Saturday, April 21, 2007

I don't know her.

Someone once told me that the things that make you upset and angry about other people are the things in your own life that you don't really like or want to change.

That makes sense to me.

A lot of really horrible stuff has happened in this country within the past few days. I've tried numerous times to blog about Virginia Tech, for example, and I've just not been able to do it. Yesterday, a contractor at NASA killed an engineer and then himself. Even stupid Alec Baldwin, whom I never gave that much thought to before, had me all spun up yesterday because he called his daughter a pig and didn't even know how old she was.

But honestly? The major case that's been on my mind lately is Mary Carol Winkler.

I don't know Mary Winkler personally. But here is what I know about her.

She is only a few years older than me. She graduated high school one year before I did.

She's a South Knoxville girl, and she graduated from the same high school that my nephew attends, right now, today.

South Knoxville is certainly not all poverty, like some other parts of Knoxville. There are many, many beautiful homes in South Knoxville. Homes I would call "fancy mansions". Homes for middle class families and homes for lower middle-class families. There are a lot of good, decent, hard-working folks in South Knoxville.

But there is poverty, and it is stark and it is painful and it is bad. There are mothers and fathers who teach their daughters that they are not worth anything and when they grow up they need to find a man who will marry them and take care of them, because they can't do anything on their own.

I don't know Mary Winkler.

When I look at Mary Winkler's face, I see a woman who probably grew up in poverty. I see a woman who didn't know what else was out there in the world. I see a woman who was probably raised to believe that if you could snag a preacher, you probably got a pretty good deal.

But I don't know Mary Winkler.

I see a woman who said her husband was verbally abusive. I see a woman who stood on a witness stand and was so mortified and so ashamed when she described and showed the jury what her husband forced her to wear while having sex with him. The things he forced her to do and say. Her husband, the father of her children, who held a pillow over the face of their one-year old daughter. And Mary Winkler still insisted to the police that he was a good man.

I see stigma and shame on Mary Winkler's face.

But I don't know her.

When I looked at the woman's face, she looked tired. She looked resigned. She looked like a woman so beaten down with life that she just didn't know what to do.

She looked like I probably looked a few years ago.

In a marriage which was bad. Knowing I needed to get out and get away. Knowing the man I was married to did not love me, and was emotionally and verbally abusing me every day of my life and making me feel like...nothing. Nothing at all. Like I was small and stupid and couldn't do anything right, ever.

And making me feel like there was no way out.
That no one, not even my own parents, loved me.
That he would take my children away from me, because I was "crazy".
That financially, I could never be okay without him.
That everyone would look at me and be ashamed of me.
That no one would ever love me.

I don't know Mary Winkler. But I wonder. I just wonder if that's how she felt.

Mary Winkler should not have shot her husband. That was wrong. Mary Winkler deserves to be punished for taking someone's life. He might have been a craptastic husband, but she shouldn't have shot him.

She should have walked away.

But I know, looking at her, how difficult that would have been for her.

A lot of people, women especially, I notice, have loudly said that on television.


I don't know why she didn't walk away. Like I said, I don't know her.

But I didn't walk away because I was afraid.

It was more scary to be alone. Because I never, ever believed I had what it took to be be alone.

It was more scary to contemplate the shame and stigma of being divorced.

What would my family say?

What would my church say?

Can you imagine how magnified that was for Mary Winkler? She was the preacher's wife. She would have to go against not only her husband, but her entire congregation, her entire faith system, and even God.

I imagine she didn't walk away because she didn't know how.

She was wrong. No doubt. She deserves to be punished.

But I still feel so sad for her. For the waste. For her daughters. For what could have been.

Maybe I'm totally wrong about all this. Maybe she was a pathological liar and a killer and I'm wasting my emotion on her.

But I feel sad for Mary Winkler.

I feel sad for her two little girls.

I feel sad for the family of her husband, who have to deal with losing their child.

And I feel sad for all the little girls from South Knoxville, and everywhere else in this country, who grow up believing that they can't do anything about it. That they have to stay in a bad marriage, a bad town, a bad neighborhood, a bad home. That there is nothing more than that and even wanting more is wrong and bad and totally outside the realm of possibility.

That is what makes me sad.

Because I was a little girl who wanted more.


Angie said...

I've been meaning to tell you that I realized we're "neighbors!" I saw that you were one of Tennessee's best bloggers, and they identified your city.

Howdy, neighbor!

Our household has been so obsessed with moving (one subdivision over) that we haven't had the news on at all this week.

But even before the sentence was handed down this week, I have been astounded by Mary Winkler's story. You know. . .did she eat at the Ye Olde Steak House when she graduated from High School? Did she shop at the old Food City on Chapmany Highway. . you know. . .the things you wonder.

You have captured the human side of this story. You did good, chick!

Please don't think I'm stalking you - but when you mentioned driving on I-40, I suspected we were living in the same general region.

Have a great weekend, chick! Your blog brings a smile. . . and the occasional "laugh diet coke through the nose" trick. Thanks!

Denise said...

Well chick,
I have pondering the Mary Winkler case myself. I come from a family where my Dad was verbally and mentally and sometimes physically abusive to all of us.Not to mention his raging alcoholism. So this really strikes a chord with me as well. I dont know the woman either but when I think of this case I think well the bastard probably deserved it. Harsh? maybe but that's how I feel. Cuz well I am putting my self in her shoes, I cant seem to separate. She probably just lost her mind.

frannie said...

Thank God the you and I got out. I grew up just like that and was in a horrible relationship for 7 1/2 years. I had to run away from him 3 times before I was strong enough to stay away.

Thank God that you have Jason.


Thank God I have my own Jason, now.

Dawn~a~Bon said...

Wow. I hadn't seen that testimony. Wow.

Did you read about the girl hiding in the woods behind our house this week? Yeah. We saw someone lurking around out there and Scott called the police. Me being stupid and impulsive me, ran outside to try to confront the person (stupid stupid), and Scott ran after me to stop me, and we saw this girl in the woods. She said she was hiding from her ex-boyfriend because he was "getting violent." We told her to come down out of the woods and wait with us until the police came so they could help her, and she said no, apologized about 150 times, then ran off to her "friend's apartment."

She sounded EXACTLY like Mary W. in that tape. Same whipped-dog attitude. I feel so bad for her.

I'm like you; I feel bad for all those little girls. And I'm glad that you're not one of them anymore. Your ex sucks and I hate him. The only good thing he did was father two gorgeous, sweet kids.

my4kids said...

I haven't been able to blog about the VA Tech thing either. I try but don't complete it. The Alec Baldwin thing just really pisses me off!

I don't really know what to think about the Mary Winkler case. I know women in bad marriages that were abusive and they don't know how to get out of. I think the thing that really troubles me is she did it with her children in the house. Her daughter should never have had to see her father dead having been shot by her mother. I just worry what that image will do to her as she grows up. Thats what makes me sad. That and now their daughters will grow up without either of their parents.

Kimberly Vanderhorst said...

It makes so much sense that of all that horrible things going on right now, you should zero in on her. Her you can relate to. You can empathize.

Virginia Tech? The mind just reels away from trying to understand that. And I think that's a good thing. Those aren't shoes we should try to put ourselves into, you know?

Anonymous said...

I have the same feelings about Mary Winkler. It's sad and makes me want to do all I can to teach my daughter that she does not, and will not, settle for any less than she deserves and wants.

You nailed this one....made me stop and think. Thank you :)

BS said...

Thanks for this post. It made me think of my past and how after a long time of being a victim, I decided to go for help because I was certian that my ex would hurt our children if I didn't do something. I could never kill anyone but as much as I hate to admit it, the thought had actually crossed my mind on numerous occasions.

Lizarita said...

Holy crap, I love you. I swear, I could've written that post. (Probably not as eloquently but whatever.) I have followed this craziness since day 1. Justin often asks me why I'm so OBSESSED with it. But it's because if everything you just wrote. I don't know her. But it's gotta take some kinda SOMETHING to make you shoot your husband in the back and continue to say he was a good man. That poor woman. Her poor kids. Their families. Their church family. Anyone involved. I just ache for them all. Thank you for writing this and saying everything I've wanted to say.

Alpha Dude said...

You are absolutely beautiful.

Very well said.

Bless you.

Unknown said...

Wow. You do know some of what I've been through. I'll have to check out Mary Winkler. I'm off the radar with the news.

Thanks for writing about this, Chick. Thank you.



julie said...

You're right. This is a horribly sad story. Anyone who hasn't been in a similar situation doesn't know how hard it is to "just" walk away.

just me said...


Mary has been living in my neck of the woods since after the shooting and now after the trial. I too see a beaten down woman, I am sure the reality of what she has done will not truly hit her until after the sentencing, because she looks like a person who will never be able to forgive her self for acident or not shooting Matthew, until now she has been consumed with the whole upcoming trial, now what she did I am sure will hit hard, I wonder who she will cope with it.

Great post.

CPA Mom said...

Good Cheez Whiz on a Cracker, woman, you have an amazing ability to write. You make me

I think education is needed for the general public on why women like this do not "just leave." We have a woman's shelter, the education director's "mission" is to go and talk to anyone who will listen on just what you said above. Have you ever thought about doing the same? Sharing your story at women's shelters? To show how they can overcome and succeed? I know you've got LOADS of free time and all....

Jhianna said...

Out here in Colorado, the Mary Winkler story hasn't really gotten much air time. The local news is concentrating on the Columbine part of the VT murders, specially with the timing.

What little bits of Mary's story that I've heard though always left me with a nagging sadness. Now I know why, thank you for such a beautifully written piece and for sharing your point of view.

SJINCO said...

I often wonder myself why people just can't walk away. Easier said then done, I know, but it makes you think about what you would do if you were in that same situation.

Thanks for writing this, you have a knack for expressing things - and making me think!