From mailboxes to inboxes

“Do we have envelopes?” Ari, 22, was standing in the middle of the kitchen, a single sheet of paper in hand.

“Of course.”

I went to the envelope keeping place in the dining room and gave him one.

“Do you need a stamp?” I asked him.

“I guess. I have to mail this,” he said, holding up the paper.

“Well, stop looking like you’ve never mailed something before,” I told him. “Oh geez, have you seriously never mailed something before?”

“I use email. Why would I use envelopes and stamps?” he replied.

His girlfriend, Taryn, came into the kitchen.

“Taryn, you’ve mailed something before, right?”

I might have been a little abrupt, as she glanced at Ari wondering if there was a right answer to this question.

“Sure, of course,” she said. “Like, maybe? When I was really little, to my grandma?”

She didn’t sound certain of anything except that she wanted the questions to revert back to Ari.

“So, what do I put?” he asked, pen poised over the blank envelope.

“When I took typing, we had to line everything up perfectly on an envelope. The teacher actually measured it and you lost marks. I was great at it,” I told Ari and Taryn, who by now were just looking at me like I was a display in a museum.

A boring one. The pieces of broken pottery one, not the dinosaur one.

“Stop talking and just tell me what goes where. I have to mail this now, we’re going for groceries,” said Ari.

“Oh, wait, I need some stuff. Gimme the list,” I said, reaching for the paper next to him on the counter.

“No! Don’t write on that,” he said, grabbing it.

“Don’t be stupid, I have to add things.”

I looked at his hand written shopping list. It was fairly standard. Bananas, shrimp, rye bread, potatoes, raspberries, tomatoes. Except every item had little double brackets containing an italicized “i” before and after it.

I looked at him. He was doubled over laughing. Taryn was rolling her eyes.

“It’s a list, get it? It’s the code for creating a list.”

Ari is studying computer engineering, and has been building a new website for the past couple of months. Every few days, he will haul me to his computer to show me how he has made something on the site swivel, turn, load, zoom or tap dance. I stare at two monitors with line after line of code and my brain rattles.

He turned the paper over so I could write “Kleenex” on the back.

“I had to change milk again, so look, get this one,” I said opening the fridge and hauling out a carton. He added “Mom’s weird milk” to the list.

“No, write it all down, see?” I was pointing to the brand and kind and source and remembering when I was a kid, milk was milk.

“I got it, I got it,” he said folding up his dorky list.

“That list is full-on geek, isn’t it?” I asked him.

“Yup. Total nerd humour.”

He forgot my milk.

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How much is that kitten in the window? It’s free!

It occurred to me the other night, as I sat in bed watching everybody have sex on Grey’s Anatomy and four cats lounged on me, that if I were to die like that (snaps fingers) I hadn’t made provisions for these lazy felines.

I’d never named godparents for them.

Godparents were a big topic of conversation when I was growing up. We used to compare which of us had the better ones and because we had a very limited array of biological aunts and uncles, these godparents filled in that space.

Though the religious angle was somewhat muted (I turned out to be a heathen), the guardian angle was more fascinating. I grew up with the knowledge that if something were to happen to Mom and Dad, we would go live with these godparents. My mother would say it could never happen, and it would be something so unthinkable, like both she and my father crashing in an airplane, that I shouldn’t worry. Instead I asked where they were going — on an airplane — without us. She said I was missing the point.

Now, to a little kid, that is overwhelming. We knew their houses; which room would be mine? Where would I go to school? Would I ever see my sisters again? And, oh yeah, Mom and Dad are dead. This is how little kids think.

My sons never had to go through this worry because if you divorce when your children are teeny tiny, the chance of their parents ever even being in the same room, let alone on the same airplane, is remote.

We thought Gilly had the fun godparents, and I’m sure my Aunt Jean would agree. She’s still there, and I’m certain she’d take Gilly in if the need arose. It was at Jean’s birthday party a few years ago that Roz found her godparents and told them they could relax now, they were off the hook. They looked relieved that a 50-year-old woman would not be showing up on their doorstep with a small suitcase. For some reason my godparents were not a married couple, but each married to another. Wow, Mom and Dad. If you left me an orphan, I’d now be from a broken home.

Of course, your children become adults and these surrogates are no longer required to step in. But I stared at my silly cats the other night and realized only one, Sweet Pea, would be welcome anywhere with open arms. She’s darling and pretty and, well, sweet. Roz would take her in a heartbeat, though my brother-in-law is unaware he is a godparent to a cat.

JoJo would be the cat you see on posters begging you to take in older cats who may only have 10 minutes left to live but will love you so immensely in those 10 minutes that the two grand in vet bills they rack up in those same 10 minutes will be worth it. I’d have to farm JoJo out with her own Visa card.

And The Kids? My energetic two-year-olds? It’s hard to write compelling ad copy for two brats who send everything flying off the kitchen counter when they see a squirrel in the window, who think fresh litter boxes are a day at the beach and act like they’re being waterboarded when I trim their nails.

My own kids shake their heads and back out of the room when I bring the subject up, both clutching the dogs they now own that have somehow replaced the kittens they used to beg for.

Maybe I’ll call Aunt Jean.

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I am done with your hateful words

letterI’m not gonna be nice anymore.

This isn’t a political statement as much as it is a humanitarian one. I actually started this column when I saw that awful letter from F Stevens in this paper on Remembrance Day. Nice timing, I thought, reading his hateful, intolerant spew.

Should The Spec have published it? I’m sure it made F Stevens feel like a hero that day, but instead it showed, in the coming days, those who refused to make room for his bile. Oh, sure, some agree with him. We just saw the outcome of the secret agree-ers to the south of us. Xenophobia and racism are the new black, it appears.

But this isn’t politics, this is fallout from those politics. As if their hatred has long been a heavy burden they can now release, free to both casually denigrate and rage with fire, free to finally assign blame for their own frustrated lives.

Only that election unleashed something else. Those of you feeling safe to now fly your sexist, racist misogynist version of a confederate freak flag should also know that which silenced you, also silenced many of us. And now we too, are relieved of the burden of putting up with that we know we should be calling out.

A colleague of mine was attacked on Twitter. I know, maybe not your preferred conduit for conversation. But in the car industry, we all loosely interact with one another and the medium works for us. Until one man went on the attack, calling her a feminazi, amongst other, ruder, things. Now, this is the go-to word to call women, especially those of us working in male dominated industries. I’ve been called worse. He took a stab at her race (not the same as his own), threw in a standard “bitch” for good measure and put it all up on his account that was interspersed with posts for his job and where he worked. I do the same with my account, but I’m an opinion columnist.

He worked at a car dealership.

We’re journalists, this close-knit crew. It didn’t take long to discover lots of racist screeds on his feed, including that Muslims should GTFO. You can Google that acronym if you don’t know it. He shut down his account when he realized we’d found it, but we have the screenshots. We contacted his employer, who responded within hours. In fact, the owner’s response has been fantastic.

I doubt he’s much older than my oldest son, this lad, and some would say we rained down hard. But if one of my sons was saying those things, he would be subject to Mama Wrath, which is even harsher. Thing is, my kids aren’t perfect but they were raised not to be hate-spitting little misogynistic racists. It was quite easy, actually.

But reading his hateful words that he’d posted so proudly, I’ve instead decided that I will match bold with bold. I will call out the bullies and the haters. I will step in. I will defend.

There is a narcissist to the south who unleashed hatred and erased decades of human progress because he liked to hear people chant his name. He’s left with a job he never really wanted and we’re left with the bitter residue of the algae soaked wave he rolled in on.

I don’t care which way you vote, but I do care that we hold this tattered fabric of humanity together. It’s getting harder to do, with some seemingly desperate to tear it to shreds. We’ve been told we must bridge the divide, to unite to heal.

Kind of hard to do when some are so busy burning those bridges.

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The world is not in your phone. It just seems like it is

After writing a piece about car manufacturers racing to implement safety sensors and cameras to stop their product from running into oblivious teens texting and walking – petextrians, they’re called – someone asked me if we would ever again see a time when people didn’t have their noses buried in some handheld device.

I hesitated, then said “yes.”

I admit I was being hopeful, and no doubt naïve. I watch how quickly trends spike and die, how Facebook was created for college kids and now is the territory of political cranks and people with too many cats.

Twitter is on the ropes because they are unwilling and unable to see that tolerating the threat of rape and murder of women for having opinions is a bad thing.

Pokemon Go dominated the summer – for a few weeks, and now sits in the discard bin with copies of every movie Vince Vaughn ever made.

I never understood Pinterest, a weird combination of “look what I made” and “look what I ate” and “look what I want.”

Instagram, Snapchat, Vine — all enthrall users with their in the moment, look-at-me, look-at-this grab at lives that are seemingly unable to be lived if uncaptured, unremarked upon.

All of these developments are created by and for the young, and are just as quickly eschewed and discarded when the olds inevitably move in. When your mother follows you on Facebook, it’s like being told Grandma is babysitting instead of the cool teenager from down the street.

Of course everyone signing up for the endless list of parties is allowed past the velvet rope; they think the cost of admission is showing up. But it’s not, it’s the deep dive into your personal information that matters to all of these entities, not how your quinoa turned out or what your kid wore for Halloween. You are not using them, they are using you.

And yet I still said “yes” when asked if I thought it might change. Maybe not the texting, which is just a phone call by any other name, and when people complain about kids texting I just shrug and recall trapping myself in a closet with a phone for three hours at a time until my father started yelling at me to get off. Two-way communication is good and right and will forever remain an essential part of our humanness.

It’s the one-way operations that make us more vulnerable, more sequestered. Present a face of your choosing – quite literally – to the world and lose the connection and caring that come from actual relationships. That is my concern for the programs that proliferate; it’s not “this is who I am,” it’s “this is who I want you to think I am.”

There is something to be said for the physical connection. Physicians and massage therapists have told me they often hear their laying on of hands — doing their jobs — is sometimes the only touch their patients and clients experience. We are tactile, we are affectionate, we are needy.

To believe an Internet connection can take the place of being held or comforted is sad and life-shortening. Anyone who has held an infant knows this. One of our most important needs cannot be met through a device, no matter how many followers or trailblazers it holds.

So I want to believe those screens that absorb so many of us will eventually let us find our way back to what matters, and be a conduit instead of an end.

You holding a phone will never feel better than someone holding your hand.

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Sometime opportunity knocks. Sometimes it’s just Mom

There are people who miss the days when company used to just drop by but as an adult, I look back and wonder if it was only the kids who really liked it.

I’m rarely dressed appropriately for company, and working from home doesn’t mean I’m at home doing nothing. We live in different times, with a phone at the end of most arms, so drive-by visits usually come with an announcement. I do want to see you; I just want to know that I’m going to see you.

I suppose surprise visits would make me keep a tidier house, but I still recall my mother stopping like a deer in the headlights if someone knocked on the door unannounced. She would drop everything, snap off her apron, fix her hair and put on the kettle. Anything she was doing stopped.

I recall her gamely insisting people should stay for dinner, and then watching her magically make a dinner, planned for five, double. I look back and think only one thing: why? Why do friends and family do this to each other? In olden times, people actually did just drive around on Sundays and not have phones. These are not olden times.

I stopped by Pammy and Christer’s apartment the other day. It was his birthday, and I was scooting out for some groceries. I didn’t have my phone, but I knew he was home because I’d spoken to him an hour before. I simply decided to let my kid give me a spontaneous hug for giving birth to him, because birthdays should always be about the one who had the most pain.

I knocked on their door. All I heard was Alfie begin barking. I waited. Nothing.

I knocked again, knowing the layout of their home makes it difficult for them to hear.

Alfie, in the meantime, continued to lose his mind. He loves Mama Lorraine. More knocking, more nothing, more Alfie.

I could hear voices, so I knocked louder and yelled that it was me. Alfie answered in a higher pitch. I finally gave up and shoved the door open an inch.

“It’s me!”

“Alfie, shut up. Get back here,” Pammy yelled.

“It’s me! I want to say happy birthday to Christopher!”

“Is that my mother? I think that’s Mom,” I heard Christopher say.

“It’s me!”

Finally both kids came to the door, as Alfie nearly wet himself with joy.

“Why didn’t you just come in?” asked Pammy.

“I don’t do that,” I replied.

They’d given me a key when they moved in. It sits carefully on the counter in case one of them needs it.

“Don’t be dumb. Just come in,” said Christopher.

“I can’t. Like I can’t open your mail. I can’t just barge in your house,” I said.

Or watch them enter passwords, or scroll through their pictures, or read over their shoulder. (Note: never, ever scroll through the pictures on anyone’s phone. That is just rude.)

Pammy started giggling. “You’re so weird. Just come in.”

By this point Alfie was leaping around like I was covered in pepperoni. I let him snuggle me because I needed someone to be glad I’d shown up.

“From now on, if you come over, just come in,” said Christopher. “I mean, why wouldn’t you?”

“What if you were having birthday sex? I would not want to know that,” I replied.

“Ew,” said Pammy.

Christopher did a little grimace.

Well, they asked.

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As my kid struggles to explain my computer to me

“Ari, I think the Internet is broken.”

I swear I heard him sigh all the way from upstairs.

“It is not broken,” he called. “What did you do now?”

“It’s slow. Really, really slow,” I replied, but by now Ari, 22, was already standing beside me. “Did you pooch another keyboard?”

The cat had dumped over a glass of red wine the week before and wrecked my keyboard. I blame the cat for being bad, not me for drinking and typing. I should just have three spare keyboards in the pantry.

“No, but I heard there’s a worldwide shortage of Internet today. Maybe it’s that,” I explained.

He rolled his eyes.

“That hack has nothing to do with your computer running slow. That’s like saying because gas is harder to get, your car no longer runs on gas. Mine is running fine. Here. Lemme see …”

He took my chair, as I’d hoped he’d do all along. Kids think mothers are so dumb. This is the kind of thing Ari does, at school and for work, and computers not running properly make him nuts. He has to start digging around until he solves it. All I have to do is lure him into the chair.

“How can yours be fine and mine isn’t?” I asked him.

He took a deep breath.

“Let’s say your computer is the checkout at No Frills. Your computer has two checkers on duty, and my computer has eight. And, my eight are way better than your two, so all the stuff gets through faster. Your checkers are slow,” he finished.

I must say, I like my son’s analogies. He also will use analogies involving shoe boxes, but then I just sit here thinking about shoes.

“So, lend me two of your checkers,” I said, reasonably.

“It doesn’t work that way. You have to buy your own checkers.”

“I’m your mother. You could probably just lend me two,” I said.

He sighed. Again.

“I’m gonna find some answers. Here. Don’t touch this, I’m running something. And I mean it: do not touch anything.”

Little timers were zipping along on my monitor and he went back to his computer to ask some questions of his Internet friends, who I presume are all weird middle aged men grooming my son for Bad Things.

They’re not, but I’ve watched enough W5 and 20/20 to at least be very suspicious.

He came back down.

“I’m moving you over to Google docs,” he started to explain.

“NOOOOOO I’LL NEVER BE ABLE TO WORK AGAIN,” I said calmly.

“Stop it. I want to streamline all your programs. You junk is all over the place. I have no idea how you work and I know, I know, you’ve somehow managed to support us all these years, whatever.”

He started rearranging things and tidying things up. He asked me what my password for something was and I looked at him blankly. He reset it, and put it on a Post-it and stuck it to my monitor.

“It’s upside down,” I told him.

“That’s to trick anyone breaking into your computer,” he replied.

“Should we order me more horsepower, since you won’t lend me any of your checkers? Is that something they can deliver?”

I’ve become very big on things delivered to the door.

“Sure, but it’s about $250.”

“Oh. It can wait. Whatever you did has helped, anyway. It seems to have more torque.”

No Frills, cars, shoeboxes.

Ari came down an hour later and asked how things were.

“Better. But my phone is doing weird things.”

He sighed.

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A 20-year measure of missing someone

It’s 20 years this week since Dad died.

I have two work appointments scheduled that day, and as I entered the meetings on my calendar I stumbled a little but acted like the adult I am and said of course that day is fine.

It’s not like I can ride it out by hiding under the covers all day, though that is exactly what I would rather do.

It is, in fact, the opposite of what Al Sommerfeld would let you do. He was up before 5 a.m. every day, and groused to my mother all through our teen years if we slept beyond 8.

It didn’t matter what shift you’d worked, how late you’d been out or if your homework was done. Kids that slept till noon were lazy. If my mother succeeded in stopping him from knocking on our bedroom doors, he counterpunched by mowing the lawn or drilling something beneath our windows. Sneaky, Dad.

He was a tangle of things, as a man and as a father. He was determined to give us what he hadn’t had; where he’d received a kick back, he wanted us to have a step up.

But buried deep in that calculus was the niggling thought that his toughness, his mettle, were a result of those kicks. He was torn, and wanted to pass on his fortitude but not his damage. I now know it is impossible to separate the two. I absorbed my father’s pain and anger through osmosis as surely as I received his love and pride.

It’s my favourite season, the fall. It meant school and new beginnings.

For Dad, it was the wind-down of his garden and his cottage: the only places he felt unburdened, uncompromised. I long hated him for taking this from me, for staining the time of year that was my most unburdened, most uncompromised, until I accepted that it is wise to reflect from another vantage point, the proverbial mile in another’s shoes. It’s a valuable lesson he taught me after his death, and I still resent the cost.

Winter caged him, whereas I happily burrow in. I may have inherited many of his blown mental synapses, but where I try to find creativity and introspection amidst times of instability or hurt, he found only the terrifying fall until he could once again regain his feet. He would swing an axe until he could no longer lift his arms, forcing his body to physically quit in an effort to shut down his mind. I’ve found other ways to court my demons, and if we’d had a chance to grow older together, I think we might have helped each other.

Or I could be romanticizing it all, of course. Death lets you do that. You can fill in the silences with words of endearment, allow time to iron out the wrinkles of being raised by — and adoring — a difficult, broken man.

Except I’ve always known these things about my father. I struggled with it during his lifetime and I continue to struggle with it in mine. I covet his wisdom like a shiny marble, I seek out signs of him in my children like a genetic treasure hunt for diamonds. Death does not remove you from the equation as long as the people who loved you continue to solve for the unknown.

I miss you Dad, I miss you every damned day. You twine through my work like the ivy you never wanted that I planted anyway.

I recently found a set of your cufflinks, and gave them to Ari, the grandson who was barely 2 when you died.

They have an A engraved on them.

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Pumpkins weren’t always about lattes

When the boys were small, I took them to an apple farm every fall.

We’d found it during a field trip when Christer was in preschool, I think. I confess that after a while most of the field trips, while wonderful times for the kiddos, began to run together in my head. I was there to wipe noses and hand out all the extra mittens I used to pack, and sigh as they then wiped their noses with those mittens.

But the apple farm became a staple, and we’d return every fall to pick a pumpkin for the front step and a basket of apples that tasted like apples instead of like a supermarket.

The highest point, hands down: the gourds. You could walk through a huge field of the gnarly things and create displays that would make a pilgrim weak with envy. The problem was convincing the boys we couldn’t take home 47 gourds, and they would be forced to each pick three.

I’d watch two boys carefully stepping among the vines, my father’s barking instructions coming out of my mouth now about not killing the plants. I’d watch them selecting one, then another, then no I changed my mind, then a third, a fourth, oh look at that one, which one, I saw it first, no you didn’t, forget it I just found a better one, this one has stripes, mine has warts.

On and on, the gourd selection would take as long as I let it. Selecting gourds on a fall afternoon at a farm should take forever.

The boys would start out wanting a huge pumpkin, and then settle on the weirdest ones they could find; no Martha Stewart exterior decorating for this house.

The ride home would be all about the creative jack-o-lanterns that would be carved, when we all knew it would be me grimly hacking out three triangles and a crooked smile in the end.

Choosing pumpkins is fun, carving them is hard work. My craft skills are decidedly weak.

In a twist I like a great deal, the kids now take themselves to the farm every fall. I’m not needed to pay or lift heavy things or wipe noses.

Ari and Taryn came home recently with apple cider and crazy gourds and a pumpkin lying heavily on its side. I raised an eyebrow at Ari, who told me he liked the crooked imperfect one that everybody else had no doubt left behind.

I liked the fact that my kid liked it.

“Make it into a pirate,” I suggested, the slouch already mimicking a handkerchief I imagined all pirates must wear, and the stem that was twirled just enough to suggest it should be sporting an earring.

“Nah, I don’t know if I’m actually gonna carve it,” laughed Ari.

Taryn was fiddling with a tiny gourd she’d bought.

“Look at my little pumpkin,” she said, holding it up.

“That’s actually a gourd,” I told her, because someone needs to be the know-it-all to suck the joy out of things.

“Its little thing fell off,” she said, holding a piece of stem.

I told her there was a glue gun in the cupboard upstairs.

“You have a glue gun?” she asked me, and Ari started laughing.

I hauled out a box that contained eight glue guns. I used to do a giant craft party for the kids every Christmas, and you can never have too many glue guns.

Taryn looked at me as I morphed into a whole other craft-doing person and modestly put away seven glue guns.

Wonder if a pirate has triangle eyes.

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A dog who really needs to come out of the closet

Whenever I am facing a workday and seem to be lacking self-discipline, I think of a little dog who is a master of control.

Christopher and Pammy moved out a year ago, and Alfie went with them. To call the rescue pup a character is an understatement; he’s not yet two but he looks as old as Yoda, and his mystery first year was spent at the hands of someone who abused him miserably. He is darling, he is loving; he can be unpredictable; he is a puppy with a mysterious past.

I often babysit a few days a week, because we all know the woman sitting in her kitchen surrounded by four cats and another dog (the ever laid-back Shelby) will not notice one more in the zoo. Shelby and Alfie are great friends, and neither appears to notice the size differential between a little terrier cross and a mid-sized collie cross. They romp and play in the backyard and I fear the end of summer.

Alfie is very well trained. He comes when you call him, he will sit and lie down for green peppers, and he runs around the backyard peeing on everything like a tiny potentate anointing his kingdom. He curls up for naps in the cats’ beds and greets everyone who comes to the door with a small dance. He doesn’t bark. He is polite.

He poops in my closet.

The first time this happened, we rationalized that he was overwhelmed and upset. It was when the kids first brought him home and the fact is, I can think of human creatures who have come to this house and probably felt like pooping in the closet. We can be a bit much.

As he settled in, the incidents stopped, give or take a few excitement poops here and there.

I cleaned out my bedroom closet recently.

We have been deceived.

My closet is typical of an older house, in that it is more like an awkward, useless afterthought than a triumph of efficient design. It is narrow and sports a second row behind the first, much like horror movies where small children disappear into a vortex to another, far more horrible dimension. If I have to go looking for something at the back, the kids tie a rope around my ankle to make sure they can pull me back to present day.

I ignore the depths of my closet. I discovered that Alfie does not.

I started removing clothes, carefully making those three recommended piles: things I wear, things I must have purchased while wearing a blindfold, and things Other Lorraine will wear one day.

This is when I discover I have four nearly identical little black dresses; I wear a little black dress maybe once a year. I also have six pairs of perfect black heels because I always think I don’t and buy more. And then I find the other ones.

As things freed up, I looked down at two little Alfie poops. They’re tiny, really. Like little bullets. And then I found some more. And some more. In all, five little piles of turds. They were like little fossils. The closet door is always open so he’d been dashing in and out, his own little ensuite.

I called Pammy.

“You know how I’ve been rewarding Alfie for not crapping in my closet?”

“Uhm, yeah.”

“Well, he’s been happily taking all those green pepper rewards, then crapping in my closet.”

Our little M&M dispenser is now on extended walks before coming to Mama Lorraine’s house. And every closet door is kept shut.

I’m scared to move a couch.

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When judging a book by its cover turns deadly

A friend dropped in recently and looked around my house. He asked what I’d been doing. “Working,” I said. I’m always working. “Well, you sure haven’t been cleaning,” he laughed. And so I was forced to see my home through different eyes, and I started cleaning because it was a wreck. I was embarrassed with a side of shrug. It’s hardly a secret that my world is little more than chaotic clutter.

A guy down in Dearborn Heights, Michigan never had to suffer such insult or embarrassment. He had served 25 years for murdering his pregnant wife and been released and gotten remarried. Two weeks ago, he called police to tell them he’d murdered their four children and his new wife. She’s clinging to life.

The intrepid Dearborn Heights media did the usual neighbourhood stroll asking neighbours if they’d ever suspected something. This is such useless canvassing, but I guess everyone has to make busywork in the echo of such a heinous crime. My favourite quote? From the mayor of that town, Dan Paletko:

“It’s a very well-kept house. There’s no reason that you would ordinarily think that there’s something unusual. Nice pool, extra yard, the house is landscaped nicely. It looks like a nice home that a family was living in.”

I won’t get into specifics of how a woman with two children would marry a man who confessed to murdering his pregnant wife – surely on the Match.com questionnaire there is a section that says “pregnant wife killers need not apply” – and then has two more children with him. I will get all over this idea that we get to think we know anything about anyone based on how neatly they manicure their lawn or how straight they park their car.
His wife had filed for divorce and applied for protection in the past. And now her children are dead allegedly at his hand, though I hate having to qualify that with the weasel word “allegedly” when he called the police from the front steps of his home and admitted every gruesome step of his crime; he’s not insane, he’s a monster.

But what do we hear? That a neighbour thought he was a good guy because when he accidentally hit his car, he came to tell the neighbour. Good guy! That the kids were nice and well behaved, so nothing bad could be happening to them, right? “There’s nothing we can do about it, just keep them in our prayers,” says another.

Bull. “Keeping someone in our prayers” is a useless balm that means little. Forget the neighbours for a moment; there were people inside that family and their circle who knew of his history and that order of protection three years ago. As anyone who works in women’s shelters or with abused women will tell you, the act of filing for divorce last month made this woman and her children beyond vulnerable. It made them murder victims.

I don’t know what takes place inside your home, unless you tell me. I know a woman who kept such an immaculate home she’d alphabetized her soup cans and coordinated her interior design to match her wardrobe. No chaotic clutter there. And she was so tightly strung if she’d snapped and set herself on fire one day, I wouldn’t have been at all surprised. Not sure what the mayor of her town would have thought.
Perfect marriages, beautiful children, immaculate homes, well-tended yards, terrific careers. Please don’t think any of us are immune to desperation and tragedy regardless of how it looks from the outside.

If your energy is going to keeping a dangerous charade intact, please reach out for help.

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