Tonight at about 11:30, my parents will have been dead for ten years. My brother has been incarcerated for nearly that long, serving what has become two life sentences without the possibility of parole when he was convicted of the murders in 2013.
And me, I’m still here in Mondoville. I took the day off today; I’ll be back teaching Freshman Comp tomorrow morning.
In the years between the murders and Mike’s trial, I found myself looking for what I called (less than originally) the New Normal. Some folks use terms like closure, but I never believed in that then, nor do I now. But I know my life didn’t stop, nor did those of Mrs. M or the Spawn. Instead, I found myself learning to filter the world through the echoes and the emotional tinnitus of the Big Noise, and I guess that’s what the New Normal is.
There are still times every day when I think of conversations I’d like to have with my folks, jokes I’d like to share, stories (including my own fictioneering) I’d like to talk about with them, questions I wish they were here to answer. I’d like to talk to them about the future the Spawn is embracing, how they handled things when I began graduate school 32 years ago. And I’d like to thank them for giving me a home in which people could read and write stories and paint pictures and do music, so that I always knew that those are things people can do, even in suburbia. Heck, I even owe this blog to them in a way, having begun it both as therapy and as a sort of continuation of the online discussions I’d have with Dad and the Mad Dog.
I trust I’ll have those opportunities eventually, in a time outside of time, but I feel their absence now, and I think of how that shapes me in this now. And that shape, too, is of the New Normal.
It had been a sunny and hot day in Mondoville the day my parents were killed. Today, it is rainy, grey, and relatively cool. But they are the days I have had and I have, and I go through them one at a time, adding them one to another like the rooms of the chambered nautilus. It’s my nature, and part of my profession as a teacher, to carry pieces of the past with me wherever I go — what I can see of old songs and stories, what I can know of the people who sang and wrote them. And it is also my nature and my responsibility and my holy chore to pass them along to others. I do all these things with my own history, too. But it is also my nature to write, to make up my own stories and songs, and to put those into the world as well. That, too, comes from my own history, of which both the Big Noise and the New Normal are elements.
In William Goldman’s semi-autobiographical novel The Color of Light, the protagonist realizes that “Everything is material. You just have to live long enough to know how to use it.” Ten years later, I’m still learning.