Finally getting to the stories that shaped me
The days are short and dark now and things continue to feel as though they’ll never get better.
After a year of this homebound life, I’ve been thinking that it might finally be time to start to tell the story that has been banging around in my head since 1998. For the past year I’ve been telling myself that now was the time to get productive. Then hours turned to days, months. Survival through routine took over. Now with the new year, I am finally forming myself into shape and finding that little bit of value in each day. I’m finally starting to write the story.
At the time when I first started to contemplate this “book,” I was mourning both the death of my grandfather and a cousin. They died within days of each other. One, who lived a full life and lived and died by his good and bad choices. The other, a somewhat distanced relation cut short by what I assumed at the time was a brief spell of deeply bad decisions. I was hurting. My grandfather meant a great deal to me and this event was like my childhood innocence finally being stripped to completion.
In parallel, I had to absorb the growing story of my cousin brutally beaten, tortured and killed on a different coast for a handful of dollars and a few slights.
These were my post-college days in Chicago, living a new adult life and thinking about all the things I was going to create in this world. Fresh enough to believe I could still be everything I imagined - the way that your college professors leave you with that overgrown confidence in your ability to navigate the world. I was going to study and document hustlers and sharps running the remaining rooms throughout the north and west side of the city. I was going to write about the world around me.
Instead, I had a new family murder to contend with.
I used note cards to capture what it was that I was thinking at the time back in 1998.
1) My uncle cut down as an innocent college student in 1971 who happened to pick up a hitchhiker forcibly broken free from his prison sentence.
2) A local murder in the northeast kingdom of Vermont in 1984 that involved family friends, foreign, mysterious individuals, intrigue, and a load of automatic gunfire in a small mountainside chalet.
3) My cousin, a known to be struggling abuser, mixing it up with the wrong set of brothers, struck down, caved in by some foolish misunderstandings - addiction at its most bleak and destructive.
I shifted into thinking that this was going to be my story, at the time something I thought I’d shape within my frigid Humboldt Park apartment. But things changed. The struggles of adult life shaped me onto another path. I worked, moved around. Built a family. Moved again. Settled into patterns that got me through the years.
Now twenty years later, I’m approaching it again thinking that this is still a story that deserves telling. This time through the lens of adulthood (though a failing one), I can focus on understanding how these three distinct murders shaped my family. How these catastrophic events shaped me.
The first, just prior to my birth. The second, right in the midst of a maturing boy’s childhood. The third, as I was forced to contemplate the unwanted challenges of adulthood and accountability.
I give myself this year to build the framework. Put up walls and a roof. Finish what I started over twenty years ago. See if this is what I’m made of, and tell the story of four people whose deaths played a part in determining who I am and how my family came to be.
More to come...
I’m finally going to get into it. I do not know much about the “citizen detective” world enough to know where to start with researching both solved and unsolved murders. If you have comments for me, please share.