I woke up at 6 a.m. and switched on the news. Murder in Chatham. Double homicide. Son-in-law in custody. Parents dead inside the house.
I held my breath. The victims were not identified, but it doesn't matter. Anytime there is heartbreak in my backyard I am heartsick. I don't live in that town, nor have I ever, but more than any other place, for some reason, Chatham holds both my heart and my gratitude.
Any tragedy there is mine, too.
At 7 a.m. the phone is ringing. Not unusual. It could be any number of people calling: Lori to make sure I remember to bring juice; my father asking me if Annabel had a good night ...
"I really don't know how to say this," my mother's voice stammers. "I guess I just have to come right out and say it: there's been a murder."
She tells me all she knows, and then there is silence.
Death is not something I am unfamiliar with; five friends and countless relatives, both young and old. "Murder," however, is something that just hits you in the chest like a fist.
Turns out the victims were the son and daughter-in-law of a dear neighbor of my parents. The kind of family that is close and loving and courageous. I vividly remember this couple from my childhood, when they were younger than I am now and in love with each other and their two beautiful little girls.
I've spend all day today thinking about how I've never seen the man without a smile. In fact, he was a guy who, during his 17th summer, carried a baby racoon around in his shirt pocket, feeding it from an eye-dropper. As I listened to stories of his continued generosity throughout the day -- stories parceled out of the telephone and media chatter -- it was abundantly clear neither he nor his wife had changed these many years later.
I don't know what or how to think. I don't know how to make anything better or safer or sane.
But right now, at this very moment, I really wish someone had the answer.