching TV the next. Food fights erupted on a moment’s notice. When my hair caught fire during a singing of Happy Birthday one year, they doused me and we laughed. We finished the song and then exaggerated the hell out of the story for the rest of the night. Each year we tromped through the woods to find our Christmas trees. Each night we ate dinner together, talking about the kids’ school and a million other things, but never The Case.
We did all this, not because we weren’t taking the government’s threat seriously. We did it to survive. To be consumed by a barrage of destructive emotion, without respite, can be catastrophic. You lose your sense of how life was before and how it needs to be again. Although our circumstances would forever be a part of our kids’ childhoods, we did not want the mess to become a part of who they were. I think that’s key.
By saving Normal, we stayed tuned into life beyond the feds, and kept ourselves from becoming jaded. In short, good can come from almost anything. Today, I am less judgmental. Little things are so much sweeter than they used to be. We take challenges in stride; the sky is hardly ever falling. Cecil and I appreciate each other in ways that hadn’t occurred to us before. As for our relationship with the kids, well, we went through something terrible together. The trauma seared its mark into the fiber of our family dynamic. It was frightening then; it has transcended into something special.
When terrible things happen, allow yourself to go through them, but distinguish between the moment and the long run. There will be wreckage, the burden of which might change the path you choose in the future. But you have to keep walking, and looking forward to the rest of what’s waiting for you. We found a way to keep walking, even during the calamity. I think that saved us.