Sunday, October 14, 2007

in our backyard

Driving through the neighborhood next to mine the other night, my good friend & I could not help but notice three police cruisers and a decidedly un-undercover surveillance van (it had 8000 watt lights attached to its roof) idling in front of a house. This house has had a rusted barbecue and faded Igloo cooler parked in the yard for quite awhile; it has hosted garage sales featuring piles of grubby looking clothes and sad, spent toys. Our first thought was along the lines of "meth house in suburbia" and we groaned at this prospect.

The next night there appeared another van - a television crew this time. I was sure it was a drug house bust and felt a mixture of anger and vigilance brewing, though I wasn't sure what I was mad about. Surely there are drug dealers in my midst at any given time, and I know of many registered sex offenders living in our zip code. I am not the type to raise posses about these things; I educate my kids about how to be safe and make smart choices wherever they are without becoming paranoid. I think I was upset because this was going to become just another BREAKING NEWS STORY without helping viewers really see what's happening among the people around them. Because of that old barbecue and cooler sitting on the grubby lawn, everyone would shake their heads and be a little outraged before going about their more important business. Like I did.

The truth is, it wasn't a meth lab or crack house or sex offender lair. It was a mother and daughter found dead from overdoses of prescription drugs. When I found this out, my brain started spinning. I remembered seeing that woman in front of her house occasionally, her barbecue and cooler less offensive in the light of an ordinary day. She drove a simple blue wagon advertising a meal delivery business; once I looked it up online, thinking I might give it a try. I couldn't recall ever seeing her daughter, a teenager with cerebral palsy who (I found out from the news report) went to a private school about an hour away. They weren't close neighbors - they live in what we call the "tweener neighborhood" because it is an older cluster of houses between us and a division of newer duplexes - but I drove by their place every single morning. I still drive by and now instead of having a fleeting thought about the crap in their yard or the meal business, I think people died in there. And I wonder who found them? And how long had they been dead? And who is caring?

I don't know what to do with this news. I am not the type to raise posses, but apparently I'm not the type to build bridges either. Of course I realize it is not within my capacity to help everyone with problems - I work with 65 people a day who have issues I will never fully understand, much less overcome. But it just seems particularly sad that this individual, a few hundred yards away from us, felt so alone and hopeless. It makes me wonder what else I'm missing.