is older than it's ever been and now it's even older


Post 242

(the following is an excerpt of an interchange between me and Johnny 13; it got me thinking a bit.)

13: The weird bittersweet thing about having the baby is I think I have a greater understanding of my own mortality than I ever did before. I never want to die, but I have always tried to be realistic about it. Now I look at her and I am completely aware that I am going to die, and she will continue on. You guys know I feel bad for seeing Star Trek that Gene Roddenberry has not, and it suddenly seems a hundred times worse that my girl will live a trillion seconds I will have no knowledge of. You don't get to see how it all ends up.

Me: I think it's really cool, and I'm jealous as hell.

13: Norm is my buddy.
I just want to live is all.

Me: you were just bitching that suicide is no longer an option!

13: Potential suicide has brought me great comfort in the past. I want to live, unless it becomes really unpleasant. It all goes together somehow without contradiction.

Do you know when you began to think like the adult version of you? Most people don’t, but I do. I started thinking like a grown-up, or at least began the transition, the extended weekend of October 19-21, 1989; just over fifteen years ago. October 19 was a Thursday; it was also some sort of teacher conference day, along with October 20, the Friday; as a consequence school was cancelled. I was at the time a freshman in high school and attended Central Mid-High School in Norman. My church ran a fall retreat every year during this extended weekend, so on Thursday, October 19, I met a bunch of my friends in the parking lot of First Baptist Church, Norman, and we bused down to the cabin at Falls Creek and did the retreat.

A brief note about my friends. I had been at Central for only about two months when this happened. Before then, I had gone to Longfellow Middle School, which was, I can report, the deepest pit in hell. Middle School is ordinarily rough, but I was for whatever reason remarkably friendless in Middle School. It sucked. Blew goats. Whatever. Fortunately, most of the assholes that went to Longfellow were from the rich side of town and went to the OTHER Mid-High School, West, so I wasn’t to see them again until we all went to Norman High School, which was a Junior/Senior only school. I was given the great fortune of starting over at Central, and had no trouble quickly making a number of friends in several different groups. The first group was the kids in the smart classes. This group formed the largest single grouping of my friends, and formed a core that I stayed fairly close with through high school. The second group was the semi-punks. I say semi-punks because the real hardcore punks weren’t really around school too much. Also, I didn’t want to be too into the real punks because my brother was a real punk and I didn’t want to be seen as a tag-along. My brother’s reputation was pretty much PAF, and my standing amongst the semi-punks was greatly enhanced by knowing who he was. In later high school years, the semi-punks either tended to become speech and drama types or to go to rehab and not be heard from again. The final two groups were the music types, which I got to know very well because I played in the Orchestra, and the swim team, because I was (duh) on the swim team. I was, and still am, a very good swimmer. I am not a fast swimmer, but I can do it very well.

Anyway. So on this trip to Falls Creek there were a surprising number of semi-punks, in addition to a smattering of church friends, which don’t fall into any category. The semi-punks and I had a mutual friend named Kandi Kinzer, who was herself both a semi-punk and a member of the church. I had known her to some degree since I was in around sixth grade, and while I was not terribly close to her, I talked to her often in the halls at Central. Upon getting off the bus at Falls Creek and assembling in the dining room, we were told that on the previous night, Kandi had killed herself. I had two reactions in rapid succession. The first was that this was absolutely, completely horrible. I had not known anyone who had died previously in my life, with the exception of my great-grandmother, who died when I was eight (I have all four of my grandparents still alive right now, a fact that I am immensely grateful for). Suicide is an especially terrible shock to the system, because it is voluntary and therefore completely unnecessary. The second reaction was anger at the church (and I’ll just go ahead and name names, since I’ve started) and Steve DeVoss, who was the youth minister at the time. How dare he wait until we got down to the camp to tell us? He knew the night before and easily could have told us before we left for the trip, but he wanted us to be a captive audience so he could—somehow—use this tragedy as a lever to push his evangelism efforts. I knew this implicitly immediately. And so did the other semi-punks. The remainder of this long weekend I skipped out on all the activities and hung out with them, who to their credit to a one never came back to another church function. I was not so lucky, and was stuck there (which isn’t to say that I never had a good time at other church events, but me and Steve DeVoss were never close, and I’m not even going to mention some of the weirder things that happened in the male side of the FBC Falls Creek cabin. Yet.)

I never really thought the same about anything after that weekend. I never thought about life the same way; I never thought I was immortal or any of the other clichés that you hear about youth. I didn’t take anyone’s intentions for granted again, because I knew that even tragedy could be exploited; I certainly didn’t trust the church any more, although this resolve would be tested.

Suicide remains one of those odd and completely gut-wrenching facts of life. I have known at least seven other people that have committed suicide since then. These range from mere acquaintances to good friends, to parents of friends to parents of friends that I didn’t know at the time it happened. Despite seemingly being around it my whole adult life I have never considered committing suicide myself—I always have wanted to live. But on the other hand, I don’t want to live for nothing. A boring life seems more to be avoided than just giving up. If faced with a life that I didn’t think was worth going on with, I would change absolutely everything, and failing that, go on some sort of crazy and deluded mission to effect a lasting statement, political or social (I’d take out a bad person, basically. I’ll just leave it at that).

This has been a strange year. I’ve thought about everything, it seems, this year. Four months ago I had graduated school but didn’t have a job and didn’t have an inclination that I’d even want to do the career that I had just gone to school for, mainly because I had almost run out of hope that I would be allowed to do what I wanted to. Now I am doing what I want, and it makes me think about the narrow difference between disaster and success. I want also to do something for the future, for my future and the future of the planet. I remember what happened fifteen years ago, and know that it will be fifteen years from now soon enough. It is not enough to just go through the motions and play at life, because that way lies complacency and failure of potential.

Johnny and his wife, Jennifer, had a beautiful baby daughter, Fiona, on July 3. That is why he was thinking about his responsibility and to the living legacy he has created and is responsible for. I said I was jealous because at the back of my mind these days is the child that I thought was coming that is not. I still am thinking about that future, and the children that I have will benefit because of that, I hope.

enough heaviness

someone set us up the gay bomb!

Wishful thinking?: the fall of the GOP

Dean Scream, my ass: how the Dems ate their young

I’ve been sitting on this one for months! the Cheney-Leahy exchange we’d LIKE to have heard.


  • At 6:37 PM, Blogger Bill Hooker said…

    Hey, better 16 days late than never I guess: Happy Anniversary and many happy returns! Hope you had a good day.


Post a Comment

Links to this post:

Create a Link

<< Home