Date: Jun 29 2005 11:44AM
Not so much a reply to your earlier post at the bottom of the page as it is a sad confirmation and understanding.
As I read your post, an old memory slowly came floating back up to the top of my mind. Up from where I had pushed it down so many years ago. At first I had a few problems filling in some gaps, partly because of time – it happened well over 30 years ago but as soon as it picked up momentum in my mind I had almost completely brought it back. I even remember the day being bright and sunny. There are no obvious or glaring similarities between your story and mine. No great parallels or lessons to be learned, but there was something that made me think of that day and I think it was "I'm in no danger". When I read the subject line of your post and then again in your story, I was actually hearing Rick say, "Oh, I'm doin' all right".
Rick? Well, Rick and I were awful good friends. Probably never a time where we reached the ultimate Best Friends, Blood Brothers stage – right down to cutting fingers and rubbing them together as we boys used to do – but steady, really good friends. In fact, steady was a good way to describe Rick too. He was just a poster boy for the Steady/Good natured/Good mannered, Midwestern Boy portrait. We had grown up together, along with a small pack of other guys our age, in a fairly rural setting. Our parents all knew each other, Rick's sister was like my sister, his Mom had full permission to kick my little ass (although she loved me like a son) as she saw fit - if I was at his house, etc. etc. Our houses were on the edge of town, a small town at that, corn and soybeans literally growing up to our yards and in some cases encircling our yards. There were always at least 3 to 4 of us walking together to or from school, and depending on the season; kicking snow, mud puddles, or dust as we went home. Our group was like a small school bus as we stopped at each others lane and one of us would trudge up to their house. Most of the time we all had 'stuff' we had to do when we got home, so normally Rick and I were the last two because we both also lived the farthest out. Sometimes, as we reached Rick's house I'd stick around for a couple of minutes and try to put off whatever chore was waiting for me at my house.
Towards the very end of the school year in 6th grade, in the last week before summer vacation, me an ol' Rick were walking home like we had a thousand times before. It was already hot, like it used to get early on, when you were in for a real blister of a long hot summer. It was just a day, a regular old day, except for the fact that we were on the very edge of that Schools Out euphoria that we all loved so much. Yeah, we would have summer work in the fields or at the elevator like always but there would be baseball, baseball, the county and state fairs, girls to tease and baseball. And probably more importantly than anything else, no Mrs. Gates in her big floral dresses. She had no heart whatsoever when it came to grading math papers.
Anyway, when we came to Rick's house that day, I couldn't stay because I had to do something for my Dad at home (what that was, I can't remember). The whole thing was so routine, we did the same thing day after day, month after month and year after year. I'd stand there and call him a big sissy or something stupid like that and he'd call me something and then say seeya tomorrow and I'd say seeya too. He always went into his house by going up his long lane and through the big garage they had. This was one of those old cavernous garages, big rough hewn ceiling beams, with roughed in windows, hard packed dirt floor and such (no 'finished' garages back then). It was semi-detached, as many were back then, connected to the house by a covered walkway or a breezeway as we used to call it. He had to really pull and push on those old wooden doors, which opened out not up, to get them open. That's the last real memory I have from that day as I waived and walked to my house - and I've got a damn good memory when I want to, or I'm forced to.
It was just a God Awful thing that happened that day. That seemed to be the description that everyone in our small town settled on. My Dad had a few choice additional comments that were specifically aimed at Rick's father but I'm getting ahead of myself. The worst thing that happened that day was not that Rick's Dad had killed himself. It wasn't the way he had chosen – by hanging himself. It wasn't where he killed himself , or even that he had felt so much despair or fear or whatever emotion he was feeling that day to actually 'do it'. No, the biggest crime, and it was a crime, is that he killed Rick that day too. As luck would have it, Rick's mom was a little late coming home that day, from the grocery store or somewhere, because she was almost always just driving up or already home when we'd get there after school. The theory was always that for some angry and selfish reason his dad wanted his mom to pull and push those big wooden doors open first. The Reason didn't matter, the Selfish Bastard's little plan didn't work. Instead of hurting his wife, it was Rick. My mother told me years later that when his mother had gotten home about 15 minutes later, she found Rick still in that big dusty garage. Sitting and crying quietly, staring at his dad hanging from one of those beams. Fair of me or not, too judgmental or not, I hated that man for that.
Before the summer had hardly begun, his mom had sold the house and they moved a couple towns over, where her sister lived. After the suicide, I only saw him a few times alone. Once out in his yard just before they moved, we said 'hey', talked a little bit about something or other and he seemed o.k. but his eyes were empty, his voice was flat and he wasn't the old Rick. He never would be. I'm sure I said an awkward, soon to be a 7th grader, goodbye that day. I don't remember much of that conversation except his answer to my dumb question of 'how's it going'? It was the saddest, 'Oh, I'm doin' alright.' that I'd ever heard and ever will hear. I suppose the only other connection with your story would be that he was forever going to be confined to a garage instead of a bed. Both stories are hard to comment on, both awful and both terminal in a way. I lost track of him after that and as the years went by it was just something to push down, not forget it – not possible, I just pushed it down and under other memories, both good and bad. I don't know whatever happened to him and the realist in me almost doesn't want to know. Thanks for forcing me to remember it though, because it's these kinds of stories that should not be forgotten.