Tuesday, March 18, 2008

Ever searching for what we were promised./Reaching for that golden ring we'd never let go,/but who would ever let us put our filthy hands upon it?

I should start with the trial. As I said last time, I was picked for the jury. We did learn during voir dire that it was a murder trial, though not with a capital punishment element. Had it been, I would certainly have been excluded as I am anti-death penalty.

They told us that we would almost surely be done in two days, by the end of Wednesday. I must admit that I was a little shocked a murder trial could be tried and decided in that short time. It doesn't seem appropriate to really discuss the case, so I think I'll offer some bullet points:
  • overhead projections of the dead young man, shot in the head three times as he sat behind the wheel of his car.
  • an overzealous, overconfident, though not very smooth prosecuting attorney.
  • a badly dressed (on purpose?) public defender whom i found disarmingly effective.
  • a case based on what I considered to be quite shady eyewitness testimony.
  • a pointed absence of any motive (motive wasn't necessary to decide the case, but still!).
  • the imposing presence of an audience composed equally of friends of the defendant and the deceased.
We were sent to the jury room shortly after the trial started the second day. I approached deliberations with a confidence that everyone felt the way I did -- it seemed so obvious! To me the prosecution clearly didn't prove their case, not beyond a reasonable doubt. I was quite shocked when we took an initial vote, just to see where the room stood: 6 guilty, 4 not guilty and 2 undecided. I knew there was no chance whatsoever of my vote being changed and after a good amount of discussion, it was clear that the guilty voters were immovable as well. The most we could hope for was bringing the two undecideds to the not guilty side. After a friendly group lunch, we resumed deliberations, got the two over to the not guilty side and ended with a firm 6-6 hung jury. It was shocking, really, that the life of a person could have been decided so quickly.

The lesson learned? Maybe I shouldn't be so eager to get picked for jury duty.

And, I'm blonde again. Not as light as I'd like, but it's getting there.

Monday, March 10, 2008

I wonder if those changes/Have left a scar on you/Like all the burning hoops of fire/That you and I passed through

Last time I wrote I was sitting in the living room area of deGreeff Hospice House. That was a week ago. We lost Brad on Tuesday afternoon around 3:30 p.m. Even though we had a lot of time to prepare for that day, it was still shocking and terrible and very sad. At the very least, it’s ridiculous to leave this world at such a young age. Brad was 45, less than one year older than me. The cliché lesson, of course, is to not take anything for granted; and enjoy your life NOW. Not later, not when you’ve saved up enough to take some exotic vacation or buy that ‘perfect’ house, but right now. You know the saying: live every day as if it’s your last. Be good to other people, make sure your loved ones know they’re your loved ones. Have fun. Don’t do things you hate because it’s what’s expected of you. Hate your job? Find one you like (yeah yeah, I know…). What are you waiting for?

While I despise the whole funeral rigmarole, obviously some people need the closure of those official events to help them along in their grief. Nobody’s asking me, but handing out $6000+ dollars for a big box and some flowers and a hole in the ground just does nothing to alleviate my grief and pain. Anyway, there was a funeral, which means a period of ‘visitation’ where everyone comes to support the family and look at their oddly made up and ‘laid out’ friend, family member or co-worker. I find it rather barbaric and I’m glad my family does not like the practice either.

At any rate, on Thursday, the visitation was held. Steve refuses to look at open caskets, so he remained in the lobby area of the funeral home and spoke to friends and family there. It seemed to me that people were relieved to be out of the main room – they could relax a bit and not feel guilty for sharing funny stories. I know it meant a lot to Steve that his friends showed up. It meant a lot to me too. Never underestimate the power of friendship. Just the presence of someone you love can make a sad situation better. But you know that. More on the importance of friendships later.

I was dreading the funeral on Friday. I’m not a religious believer and I tend to have eye-rolling reactions to overt religious talk. I knew I had to temper myself and just accept that it all had absolutely nothing to do with me and everything to do with Steve’s mom. And it wasn’t so bad. The pastor performing the funeral service was a cousin of Steve’s. Originally from St. Louis, Wally is now a Baptist minister in Arkansas and he sounds exactly like Billy Bob Thornton (and looks a bit like him too). He was funny and warm and good at his job, plus he introduced me to a version of the lord’s prayer I had never heard. The Baptist version, perhaps? It wasn’t as dark as the familiar one. Anyway, Steve and his brother Ken had shared some funny stories with Wally and had arranged a special way to end the services that left us all chuckling a little and really thinking about Brad the guy rather than Brad the cancer patient. Yes, the funeral ended with Metallica’s “Master of Puppets,” one of Brad’s favorite songs. It was genius, really; so inappropriate and so very, very Brad.

On the subject of friends and friendship and their importance, I have to bring up my online life. One of the things I decided not to write much about earlier was about my emotional involvement with a few of my online friends. I have no doubt that whatever I say will be misunderstood and misconstrued by some so I didn’t even want to open that can of worms. But I have to give credit where it’s due. I know that whatever bonds I might be forming with someone I only know online might be superficial and fleeting, but in the here and now, they’re real and important. As I’m virtually unable to maintain a purely surface identity and request the same from my friends – I talk too much and ask too many questions -- (though I have opened myself to more scrutiny than they have, I suppose) I do feel a little vulnerable. But with that vulnerability comes a crazy sort of intimacy that has surprised me. Last Monday I was sitting at the hospice, hours of time on my hands as Steve sat with his brother. One of my friends, a rather mysterious world traveler and adventurer, spent hours chitchatting with me, just shooting the shit and keeping me distracted and amused. He never said that’s what he was doing nor did I think about it at the time. It was only later that I realized the significance. And the next night, following a lot of sadness and stress in my house, he lulled me to dreamless sleep with a very selfless act. If these things aren’t in the definition of friendship, then I don’t know what things are. I don’t know what my real point is, except that I’m grateful for friendship and caring wherever it might happen. And if it is indeed fleeting, then that’s okay too. It doesn’t make it any less significant or real.

After last week it would be nice to have a return to routine; alas, that’s not to be. I reported for jury duty this morning and got on a panel by 10:45 a.m. or so. That’s all I can say about my specific situation at the moment. I’m rather hoping to be picked for this one.

I really like jury duty, but it’s not quite as fun when it’s not a paid vacation like when I had a regular job. When I got a two-week trial on my first go-round I was ecstatic. Two weeks away from work, paid, and I got to live my own little L&O episode. Now it’s going to make me poor, but oh well, it’s still my duty and I’d never try to weasel out of it by fibbing during voir dire. I do wish, however, that my seat was 1) more comfortable and 2) not the squeakiest wooden chair in the frakking world. In the very quiet courtroom, every move I make sounds like a wild animal crashing through the woods.

Post Script: I was picked for the jury. I had a feeling I would be. I can't wait to get started tomorrow!

Monday, March 3, 2008

Cut myself on angel hair and baby's breath.

What is it, March 3? When are the ides of March? A quick Google reveals that 'ides' means the 15th of the month. So, never mind. Except that there is grief, if not doom, in my future. I've spent the last couple of days hanging with Steve and his family here, where we are right now. Steve's youngest brother, Brad, was diagnosed with lung cancer about a year ago. He fought it tooth and nail, but it's gotten the best of him. I hope no one ever has to deal with such a thing themselves, but if you do, you'd be very lucky to have a place like the deGreeff Hospice House. It really is a lovely place; built like a sprawling ranch house, it really is more home-y than hospital-y. The care is kind and considerate and it's a really comfortable environment.

So as if it's not bad enough to be dealing with this, my manager has not been particularly supportive of my being away from work to be with my family. I'm not sure why a terminal illness and a desire to support my husband at a really horrible time for him doesn't merit some understanding, but so far, not so much. It's hard to get used to this kind of mentality. In all my other jobs, just a hint at a family crisis got an immediate "get out of here and be with your family" order. I'm feeling really queasy about dealing with this and it think it's fucking shitty that I've been put in this kind of position -- like I practically have to choose between my coffee whore job and my husband. Maybe I'm overstating. I hope I'm overstating. Maybe it's my own inflated sense of responsibility. I don't know. At least I was scheduled to be off tomorrow so I won't feel guilty.

Let's just all hold hands and stop it from snowing, 'kay? Last thing we need this week is shitty weather.