Tony made me look all over town before I decided, but I wanted *that* ring.
So, we came back and the manager chuckled, "Knew you were coming back."
He was a lovely man who wished us the best on our marriage. A well dressed and impeccably groomed man. Nothing really stands out on his appearance. Caucasian male, about 6'0", slender, brown hair and eyes....A really great smile and a strong handclasp. That day, he told us about his wife and kid and how happy he was to be married.
Every time we visited the mall, he'd greet us with a smile. Sometimes we'd stop and visit, sometimes we'd be on a time crunch and just exchange quick pleasantries. We came to think of him as a friend and we knew about his wife and young child.
Then, his jewelry store had a 25th anniversary contest. Seeing the placard, I went in to register. The grand prize, to be awarded at every store in the chain, was a diamond solitaire.
The manager motioned us to come with him.
"I want you to win," he told me. Then, he handed me three whole pads of the entry form. I had tears in my eyes, but I filled them out and I put them in every time we were near the mall.
Yeah, he handed me more forms and smiled every time I put an entry in. I didn't have his faith in me--but he knew I was going to win.
Only it wasn't his store. We made a trip to Tulsa for I-don't-know-what reason and I forgot to bring any forms. I filled out two forms at that store. Tony filled out his one and only entry.
Several weeks later, we got a call from the Tulsa store. We'd won the grand prize.
We drove up there in an excited frenzy. Turns out, TONY won the grand prize. But being the wonderful person he is, he let me have it. I got a gorgeous designer ring that was on sale instead of the solitaire and I've loved that ring all these years.
We came back and showed the ring to our friend.
"Knew you'd win," he said with utter confidence.
I don't know how many months later it was, we passed the jewelry shop while running errands and saw police tape up in front. When we found someone to ask, they told us the manager of the store shot and killed his wife and child, then turned the gun on himself. They were divorcing and he just snapped.
"He was such a nice man." Everyone said it. "He didn't look like the kind of man to do that--especially knowing how much he loved his family."
Othering--it's a word I just heard today from a dear friend who created it to explain our tendency to want to make people who commit horrific acts to look like something other--as if appearance can predict actions. There was nothing other about this man. He was a church-going, loving husband and father from all appearances. An upstanding citizen.
Yes, he did carry a concealed weapon. He also made substantial deposits to the bank and occasionally was required to carry jewelry as part of his job. The gun was a necessity.
There was nothing Tony or I or anyone else who knew him could think of that would make him want to kill the two people he loved the most. He certainly didn't look like someone with that kind of problem. But, circumstances got beyond his control--and he snapped.
I choose to remember him as the man who helped a pair of newlyweds cement a bond that's lasted
I only wish he'd had confidence in his ability to make it through his own trials. The world is a lesser place without his smile and his kindness.
Rebecca McFarland Kyle, July 2012