“April is the cruelest month…”
In 1563, after the Council of Trent recommendation, Europe switched from the Julian Calender to the Gregorian Calendar.
Well, not all of Europe.
Although the start of the new year had been moved to January 1st, some holdouts refused to celebrate on that date or chose to wait and celebrate until April 1st (this date was based on the Hindu and Julian calendars). These people were referred to as the ‘April Fools’ and folks sometimes pulled pranks and hoaxes on them, referring to them as being gullible.
Wednesday is April 1st and that day will mark a number of milestones.
First, it’s the beginning of what we all hope will be the last month of imposed ‘physical distancing’ and home segregation and seclusion caused by the COVID19 pandemic.
Numbers and statistics don’t mean much in a time of crisis when cool heads seem to take a back seat and only the fear mongers and self-aggrandizing self-promoters are given air time on the news.
If we research ‘the new coronavirus’ numbers, the listed fatalities seem sky-high many times because medical experts are testing only the most serious cases. That means a much more biased sample (leaning towards high numbers) than a fairer sample conducted using test results from a wide sample of cases.
Yet kindness and humility reign.
I talked to a dear friend this morning that has undergone more cancer treatments than there are Flintstone’s chewable vitamins. Rather than ‘doom and gloom’, my friend is (like most of us) working from home on new emerging projects to help the greater good of mankind. He never once dwelled on his own problems, worried only for those in our society who were most at risk (failing to remember perhaps out of necessity that he fell into that very category).
Just after our call, I texted back and forth with another amazing friend who knows of a quarantine that’s in the offing by only a few hours now. This person is still on the front lines and has seen a number of street toughs at the ready near stores and gas stations. His fear wasn’t for himself or his family, but for those ‘old people’ who might be predated on the way to get supplies.
I emailed back and forth this morning with my dearest consigliere whose wife as an ER nurse has been transferred from the frying pan into the fire to help in the direst of emerging cases. They have kids all over the place and the shelter-master must feel more like a warden by now. This friend wasn’t complaining or asking for help, he, like the friends before him, just wanted the amazingly simple reassurance that comes from ‘talking shop’ with a friend.
“When I was a boy and I would see scary thing in the news, my mother would say to me, ‘look for the helpers, you will always find people who are helping.'”
Sometimes when you think it’s the darkest you forget that there is NO SHADE without the SUN.
Things are bound to get better and sometimes instead of wallowing, we need to bootstrap it and remember how easy it is to go introspective and lose everything because we took our eyes off the prize.
What price, glory?
April 1st is the anniversary of “Junior’s” death. He was shot to death just a day before his 45th birthday. Junior wasn’t born in Detroit but all Detroiters grew to know and love him. His is a story of horrible loss when life had given him so much to be thankful for.
In a cruel twist of fate, a family that seemingly had it all lost it when Junior was shot to death not by an intruder or a robber, but by his eponymously named father. I’ll call him “Senior.”
Five months later, Senior told a Judge,
“If I could bring Junior back, I would. I was afraid of him. I thought I was going to get hurt. I didn’t know what was going to happen. I’m really sorry for everything that happened. I loved him. I wish he could step through this door right now. I’m paying the price now”.
Because it was a plea agreement in front of a Judge rather than sentencing in front of a Jury, Senior’s previous anger issues, violent episodes, and gun threats weren’t brought up in a trial.
Although many would argue that Senior’s life wasn’t much of a secret.
Life on the road was rough.
Junior was abusing alcohol, drugs, and engaging in risky relationships with boys and girls. He soon fell behind on his taxes and some other critical payments. Although he hated appearing in public and disliked touring more so, he thought he had to get back into the public eye or risk going bankrupt.
Some of Junior’s antics resulted in a bout of paranoia that looking back seemed like a premonition. A jilted relationship had allegedly taken a shot at Junior during a concert, so now Junior insisted upon wearing a bullet-resistant vest whenever he appeared in public.
Eric Sharpe, a dear acquaintance and the manager of his roadies, killed himself while the concert tour was in progress. Junior was there when Eric was found dead by hanging, a suicide that caused additional stress to Junior and the tour.
Junior’s early music seemed light and happy, not brooding and apocalyptic like his later work. His music and his public appearances began to mirror each other. When he was singing about, “Where did all the blue skies go?” and claiming that poison was on the wind, mercury was killing our fish and radiation was under the ground and in the sky, the concerts took on a somber tone.
There was more cocaine and phencyclidine (the mind-altering drug known as angel dust on the street) abuse by Junior and the band.
When Junior’s social commentary trended towards fun, love, and sexual matters, the drugs of choice were cocaine and marijuana watered down with plenty of alcohol. The concerts and afterparties mimicking and perhaps rivaling the orgies of Roman caliphates.
Senior grew up on the tough streets of Washington, DC. where he allegedly had a number of kids in and out of wedlock. He was known to be a strict disciplinarian, often beating his children for minor, perceived infractions. Senior was a Christian minister, a crossdresser and a bully.
Senior didn’t approve of anything that Junior did, especially his music. This was only exacerbated as Senior was withdrawing further and further from his wife (Junior’s mom) and when Junior took over as ‘breadwinner’ for the family.
This struck a harsh chord with Senior. The lesser man, Junior, who he thought was also a homosexual (and therefore less of a person to praise and trust) was now in the power position of the family.
With all the money coming in and Senior funneling enough of it to change his lifestyle for the better, Senior never called Junior with good news. Only complaints about Juniors music, lifestyle choices and continued requests for more money to ‘take care of the family’.
Later, folks would claim that the cause of Seniors’ outbursts and anger was a large, benign brain tumor growing at the base of Seniors’ brain. Allegations have been made that it was Senior’s own rage about his dual life of cross-dressing while trying to keep that fact from his family and parishioners coupled with alcohol abuse and litany of marital issues.
Whatever the root causes, the two psychiatrists that interviewed Senior had no problems recommending that the trial proceed as both considered Senior competent to stand trial.
Days later, on the same day that Senior’s wife Alberta was granted a divorce from Senior, New Jersey Judge Ronald M. George granted Senior a plea bargain of nolo contendere, ‘no contest’ to the charge of voluntary manslaughter. This is generally a plea where the accused accepts conviction as though a guilty plea had been entered without actually admitting guilt. You often see ‘no contest’ pleas in plea bargains or in cases where the accused wants to avoid an admission of guilt before a related civil case.
In Seniors case, his sentence was a six-year suspended sentence with five years of probation. The Judge bought the defense argument that other factors – none of which were brought before the court – caused fear in Senior, enough fear that he shot Junior in the heart with a .38 pistol, killing him instantly.
14 years later, Senior died from complications of pneumonia in Long Beach, California. He was 84.
The prodigal son.
It was on April 1st, 1984 thirty-six years ago that Marvin Gaye asked his dad, “What’s going on?” before his pop shot Marvin Junior to death in what must have been the most ironic use of that famous lyrics in history.
Marvin Gaye Junior died at the hands of Marvin Gay Senior when he should have been celebrating his birthday. He died when he should have been reveling in the fact that although he wasn’t from Detroit, his numerous hits made him one of the undisputed kings of Motown music.
We often look the ‘gift horse’ in the mouth.
That term comes from people questioning the value of a gift. To evaluate the age of a horse, one must look at the horse’s teeth. That’s why old folks are sometimes referred to as being ‘long in the tooth’. Life is an amazing gift and even a life of trials and tribulations can be an amazing, fulfilling journey.
The Gay Family had it all, or so it seemed.
Frankie Gay was a famous American recording artist. Marvin certainly had a fantastic career. Marvin Gay Senior so impressed his church as Pastor that he was soon made Bishop.
No matter, the pre-event indications of danger had been overlooked for years.
Abusers abuse. Seniors’ life growing up in Kentucky was “Gay against Gay” domestic violence inside and involving only family members who would fight and shoot each other during heated arguments that seemed never-ending.
Senior couldn’t hold it together and remain monogamous even though that is what he preached, his countless extramarital affairs threatened the fabric of his own marriage and caused strife within the families he predated.
Marvin Gay Junior so despised the perceived two-faced actions of his father so much that Junior changed his last name to Gaye to distance himself from the fray.
Senior accused Junior of acting in an effeminate manner and having a problem with his sexual orientation while Senior was conflicted with his own crossdressing.
Senior was physically abusive to his wife, his girlfriends and his children (within and from outside his marriage). Senior warned his children on numerous occasions that he would rather kill his children than allow them to wrong him, sass him or lay a hand on him.
The violence, threatening behavior, confusion over relationships and orientation coupled with Senior and Juniors drug and alcohol dependence created a perfect storm over time. One that resulted in Senior shooting and killing Junior over an argument hours before his birthday celebration.
Stress kills one way or another.
Whether through heart disease, suicide or violence, stress and anxiety create an untenable situation within the human brain.
Some folks have the wherewithal to invest in a psychiatrist or psychologist where they can share their inner turmoil and get mental health help. Some turn to mindfulness or physical fitness to assuage the deadly toxins released inside our bodies from hate and fear. Some succumb to violence or temptation.
Some don’t heed the pre-event warnings and are therefore doomed to live out the ‘So What?’ of the stress fractures that create broken humans.
Just as sure as Senior shot Junior and killed him, unchecked stress kills people every day and those that don’t die, wallow in the pits of despair and depression sometimes wishing they were dead.
The new coronavirus, COVID19, is merely the latest threat to humankind. It isn’t an apocalypse and it won’t wipe out civilization. It can, however, exact a toll that is worse than the body count from the virus.
Despair and hopelessness can create unfulfilled lives full of desperate actions and brutality that makes us think that life isn’t beautiful. That life is not worth living.
You largely control your own message.
If you need help, get help.
If you are in a position to give help, give until you cannot give anymore.
Had anyone warned Marvin Junior or Senior that their human behavior was dangerous and their relationship toxic, perhaps Senior would have sought help and Junior would still be making incredible music.
Don’t allow the pandemic to change who we are as humans unless that change is for the better. Perhaps this is a warning to which we will answer the call by being more approachable, more understanding and more willing to help those around us that are calling out for help through their actions rather than their words.
Learn how to spot the difference.
Training changes behavior.
What’s going on?
Mother, mother, there’s too many of you crying. Brother, brother, brother, there’s far too many of you dying. You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today, eh, eh. Father, father, we don’t need to escalate. You see, war is not the answer for only love can conquer hate. You know we’ve got to find a way to bring some lovin’ here today, oh, oh, oh. Picket lines and picket signs, don’t punish me with brutality. Talk to me, so you can see what’s going on.