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Friday, June 16, 2017

Broken

It was a June evening like many other June evenings. The weather was turning hot but still cooling down at night. On this particular evening the sunny heat of the day turned into cloud cover late in the afternoon. According to the calendar, it was late Spring, but everyone knows that when school is out for almost three months, it doesn't matter what the calendar says - it's SUMMER! On this cloudy evening of June 7, 2017, a young female left the house she was visiting, the house her father shared with his girlfriend and her children. 

She left with one of the girlfriend's sons at some time between 7:00 and 8:00 in the evening - the details are fuzzy and have changed more than a few times. They were going to walk to a nearby shopping area, one of those places anchored by a large supermarket and peppered with various restaurants, shops, and services. It was to be the last journey that she would ever take.

At some time around nine that evening, the young male that she was with returned home alone. He told the story that it began to rain and he started to run, at which point the two were separated. Nobody outside of the household will probably ever know what happened in the home that evening, but we do know one thing. Nobody called the local police to report her missing until her older sister dropped by to visit her father as well. The older sister made the call and reported her younger sister missing at about 11:45 p.m., almost three hours after her companion had returned home alone.

The local news outlets reported through various means, including social media, that the young female was missing. The details of the young male's story were recounted, along with the location where she was last seen. Multiple police departments as well as the FBI sprang into action in an effort to find her. 

When I first read the story, which I initially discovered while browsing social media, something didn't feel quite right. You see, I live not far from where the events took place, less than a mile away, and we didn't have any rain at the time the young male said that a storm had separated them. Of course, we all know that weather can be clear at your location and raining very hard just blocks away. So I tried to ignore the feeling that things weren't adding up.

The following day, in an effort to make the public more aware of this missing person, an Amber Alert was issued. (Normally they are reserved for cases in which it is fairly certain that an adult has abducted a minor, but one was issued in this case.) As I followed the story online, I saw comments that made me have that awful feeling in the pit of my stomach. People in the area said that there was no rain until at least 10:00. I became more and more convinced that the young female was already dead.

In the middle of Thursday afternoon, I saw that a search party was being organized to support the efforts of more than two dozen police departments that were trying to find the missing one. Meet at School X at such-and-such time to help us find her, the posts said. I mentioned it to Trent and he immediately said that we should go, which was something that was in my mind as well. As soon as he said that, we both got that sinking feeling again and knew that we should stay home. 

At about the time that the search was to begin, there was an announcement made that it would be cancelled because a body had been found. Pending confirmation from the county coroner's office, it was believed to be the missing young female.

It was later confirmed that the body was indeed that of the missing one. Her name was Kiaya Campbell, and her 10 year old body was found face-down in mud by someone who lived near where her body was discarded. There was so much trauma to her face that she was not immediately recognizable as the missing child. The coroner declared that her manner of death was non-accidental.

Comments flew like leaves in the wind. People who live in the same neighborhood as the father and his girlfriend said that they never let their children have any contact with the 15 year old boy that took that last walk with Kiaya. Apparently he has a history of violence toward other children in the neighborhood and the police have been called about this on numerous occasions. Many of the comments about the boy's behavior reminded me (the non-degreed student of Psychology, including what is often called Abnormal Psychology) of disorders that I won't discuss at this time because I haven't the experience or right to do so. Suffice it to say that this young male should probably not have been left alone with younger children.

Two days after Kiaya's body was found, the police returned to her father's home to arrest the 15 year old male for murder. This week he was charged with two counts of first-degree murder. One of the charges is intent to commit murder after deliberation, meaning that it didn't just happen, he wanted it to happen. The other is first-degree murder of a child under the age of 12 by a person in a position of trust. The District Attorney also notified the judge that he will file paperwork requesting that the case be moved out of Juvenile Court so that the boy can be charged as an adult.

My heart breaks for the families involved. I feel for the neighbors and schoolmates and extended families. I can't imagine the anguish experienced by the person who found her body or the law-enforcement officers and coroner's office employees. 

This case has made it difficult for me to put on the suit of armor that we use to protect ourselves from such incomprehensible horrors. I think of how I was at age ten, how the whole of life was in front of me like a sumptuous feast. I think of how innocent I was back then. And I have that horrible moment in which I realize that I hope that death came quickly to release her from the pain and fear that she couldn't have ever imagined happening to anyone, much less herself.

Her name was Kiaya. She will never reach young- or old-womanhood. Her mother will never help her get ready for a first date or wipe her tears when her heart is broken or when it is filled with joy. She will never have a career or a family or travel around the world or cure a disease or write a book or sing a hit song or provide humanitarian aid. Her light has been extinguished, but I hope that she leaves us with some lessons. Life is tenuous. Protect the ones you love. Make sure that they know you love them. Too many people, children and adults, disappear every day, from all genders and socioeconomic groups. I hope that they will always live in people's memories and hearts.


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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Thursday, June 8, 2017

Sedated

Before we get started, I have to confess that I wanted the title for this post to be Sed-a-give, as in the scene from Young Frankenstein. For various reasons, I decided against this. I apologize to those who may feel slighted by this and also say, "You're welcome!" to anyone who is now hearing The Ramones singing in their head.

On Christmas day several years ago, my sister Liz and my now ex-brother-in-law Richard, commonly known as Dick, wanted to take us to see a new movie in all of its 3-D, big-screen glory. The movie was Avatar, and we were pleased to be getting out for such a cinematic splurge. 

Now, Trent and I didn't really socialize with Liz and Dick (no similarity to Taylor & Burton is implied or intended) very often. My brother-in-law has never been a fan of The Lunatic. In fact, there were times when I was unwelcome in his home for as long as two or more years at a time. The longest separation of sisters was due to me watching Jeopardy on tv with them one evening. Like everyone else I know, I was calling out the answers when I knew them. This resulted in a horrific night for Liz after I left, including physical abuse, because I was, as Dick said, "A dumb b!tch who thinks she knows everything."

To be fair, when my life and family fell apart at the time that Gram died, he was one of the few people that were in my corner. He told me that he knew we couldn't possibly live together, but he did a lot to help me get started and on my feet. And when Gram's grandkids were changing the locks before I finished moving out (less than 24 hours after her death) he and Liz helped me move out a few more things. But I must emphasize that generally the bad times outweighed the good, especially with the way he treated my sister and women in general. But that's a story for another day.

As I said before, the in-laws were treating us to a movie on Christmas. We were ready early to be picked up, and got to the theater with plenty of time to spare. Out tickets were purchased and we were waiting in a special line in the theater because the movie was so new. And that is when everything fell apart. A boy in the 10-to-12-year old range stumbled a bit while walking by and stepped in front of Dick, who was at the front of the line. With it being Christmas and all, and the season of peace on Earth and goodwill toward others, naturally his reaction was terrible. With Trent and Liz and I standing behind him, he began yelling at the child about cutting in line in front of him and that the line was behind him. As luck would have it, the child's father, in addition to wanting to protect his child from being yelled at by a stranger, had a fighting personality just like Dick's. As the wives in question apologized to each other for the scene caused by their battle-ready spouses, Trent and I were right next to a scene that we might have expected to see in a movie, but not in a movie theater.

To add to the sheer shock of actually seeing two men get chest to chest while puffing up like two roosters preparing to fight, I was suddenly experiencing the results of all of the abuse and screaming and violence I had endured growing up. The terror I felt may have been more than the situation called for, but it was very real. I felt like the 7 year old girl who was about to be beaten senseless by the dreaded Alice. I wanted to escape but there was nowhere to run and no way to get there because of the people on all sides.

Luckily, the wives were able to defuse the walking time bombs that were their husbands' tempers, and we got seats in the theater. I was shaking with the aftermath but didn't want to say anything. And we couldn't leave since we didn't drive. When Liz and I took a last-minute bathroom break, she told me that the almost-fight had upset her so much that she needed to take a Xanax or she'd break down before the movie was over. She offered half of one to me as well, and I leapt at the chance because I was really a wreck by this point.

So we settled down in our seats, put on our stylish 3-D spectacles, and began to watch the movie. When it was over, Trent sort of teased me, saying that I had fallen asleep during the movie. I was a bit huffy when I said that there was no way I dozed off during such an action-packed movie. I knew that Liz had, but certainly not me. Trent didn't argue the point because it really didn't matter, bless his heart.

Months later, when the film came out for purchase, we were eager to get it. With popcorn at the ready, we sat down to enjoy seeing the film at home. Hm. There were things that I didn't remember seeing when it was at the theater. I mentioned this and Trent said that maybe now I believed him about falling asleep during the movie. And I sure did! I apologized for disagreeing with him and enjoyed a movie that I both had and hadn't really seen before. The atmosphere was relaxed, nobody was at risk for violence other than the characters on the screen, and I was alert and able to soak it all in. I enjoyed it thoroughly. Especially because I hadn't needed or taken a sedative.

A note from The Lunatic: I don't want to leave you with the impression that I am a coward that runs and hides at the least sign of trouble, because that is not my true nature. I am a protector, and normally am extremely calm and effective during emergencies. I am typically the person who will help when there's an accident or emergency, and have stepped between people who are larger and stronger than me to prevent fights or abuse. (I know in my heart that if I had been able to step between the two men in the theater, one of them would probably have hit me, most likely my brother-in-law). The situation above was unusual in that I was dealing with PTSD, depression, anxiety, and two people who were acting like violent jackasses. Luckily I won't have to deal with them again.



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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

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Friday, June 2, 2017

Touched

I imagine that many of my regular readers might think I spend an inordinate amount of time at the supermarket. It's simply not true. It just seems true because our trips have inspired several blog posts. Think about it - when you're at the market, your life intersects with the lives of other people, complete strangers as a general rule. Oftentimes they seem to forget that the world outside their little bubble of shopping cart and companions sees and hears what transpires as they wend their way from aisle to aisle. Today's grocery excursion gave The Lunatic enough food for thought for as many as three posts, but let's just leave it at one for tonight, shall we?

We all have our quirks or challenges, and I saw someone today who reminded me of others I have encountered. As I waited with our groceries (packed in our awesome and sturdy reusable grocery bags) while Trent visited the Men's Room, I saw a woman and her son come out of the Women's. He was perhaps ten. They walked over to where a man was standing with a cart full of purchased groceries, a small child, and a stroller.

I noticed immediately that she was holding her hands out from her body in an unusual way. It made me wonder if there was no way for her to dry her hands and she was trying to do the good old air-drying routine. But her son didn't seem to have wet hands. Hm. When she got over to her husband, he tried to hand her the folded receipt but she didn't seem to want to take it. I discreetly watched as she bent her body to stretch out a pocket on the thigh of her yoga-style pants and gingerly tuck in the receipt with two fingers. Still holding her hands and body in unusual positions, she removed her keys from said pocket, again only engaging a couple of fingers.

Her husband looked a bit frustrated as she reached for the stroller with two fingers on each side. She said something to him, to which he replied that if she wanted to go down there, go down there, he didn't care. As she turned and started to walk away, he began pushing the laden cart to follow her. Then he turned to his son and asked him to push the cart because he needed to go wash his hands. And then it all fell into place. She didn't want to touch the receipt because he had touched it. She couldn't really bear to touch the stroller or her own keys.

I have had interactions with people with these sorts of problems before, both superficial and in-depth. I guess that some folks would consider Trent and I to be among them, but with immunity issues it's wise to take some precautions. Some individuals may have OCD (Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder) or a deeper underlying condition that makes them extra aware of or worried about dirt or germs. I once had a retail customer who was buying bath oil beads. These were in fishbowls on our counters and frankly got handled by numerous people daily. The customer and her child came up to the cash register with the various bath beads in a clear bag provided for that purpose. The beads were made with different types of oils and had different prices, so I reached into the bag to sort them by price so I'd know what to ring up. This upset the customer so much that she kept remarking about me touching them, and decided that she couldn't buy them because they had been touched. As she left the store her child said in an anxious tone, "This isn't like you, Mom." She agreed that it wasn't. I hope that whatever stresses were causing her problems left her life quickly. Having to worry so much and be so vigilant can be exhausting.

I had some years of experience with this type of problem because of Gram's granddaughter T, which is enough of a name to give at this juncture. There was a history of some diagnosed mental health issues, on her father's side, which passed to her genetically. Things went pretty well until her young daughter broke an arm at elementary school. T fell apart and was changed forever. 

She didn't want people in her house. She would make her husband drive her over 25 miles each way every morning to drop her off at Gram's house. He would go to work and she would spend the day with Gram until at least mid-evening. I swear to this day that it shortened Gram's life by at least five or more years due to the sheer stress. I was in my first or second year of college and it put a strain on me mentally and emotionally as well.

T, like the woman at the supermarket, had an issue with things having been touched. She would wash her clothes, and her husband's and daughter's, in copious amounts of Lysol. The eye-burning smell of the disinfectant lingered around them. To this day, the smell gives me headaches and makes me feel uneasy. After the clothes were washed and dried, they were put in garbage bags so that they wouldn't touch anything that had been touched or was potentially unclean. A common phrase was "that's been touched." It was heartbreaking, really.

I grew to have a different understanding of the impact illnesses can have on families and relationships. I had always thought, when I heard about marriages breaking up when a spouse became seriously ill, that the person who walked away was selfish or uncaring or didn't know what love meant. I began to realize that sometimes illnesses can cause frustration, exhaustion, or any number of damaging side effects on those involved. I had always loved her husband, and the patience and grace with which he cared for her was nothing short of amazing.

There were other things involved in her illness that L was so patient with. When I offered T some cookies that I had made to take home, she wasn't sure about how to transport them safely. (Apparently, the fact that she wanted to take my cookies home was a Very Big Deal. I mean, it was unheard of.) Her husband suggested that she simply carry them on her lap, which she agreed was a good idea so that they wouldn't touch anything. When T and L would leave our house, L would come back in in a few minutes because T wanted him to check all of the house plants in case there was a mouse hiding in them. That dear, sweet man didn't just go in the house and fake it - he would check every single plant in the house as he had promised. And when it was 97 degrees out and she insisted that he drive with his windows closed, he did so, even when she wasn't looking, to the best of my knowledge.

I haven't seen any of these people since Gram's funeral, but I hope that their problems have diminished. I learned a lot from that terribly stressful time. We are all human, and all frail. Our health, whether physical or mental, can be virtually balanced on the head of a pin. When or if it falls, we hope and strive for the best. And if it proves to be too much for those around us, it doesn't mean they don't love enough or aren't strong enough. It just means that they're human too. That's all we can ask and all we can promise.

In closing, I'd like to share with you once again one of my favorite sentiments. Be well.


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The Tip Jar:

As always, I am happy and honored to write for you. It brings me great joy, and I hope that it gives you joy and/or food for thought. If you'd like to support the cause, please visit:

https://www.paypal.me/TheLunatic