There was a lot of news yesterday. From faraway, it was mostly good: a Florida appeals court granted a new trial to Marissa Alexander, the African-American woman, tried by the same prosecutor as He Who Will Not Be Named, who lost her
stand-her-ground defense and wound up sentenced to 20 years for shooting a warning shot at her restraining order ignoring ex-husband.
Closer to home on I-95, a New Jersey judge paved the way for same-sex marriage in that state.
I knew about those before leaving for rounds yesterday, but quickly discovered that there was local news, too. VERY local. The go-to street we take to either North Forest or Main Street was lined with cop cars. I'd heard no sirens, but such a meetup is very unusual around here. On the way home, most of the cruisers were gone but news trucks were in their place as reporters did their standups out in front of a house not a dozen doors from here.
By early afternoon, we knew what had happened:
Police cruisers swarmed the neighborhood as Amherst police descended on 107 Dawnbrook, a small brick ranch where a man and woman in their 80s have lived quietly for years.
An ambulance drove by before the neighbors’ worst fears came to pass. They saw an unmarked van pull up to the home and one man who they believed to be a coroner enter the home. Two gurneys, covered but with the outlines of bodies on them, were then taken out of the home and put into the vehicle.
Amherst police labeled the situation an “apparent murder/suicide” and said two deceased people were found in the home. They declined to elaborate and withheld the identities pending notification of next of kin.
From other news reports and a little research, I'm honestly not sure if they've got any. We each drive by that home at least once a day, but I can't remember ever seeing anyone coming or going. They appear to be of the generation of original owners from around 1960, who moved here when the houses (like ours) first went up and never left. The husband has a fairly clearly Germanic name, and I found a reference to him being naturalized as a U.S. citizen here back in 1951. I'd never heard of either of them.
The problem, perhaps, is that around these parts, you really don't hear anything. If you read that entire article I linked to, the word "quiet" appears at least four times. An immediate neighbor was interviewed for the piece: “It’s a perfect neighborhood,” she said. “It’s a quiet, idyllic suburban neighborhood.”
After over 19 years here, I'd have to agree- to a point. Because quiet is not always a good thing.
At least twice in the past several years before yesterday, police have been called to investigate deaths under suspicious circumstances. The first, just three doors around the corner from us, was of a coke-crazed young man who planted himself through a front window to his instant death; not sure if it was the fall or the blow that caused it. More recently, several houses down from that, an older woman, living alone, just couldn't take it anymore and took her own life. One of our dearest neighbor friends lives across the street from that house. We don't know, at least not completely, what the "it" was she couldn't take anymore, but our society's emphasis on privacy, and self-reliance, makes such events far less shocking once the bright light of hindsight gets let in.
So, probably, was the case yesterday. The wife had been diagnosed with something- the stories don't say, but the inference is that it was bad. They did have a caregiver who came by in the mornings, but something clearly snapped in at least one of their minds that led to the husband (if not both of them) deciding that this was the only way.
For my part, I offer only total speculation about one factor, but it wouldn't surprise me. This neighborhood has been fairly hot for real estate sales in the past year. Listings that used to take months now go like hotcakes in a few weeks, even homes that need a lot of repairs and updates- you can tell after the fact, when the new owners move in just before (or sometimes after) the major roof, HVAC and other big-time contractors set up their dumpsters and do years worth of deferred repairs.
But that's not the factor. No, before they arrive, and usually right before the closing, comes the Estate Sale. It's always called that, even though the owners are often still very much alive, but they have far more of a cachet under that name with bargain hunters and antique dealers than a "moving sale" ever does. At least two homes within a stone's throw of this couple's house sold, and had estate sales, within the past several weeks. First, the vultures come to lock up the premises, tag everything that isn't nailed down with a price, and put up their come-hither signs on (usually) Friday or Saturday of the given week. Then, the hordes show up. Parking is near impossible, and driving through these armies of looky-looing SUVs is a major pain, even for a car as small as Iggy. Then, when the last knick has been knackered, the crew kicks the unsold stuff to the curb, for urban treasure hunters to pick over until the sanitation department finally shows up the following Thursday. I've written here before about the sadness that I feel, seeing such pieces of lives well-lived relegated to commerce and then ragamuffin-picking- and none of it is our stuff.
I wonder if this couple had been friends with those who recently departed, saw the inevitability of their lives going that way as well, with an Elderberry Estates Active Senior Community looming in their futures, and they just took the quickest and easiest way they could find to say "No."
It does make me more determined to know more about the people of all ages here- those who remain from the old days as well as the n00bs slowly taking their places- so this place will never, EVER be that frighteningly "quiet" for either of us.
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