Three weeks ago, I was printing out an Amazon receipt for a tennis racket. When I grabbed it from my home printer, there was another sheet underneath: A New York State gun license application. Signed by my husband.
My head was spinning, because although I was reading the words, it just didn’t make sense.
The application asked whether he’d ever been diagnosed with a psychiatric disorder. It didn’t ask whether anyone else in his household had.
I texted him: “WTF gun license??? Have u lost ur friggin mind!??”
It took him a few minutes to reply, during which I stared at the phone, waiting to read something that explained the incomprehensible.
“Calm down are u going to let me talk??”
My hands were shaking. What was happening? John is the most un-macho man you can imagine. He doesn’t follow a single professional sport, preferring instead Restaurant Impossible or The Voice. At parties, he finds more to talk about with the women than the men. He trolls recipe websites, trying to improve his formula for vegetable soup or baked clams. He goes to Bible study every Thursday. He has never once in the 20 years I’ve known him mentioned a gun. The visual of him packing heat is absurd.
I finally typed: “hope u r prepared to shoot me, only way u r bringing into house”
Plus: Aspergers and Sandy Hook
Our 13-year-old son, Aden, takes two psychiatric meds for depression and anxiety. He has ADHD and Tourette’s syndrome. Asperger’s was suspected, then rejected. Nobody seems to be able to give us an exact diagnosis, but he has virtually no friends his age. On his recent birthday, he received four Facebook greetings, which in the world of FB may as well be a negative number. He hates school because he is picked on. He spends a lot of time in his room.
He is also fiercely focused and stunningly competent in visual-spatial relationship-based tasks, like building things. He can make something functional out of scraps around the house in 20 minutes—like the alarm he made for his bedroom door—and does so regularly. When he sets his mind to it, he can figure out how anything works. He’s a whiz on the computer.
And like most boys his age, he plays shoot-and-kill video games.
After the tragedy at Newtown, my brain rested on the overt similarities between Aden and the shooter, but I pushed those thoughts down fast. Aden gets teary when those ASPCA commercials with abused animals come on. When he plays basketball, he always runs over to help up a fallen player (even an opponent). He was just named student of the month by his art teacher for his creativity with tempera paints. The prize was a pencil, which he showed off like it was made of platinum. He is my sweet Aden. Somehow, of course, that makes him different from Adam Lanza.
Finding that application sent me reeling. I decided to just pretend it never happened. Surely, my opinion on the issue was more than clear, and John wouldn’t push it.
A few days later, John and I were driving to a family party. Aden was in the backseat with his ipad. “Mom, I just shot and killed 9 guys!”
“REALLY? Faaabulous,” I said, as sarcastically as I have ever said anything in my life.
I felt dizzy when John said “I should take you to the shooting range and teach you how to properly shoot. You’d love it.”
That night, we had it out. It was heated, and, thus, brief. This was the whole of it, more or less:
A gun in the house of a mentally-disturbed teenage boy?
He’ll learn how to use it right.
How do we know what he’s thinking? How can we REALLY ever know?
We’ll keep it locked up, unloaded.
When he wants to figure something out, he does.
The world is changing. It’s my right. You’ve heard about those home invasions.
If it’s so damn secure, how will you get to it fast enough for a home invader?
We have to be smart these days, and prepared to defend ourselves.
Remember that day last year when were switching his meds, and he tried to jump out of the moving car?
Whether regular people have guns or not, the criminals will!
A criminal didn’t kill those kids in Newtown. A criminal didn’t do the shooting in Columbine. A criminal didn’t go into the movie theatre in Colorado. These tragedies are being caused by mentally ill young males—regular people until that fatal moment— with access to guns!
In our house, there will be rules about gun safety, and the rules will be followed, and it will be fine.
When I told him he could get killed trying to jump out of the car, he said I DON’T CARE.
With that, I dissolved completely.
It hasn’t been brought up since. Mostly because John has only been on and off speaking to me, hurt that I can’t respect his opinions enough to calmly and fully discuss it. He also mentioned my lack of confidence in him as a caring, responsible dad.
I’ve been trying not to think about it, but (obviously) failing. Am I wrong to have shut my husband down? He usually makes good decisions. He’s a smart guy, and I know he loves Aden as much as I do. I have a hard time believing he’d do anything he thought could hurt him.
Somebody please tell me what do. I’ll be damned if I know.