My husband voiced his concern over the news-story about the 12 police officers shot in Dallas. While voicing his opinions isn't unusual, this morning something in his tone should have made me pay closer attention. But I didn't.
"This reminds me of the scene in Red October, where Admiral Painter says 'This business will get out of control! It will get out of control and we'll be lucky to live through it.'" Patrick said solemnly.
Halfway awake and barely listening, I responded, "That's such a good movie, we should find it and watch it tonight."
The incredulous look on his face screamed volumes. He stared at me a moment, sighed then closed his computer, stood up and walked to the kitchen. I followed, for once heeding that sense that comes with fifteen years of being with another person that told me something was wrong and I needed to be quiet. He grabbed his keys and case from the counter and in a flat voice said "I'm out of here."
We said our goodbyes, pecked at each other with a parting "be safe." Again that pained look crossed his face. From the kitchen window, I watched him walk across the yard, noted the droop in his shoulders and the way his head cocked to one side, like he was listening to someone.
So odd. I thought busying myself with my own morning rituals to get ready for work. Then I remembered our conversation from the night before. He talked about the two other killings that dominated the news, police officers, black men, communities in outrage. He wasn't one to be glued to the television and long ago we had stopped watching the evening news. But he kept up with current events, loved to debate the current election and the problems with the candidates and seldom held back in offering his opinions about the state of the nation or the world.
But last night he was different, quieter than usual, distracted. He had just driven in from our country home. These days he was there more than our city place. Getting it ready for our someday retirement was quickly becoming his full time job. His part time job meant four or five days in the city a couple times month.
This time he'd only been gone a few days but transitioning to the noise and intensity of the city was always an effort, leaving him preoccupied, grumpy. I asked if something was bothering him, went through the list of usual annoyances but he shook his head. Sometime later in the evening he wondered out loud if he was actually depressed. Internally I dismissed that idea but it wasn't like him to talk about such things so I asked if he needed to talk to someone.
Again the shake of his head.
He's out of sorts because of Houston's heat or the traffic he'd fought that day. That's all. I convinced myself and went to bed.
Even the morning's conversation and me missing whatever point he was attempting to make didn't register. I simply didn't grasp the depths of his concern.
All the way on my drive to work, his comments, his distance both worried me. Somewhere along the journey it hit me. He is a Canadian. Violence isn't part of their make-up or culture.
His country wasn't founded on bombs bursting in air or the hard fought battles for freedom. A Civil War that never really ended for the South and centuries of bitter strife between blacks and whites weren't part of his county's collective memory. So much he didn't understand, so much didn't make sense to his orderly, rational mind.
I remember the first time his two grown sons visited Houston for our wedding. The youngest, Bryan, was visibly uncomfortable, readily citing the number of violent crimes in the city and loudly stating he'd never travel to Washington DC, which was the "murder capital of the world." He was fascinated with the churches, "There's one on every corner--unbelievable!" he exclaimed. US flags hanging from every house, on storefronts, pinned to cars were all another source of disbelief. He made fun of our patriotism as easily as he challenged the religious aspects in a county so rife with hatred and violence.
Granted our wedding was held during the same month the US invaded Iraq in 2003. Our country was still reeling from the 9-11 aftermath, a time when "for lack of time to grieve, we went to war" as one wise commentator said. Patriotism was at its height, flags were expected as were billboards sporting God Bless America slogans.
Bryan had good reason to be concerned. The sad truth is that U.S. citizens are almost 70 per cent more likely to die at the end of a gun — shot by someone else, by themselves, by accident — than Canadians are to die in a car accident.
Patrick doesn't need to read that statistic to know it’s true. He already knows, it’s deep in his cells, something he shares with his country's collective memory. Sure Canadians complain about government and watch in horror the manmade tragedies of their country and the world, especially those created by their neighbors to the south.
But violence isn't an hourly happening there. I've seen their news, I've listened to topics of discussion at his family's table, I've read their newspapers. We, U.S. or Canadian, may all watch the same TV shows that are dominated by death and violence (makes me question why we describe such as 'entertainment') yet for some reason in the Canada I've visited, violence isn't a national obsession.
Is obsession too strong a word? Perhaps.
I'm not sure I could handle the opposite end of that spectrum and accept that our daily dance with violence has made us numb to all feeling. I don't want to believe that we've grown so accustomed to the onslaught of gorgy images and screaming voices that they no longer evoke a sense of compassion or concern.
The nightly stories of needless loss of life, whether abroad, or here in the U.S., or down the street in the next neighborhood, are extracting a heavy toll. I do not believe that we are even aware of how heavy much less that it is a toll that must be paid in full each and every day; paid from an already bankrupted account.
I can't deny a sense of weariness that has descended upon our country or my husband.
Tonight when we return to each other, I'll take extra care to listen, to hear his concerns and hopefully, maybe ease some of the worry troubling his gentle soul.