My cousin tried to kill her husband in his sleep via a hammer to the head.  While her three girls slept in the same house, she crushed his skull.  She called the police and told them she was protecting herself. I don’t know the real story of why, and my guess is no one ever will, not even my cousin (people who know what’s going on don’t crush other people’s skulls while they sleep).  Her husband died a month later in the hospital. Their 3 children now live with a grieving and bewildered grandmother, their father dead, their mother in jail.

I haven’t talked to my cousin in 7 years, haven’t seen her since I was 11.  I never met her husband and children. I didn’t even know about this horrible event until 4 months after it happened, when on a sunny day last week, while standing at the top of the tornado slide at the playground with my own children, my little brother called to tell me the news. (He’s always been the one to gently remind me that I have family outside of my own four walls – without ever making me feel guilty about staying as far away as I can.)

Mental Illness is a close friend of the family, as is long gaps in communication, and strange occurances with relations, heaven bless them, don’t really surprise me much these days.  I’m usually prepared … any time my brother calls, I am prepared to hear something shocking, prepared to hear that whatever it is happened months ago.  Prepared to cushion my emotions carefully by the hard calcification of expectation, but this… this is crushing me. There is not one person who I can at least seem to reasonably articulate this to, all so surreal when spoken aloud… the irony of putting it online for anyone to read. Maybe you can relate.

I just got back from San Francisco, and before that New York.  I have been home for 6 days of the last 14.  To hear my husband tell it, I’ve been gone for two weeks solid and he’s been home alone with our 3 kids and has barely slept a wink.  In his defense, he was preparing for a solo showing at the Old Gold Gallery while simultaneously writing a grant proposal and working his full time job… so maybe it felt exactly like he tells it, however distorted the actual facts are.

For me I know that for the next several weeks of our marriage we will passive aggressively needle our way over and back again pushing through everything that could have been done to make our recent artistic endeavors away from one another easier for everyone.  For the record, we are both grown up enough to have the conversations necessary to talk about these things, but it doesn’t mean that the residual feelings of “you just don’t understand” won’t remain and resurface, it just means we’ll be prepared for them.

Surely there will be deserved and undeserved blame sewn in, but in the end, I am hopeful that we stitch together an understanding that sometimes it’s hard to be responsible for everyone, and being a driven individual while also caring for a family can and often does suck, but look how well we both did – that’s the stuff on fairy tales, that’s the compromise of happily ever after.