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The Unseen and the Seen, Part III

Updated on October 7, 2009

Confusion, confinement, decline

Clark could be good under pressure.  He could also be remarkably bad. 

As our wedding approached, he became moody and irascible.  I reflected with longing on the times he'd surprised me with gifts, holiday decorations on my door, or with new entries to his list of things about me that he loved. 

The wedding itself was wonderful, but then the next day he blew up at me over a trifle. I couldn't recall a time I'd been spoken to with such anger, and for a fleeting moment wondered if our marriage was over before it had really begun.

Tensions increased when there were severe job cutbacks at the church where I worked.  There was no other work in the area.  We had to find a place to move.

Colorado

We decided to move to Colorado. Clark's parents were there and could house us until we found a place of our own. The only money we had was a small inheritance I had in trust. I thought that once we were established, we might put it towards downpayment on a house.

Clark's difficulty with confinement was more pronounced than ever at his parents' home. Though my intention had been to save money for a while, his impatience and increasing fits of temper made it evident that we had to get settled somewhere else in short time. He did not have the patience to search very long. When we couldn't find a place the first weekend, he blew up and refused to look any more.

I found a house to rent, not far from his folks. Clark filled the walls with mementos of his travels, a collections of knives, his favorite pictures, American Indian pots. We bought shelves for the hundreds of books we had between us, but I had to fight to get chairs or a couch. Not wanting to "slouch" into creature comforts, Clark preferred to sit on the floor.

It wasn't long before Clark began to complain about his job. The drive was too long. His supervisor was moody. The place was low grade, etc. I was confused, as he knew we needed his salary to get by. He'd worked any number of job in his life, so I knew he was capable. But this was "real life," and he did not think it was going well.

It begins

Clark quit his job, then couldn't find anything else that he liked. He spent his time creating a martial arts work-out area in the back yard, and planting a garden. I was worried, however, about his inability to find work and the effect it was having on him. It seemed that a dog might help.

He decided that he wanted a black German Shepherd, because one had bitten him as a child. I still can't follow the logic on that, but it was to be Clark's dog so I wanted him to be happy. Blacks are hard to find, but we stumbled upon one the first weekend we looked. He named her Leica, after a camera he couldn't afford.

Leica was a delight. Intelligent, friendly, and calm, she and Clark were inseparable. And she could sing! As I approached the house one day, I heard an incredible din coming from inside. I walked in to find Clark and Leica both dancing and singing at the top of their lungs to Paul Simon's "You Can Call Me Al." As Clark later explained, he'd listened to music all afternoon without Leica making a sound, but when this song played she came to life. We later learned that she favored certain numbers from "The Lion King" and the Law and Order theme song. I think of her when I hear that distinctive "boom, boom" to this day.

We were to go to a concert. I came home from the office to find Clark finishing up work on his garden. The door to the house had been open, as he and Leica had been going in and out throughout the day. I went into the bedroom to change my clothes, and noticed something that would change our lives.

Leica had gotten into Clark's backpack and pulled out a bottle of Advil. To her, it must have seemed like a rattling toy. The top apparently popped off when she chewed it. I found the mangled container on the floor, and a few soggy pills nearby. Clark told me the bottle had been full. After counting the ones on the floor, we estimated that she'd eaten about eighty pills.

In Clark's mind, since he'd left his back pack on the floor, he was responsible for killing his dog. She looked fine, but he knew that what she'd consumed would end her life. An emergency room was just blocks away. The vet pumped her stomach, but she'd already taken everything in to her system.

Leica's recovery the next morning was a miracle, but we were to spend the rest of her life dealing with the effects of what she'd done. I contacted a renal specialist, joined an internet information/support group, and hand-made all her food. Clark never forgave himself. The brief, happy summer had gone.

Late August, Clark took the official photos at his teacher's annual martial arts seminar. This was a yearly event that drew people from all over the U.S. He didn't particularly like shooting live events, except for his own interest. He loved photography. But when others were depending on him to provide the only mementos of a singular event, his joy of the process was gone.

It was 1997. If digital cameras even existed, they were not readily available, so Clark shot some photos with his primary camera and others with a Hasselblad, which he reserved for black and whites. After the seminar he took the film to a shop used by professionalsm, since he was very particular about his prints. He had a great eye for balance and color, and could communicate with the technicians well.

The first week in September rolled around. I was at my office, about 30 minutes away from the house. Around 3:00, Clark called and told me to come home. There was something in his voice that chilled me to the bone. I raced out the door. As I turned the corner onto our street my stomach was in a knot. I had no idea that in years to come I would turn that corner in a terrified state, time after time again.

I walked in the door just as Clark was raising his fist. I raced towards him, grabbed his arm, and pinned him flat against the wall. He let out a cry I will never forget, as if coming from the depths of great pain in his soul. He struggled as I held his wrists, knowing he could hurt me if he wanted to, and that he would not. Out of the corner of my eye I saw the newly developed martial arts event photos on the floor. Apparently they had not turned out well.

[Continued in "The Unseen and the Seen" Part IV - Conclusion]

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