Friday, March 27, 2009


David was a smart aleck of the worst kind. I met him in 5th grade, the year I transferred from Lutheran school to public. After Lutheran started taking the town riff-raff, kids expelled from schools for misbehavior, my parents figured they may as well save the money, so surrendered their little girls to public education.

It was daunting for a small school girl to move into that tough kid world, though in retrospect, the toughness of the public schools in that Oklahoma town of 25 thousand is debatable. It seemed tough. It seemed scary. I stayed quiet and devoted myself to my work.

There were a few of us who aced all the tests, who competed hard for top marks in all the major subjects. David and I ran neck and neck through fifth grade. Though there were other kids nipping at our heels, we swapped top spots all year long.

The pinnacle of my public school academic career was achieved at the end of 5th grade, when the top scores on the standardized tests were announced. Nearly all of my classmates turned in anticipation to watch David, sitting in nonchalance, a smug look on his face. Oh, it was so divine when the teacher announced my name. Thirty heads swiveled in unison, eyebrows raised, mouths shaping little round Os. "Lynette!" Yes.

It was down hill from there. I found drugs and the bad kids who came with them. I lost track of David, though I'd see him occasionally at school or we'd pass in the hallways. We shared a math class in junior high, a class I skipped most days so I could read at the library.

I did fall in with Monty, though, David's older brother. Monty ran with my doper crowd while David remained a geeky science freak who never entered my orbit of artists, hippies, drug addicts and thieves.

When I was 16, Monty hanged himself in jail. He had just turned 19, got arrested for possession. Word went around that he was a narc and the story was told that David went to visit him at the jail, told him there were people looking to kill him. Monty was dead the next morning.

I don't know if it was the loss of his brother or a sense that he played a part in Monty's death, but David fell off the planet. He quit school, vanished from that little town. I moved away and forgot about him, forgot about all of the people I'd gone to school with, got in trouble with.

Fifteen years ago, in an AA meeting downtown, there was a guy who kept staring at me over his book. After the meeting, he approached and asked my name. It was David, my arch enemy from grade school, the brother of my dead doper compadre.

David was a drunk like me, and worse. He was living on the street, smoking crack. He rambled and made little sense. I thought he might be mentally ill as well. We said our hellos, isn't it amazing, what have you been doing, all of the superficial pleasantries that pass between strangers of long acquaintance.

A few weeks later, Mike returned from a meeting, said he'd picked up a new sponsee. "Name's David. Lives in an abandoned house down at Haskell and Main. Doesn't have a phone and there's no electric, but he said he's got some gas lamps and we can do the work."

The Work, the 12 steps, the process of recovery. David, 5th grade arch enemy, and my husband, the man who never says no, set to work on the steps. Mike tried. He never quit on anyone. It was David who finally broke it off after almost two years, severed the relationship in a fit of paranoid rage and unfounded accusations.

Isn't life strange? It's been thirteen years now since we've seen David and tonight, just now, Mike came home from a meeting, said "guess who I saw?"

He's got a place to stay, still crazy as all get out. On some kind of medication to control his urge to drink. He's got $40,000 left from his trust fund and he's obsessing about what to do when it runs out, just as he did 13 years ago when he had ten times that much.

David's life trajectory turned and never recovered after a conversation, after one single event. Granted, it was a big event. Suicide is a wretched thing and the loss of a sibling an unimaginable misery. I don't know why some people seem to survive the awful things, to ultimately come through the hard times of life, while others are sucked deep into the vortex of self destruction, never to surface again.

What do you think it is, this resilience of spirit? of mind? I haven't any idea, it seems so random that it frightens me, as if any one of us could wake up one morning, experience a tragedy, and be lost ever after.

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Blogger Chris said...

If we could only answer those questions, how powerful would that be?!!! I would love to think we all could have 'resilience of spirit' to get us through life, but I think our genetics are our first line of defense or our worst nightmare...even with frightening memories and fried brain cells, David seemed to be fighting back, as best he could, don't you think? Now that's resilience, even if not perfect........

March 27, 2009 2:37 PM  
Anonymous ewe said...

Well. Very interesting. You were both smart right from the get go. I think some people lose hope, they get tired of being tired and worst of all lose their support system. Without each other....(fill in the blank)....
Multifaceted and so deep that one answer cannot fit all. It is beyond addiction. Human beings need purpose.

March 27, 2009 3:18 PM  
Blogger more cowbell said...

I don't know either. No idea. I do know that when people say I'm strong it scares the bejeezus out of me and makes me feel weaker than ever. If that's what they think is strong ... goodgod, what does that mean about people I think are strong? And if those people feel like I do, who's left to really take care of things? I guess compared to many, sure I've held it together, but sometimes I feel like what folks can't see is that I'm held together with nothing more than wet tissue paper.

March 27, 2009 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thank you for sharing this story. Really makes one think.

March 27, 2009 11:18 PM  
Blogger Doralong said...

Perhaps that latent bit of psychosis was there all the time and the death of his brother simply triggered it. I often wonder if all humans have one point at which they would indeed become severed from their sanity,that tipping point that can truly cut the ties that keep us sane and engaged with the rest of the world.

March 28, 2009 7:25 AM  
Blogger Jeff said...

It's a frightening thought.

My own world changed dramatically when a very close friend decided that a gun was what he needed for his aching heart.

Somedays I can't say why I wake up, but the sun rises and so do I.

March 28, 2009 9:39 PM  
Blogger Joe said...

I love what you write. I envy you that skill.

I don't believe it's ever really one event -- no matter how large -- that sets us on a different trajectory. Do you believe one event can do it? I guess it can, but I think it's always more... always a hundred or a thousand little things over time.

And here I am now, wondering about when and how my life turned one way instead of another. If I think about it too hard I will get way too sad again.

Hope you're well. ::hugs::

March 29, 2009 2:22 AM  
Anonymous O said...

I'm not feeling this one, personally.

March 29, 2009 11:45 AM  
Blogger Therese Dawe said...

Girl I dig your writing. That's all.

March 29, 2009 7:48 PM  
Anonymous lynette said...

Chris, the older I get the more I'm thinking that much of our resiliency is genetic. Nurture has much to do with it, of course, but without that underlying elasticity, I'm not sure mom and dad can do much for us.

Ewe ~ they get tired of being tired and worst of all lose their support system . . . tired of being tired, no support. I think you've hit on a big piece of it. There have been some days in my life when I've thought that just letting go, giving in to madness, would be such a relief, like the surrender to my featherbed after a particularly long day. For some reason, I don't. Somewhere in that conscious/unconscious decision is the difference, or maybe I've just not hit a hard enough spot. Who knows. One day at a time, yes?

MC ~ Ha! All your life you've heard how strong you are? Sounds terribly familiar. The one I hate is "God never gives us more than we can handle," and my thought is always that God is not paying attention and doesn't know who the hell He's dealing with.

Hey K ~ hope you're feeling better? Holler at me any time.

March 30, 2009 9:37 AM  
Blogger Lynette said...

DL ~ That's exactly, a point at which we become "severed from sanity." Some people never seem to come close to getting cut off, no matter how wretched things get. Others experience that break and it becomes permanent, or they teeter on the edge of it, fearing the fall to the other side.

Jeff . . . Somedays I can't say why I wake up, but the sun rises and so do I. . . . I am so sorry for your loss. That thing that makes you get up and keep going, what is that? Suicide is the most wretched thing. Such agony for those left behind.

Joe, maybe it is 100 or 1000 things and then the one that pushes us over? I don't know, just don't be sad about it. You're not one to tip. You're a brave, stalwart soul and a survivor.

O-nonymous . . .

TD . . . loved your thing about suffering. Beautiful.

March 30, 2009 9:47 AM  
Blogger David said...

I think it's partly about support structures and partly about just who you are. If you have always felt like you have people around you who will hold you up if you fall (and then if you do, they in fact hold you up) then it's easier to be resilient. If you don't have that support but are blessed with that innate inner-strength to carry forward, then you may also persevere. But if not, then the abyss opens.

March 31, 2009 1:39 PM  
Anonymous Michele said...

Thanks for this Ms. L.

I have a friend whose mother committed suicide and left a note explicitly stating that it was her (my friend's) ongoing lesbianism that drove her to end her life. It was this mother that we expected would be accepting when our friend's relationship with the Eastern shore country girl was eventually revealed - after all - they were good liberal Democrats in Ohio. My other friend's people just said, "yup, we love you. Pass the Old Bay please." It was a good lesson to learn in your early years- people will surprise you.

March 31, 2009 9:15 PM  

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