I've been staying as far away from the specific details of the latest tragedy as I can. When I heard about it I burst into tears horrified, simply horrified for all those poor babies and then...I stayed as far away as possible. No news, no news channels, no NPR.
I just couldn't. I found that I couldn't deal with any additional details. I didn't want to know anything else. Some say this was sticking my head in the sand. I say thank God I'm not so desensitized about life and humanity where hearing about every detail of this horror isn't something I'm able to do without internalizing some major pain.
I just couldn't.
In the days which have followed, starting, unfortunately, on Friday, folks started a debate about gun control. All over Facebook people were posting about their right to bear arms being in the Constitution. Almost as an afterthought...the debate about mental illness awareness began as well as the details of the shooter's history of mental illness surfaced.
And some folks had drawn a line in the sand calling for either/or.
Better gun control.
Better assistance for mental illness.
My father was a gun enthusiast. You name it...he had it. I've very comfortable around guns because I've always known how to properly handle them. I was taught at an early age to break down, clean, oil, put back together and properly store several types of guns. He had a locked cabinet for his long barrel guns and a lock box for all but one of his handguns.
And he slept with one under his pillow.
My father wouldn't open the door without a gun in his hand behind his back. He'd wave us all away from the area around the door and he'd peak out like he was expecting a mob killer to finally show up and wipe him out after finding him in hiding all these years later.
I remember being really young and thinking to myself...that dude is bat.shit.crazy.
When I was around 9 or 10 one night my mother rushed in and woke me up. She told me to keep my brothers quiet and from coming into the living room no matter WHAT I heard. She made me promise. She scared the living shit out of me. She didn't wake up my brothers. She woke me up. Because I was the oldest. I heard her talking at the top of the hallway from the living room in soothing tones. Sing-songy voice. She was talking about happy shit. Things we'd done. Places we'd been.
Her: Remember the time we drove to the big park and barbecued while the kids road their bikes? What was that 8-track we listened to all the way there?
Him: Isaac Hayes. Isaac Hayes.
Her: Yeah...that's it...we had a good time. That was a good time. We should do that next weekend before it gets cold.
Him: I don't know if I can get the bike rack off that old van. It might not fit on the car.
Her: We should try and see. Get some measurements.
Just talking. Just talking.
Me being me I crept out of the room and stayed in the shadows not making a sound. I saw him behind an arm chair in the living room. Kinda using it as a fort in his underwear only and a gun sweating bullets in the chill of the night. He had a look in his eyes that told me he was far away from where we actually were but my mother was fighting to bring him back. At that age I knew it was a dance my mother danced with him often. A duet if you must.
Two steps forward.
One step back.
One step forward.
Two steps back.
My mother didn't like guns. She didn't touch them unless she was forced to. She had a lovely pearl handled dainty handgun she kept in her purse when we were out and about with my father.
Because he gifted it to her.
And because he forced her to always have it with her.
His level of paranoia required his woman to be armed just in case a gun battle broke out in Kmart or the dentist's office.
The older I got, the more informed of my father's illness. Dude was textbook Manic Depressive and he refused to medicate. Mainly because the medicine back then straight up wigged you out something crazy so his drug of choice was weed.
And that shit kept him as level as one can be I guess. I remember as a kid thinking to myself...I hope his azz hurries up and goes out to the tree house shit.
Cuz that's where he smoked his weed.
In our tree house.
And he came back all happy and feel goody and shit.
And we knew we could ask him for anything and it would be granted.
Me: Daddy...may I have $20?
Him: Of course Princess. Here ya go.
Me: Daddy can we get ice cream?
Him: Absolutely. With sprinkles.
And all the while my mother would be hovering in the background watching him closely and I knew what she was waiting for. That switch to flip.
That switch to flip.
Because that's how quickly it would happen.
Father/husband of the year one minute.
The worst of your nightmares the next.
All methodical and shit.
The final time my father's switch flipped...his guns weren't far from his reach as always and that edge my mother had known he'd fall off eventually opened up and ate him. ATE.THEM.
The debate regarding gun control versus mental illness assistance and research gets a *HARD.STARE* from me. Watching people have it who haven't been "ATE UP" by the power of that gray area annoys me. Fools yelling and beating their chests.
Those of us who've been ATE UP understand the enormity of the issue and how one can horrifically beget the other.
December 13th was the date my family was ATE UP.
December 14th...well...yall already know...
Some people should really shut their faces. If you had someone in your home who suffers from this level of mental illness...I'd hope you had enough sense to not WANT to have guns in your home no matter your Constitutional right.
I'm going back to sticking my head in the sand now. Debate on.