Seeing the headlines on Bill Cosby makes me think of a major (there’s no other word for it) catastrophe of my life. My dear aunt Sandy, the woman who inspired me to write (she was a poet), was murdered by my uncle Henry when I was 22. This was three months after uncle Henry shared that his new doctor okayed him to go cold turkey on what he called his seizure meds. After he shot Sandy, Henry killed himself.
I cried every day for a year after they both died. Seven years went by before I saw a day pass without my actively mourning them. I still feel hollowed out by the experience.
Back to Bill Cosby. Many folks have fond memories of him. His work with Fat Albert and the Cosby Show were important and ground breaking. Even so, he did terrible things that mean he should definitely rot in jail. How do you reconcile them?
If my experience is any guide, then you don’t reconcile, not really. It’s no longer okay to idolize someone with that level of fault. But you can’t ignore the good, either. For me, my aunt and uncle’s attention to me and my writing saved my life in a truly horrible time (a catastrophe story for another day). Although the change in meds may have driven Henry off the rails—and may give some reason for his actions—that’s still conjecture on my part. The guy might also have been a major asshole all the way around. Chances are, it was a combination of ending meds and toxic masculinity.
Over the years, I’ve come to cherish the good in my uncle and recognize the bad. It isn’t fair to idolize Henry as I used to. Even so, I can’t lump him in with thoroughly evil people. The man still dedicated himself to helping a chubby pre-teen girl gain some self esteem. In terms of my aunt, she stays on her pedestal for all eternity, end of story.
I suppose that’s why I like my good folks awesome and my big bads super-evil. Real life is tricky. It’s nice to take a break from reality, and nowhere is better for that than in a book. Plus, if I can share my fantasy break with someone else? Bonus.
To sum up, I guess that’s my biggest lesson for when superbad shit happens: focus on turning it into a positive. I write every day thanks to my aunt and uncle. It’s how I cope. Share. Reconcile. And the mourning doesn’t end, but it somehow has ended up creating joy.
All in all, that’s a very good thing indeed.