Saturday, July 16, 2011

the one where I try to make sense of a death**(an edit)

I didn't know the boy who died, though in the pictures I've seen of him on Facebook, he looks familiar, and I may have checked out books for him when he was in sixth-grade (2008-2009), and I volunteered in the middle school library. My daughter only knew the boy by name and sight since she's two years ahead in school. The boy who died was about to be a freshman, a new member of the 2011-2012 high school football team.

It's so strange living in this technological explosion. People visit his Facebook page, the dead boy's page, and write to him, people who knew him well, like best friends and girlfriends, people who skated with him, ran with him, played sports with him. People who only knew him by sight write to him as if they could make up for time disconnected.

My daughter understands that this sort of thing will make me weep. She is off with a good friend now, hanging out, doing Lord knows what. (I trust my Girl, but it's really, really hard to let her go sometimes. Really hard.)

On July 8, our school board adopted an Extracurricular Code of Conduct. All school athletes and others in certain activities (though oddly enough marching band is not mentioned though drama is, quiz team is) are required to attend a meeting to learn about the code, are required to sign a document certifying they have read the code and will abide by it. If they violate the code, they will face consequences. This code is new, and I'm not sure what triggered it. Maybe some school board members began hearing about the parties some of their athletes threw involving underage drinking. Maybe a parent complained when a young son or daughter came stumbling into the house after a party, drunk as the proverbial skunk. Whatever triggered the code, it's too late for the boy who died last night.

The rumor we've been reading is that he died of alcohol poisoning. Part of the story is that he was attending a football party the way my daughter attended a percussion party last night but without the drinking (they stuck to Mountain Dew and Flaming Hot Cheetos. This is not to say that all of the bandies abstain. I've gotten so I can tell which ones are high or hungover just by the tone of their skin).

Oh, God. I can't tell you ... I'm ... Oh...

I can't imagine how this boy's family must feel. It's all so confusing. How could anyone let a 14 year old get so drunk that he died? Fourteen year olds are still children and don't have the experience to know what it feels like when they've gone from tipsy to drunk to way too much to "fuck I think I'm about to aspirate my own vomit."

Or whatever happened.

I don't know. Maybe this is all just conjecture, but the thought that our children find it so easy to obtain alcohol makes me crazy. It just makes me crazy.

People keeping writing to him, "I miss you already, but you're in a better place now."

Most of the writers of that phrase are children/teens. A better place would be home with his family, being grounded until Christmas.

I'm all over the place, but I can't not post this. I have to post this. I don't want to offend anyone, not the boy's parents or friends or acquaintances or our city or the school board or my friend who had to post the message on the school's Facebook page letting people know there would be grief counselors available at the high school tonight for anyone who needed to talk through this.

I didn't know the boy, but I'm just heart broken.

It's hard enough when we learn that one of our retired coaches has died or a teacher has succumbed to cancer or a much loved parent dies of a heart attack.

But when one of our students dies, it's impossible to process it.

So. If any teenagers I know and love happen by here, I hope you are not upset by this, by me. Please, children, don't drink until you're 21. Please. Your bodies aren't designed for such abuse (not that an adult's body is, either). I know it's too late for some of you, that you already have your routine of weekend binges. I wish you would stop.

From now on if I hear anything specific about a specific kid related to underage drinking, I'm going to have to rat you out to your parents or directors (or coaches). I'd rather you hate me forever than die too young.


9:45 p.m. I think I wrote the above at around 6 p.m. I had things to do. As I left to do my things, I saw my neighbor in her yard, hauling a little grill from her garage. We talk now, she and I.

It's lovely.

Her son is going into eighth-grade. He and the boy who died were friends, and she told me how numb the boys were, that a girlfriend of hers, another single mother, who had been with them all day said they were like clingy zombies.

My neighbor and I had to get to our chores but promised each other we would reconnect if we saw each other in our yards.

We did.

She and I talked and talked. She cried. I cried. We hugged. I think part of what made us weep is that fear that this could happen to our babies.

It was good to talk, to love, to share kindness and heart, to be open, to share with her the thing I couldn't write here that one of my young friends said about the boy who died that I didn't hear but someone else heard and said

we hear
and say
and weep
and growl

my child is still
with her friends,
not at the high school
where the counselors talk,
but at the middle school,
probably on the hill
sitting in the grass
that will raise welts
on her allergic skin

unless that's her I hear
pulling up alongside my yard

It would be good
if she would come home
but only because I am a mother
who fears
losing my child

the world
in which our teens live
is so treacherous

what can we do but teach
and talk
and listen
and say, "I'm here,"
and then let go?

what can we do?


  1. :(
    That is all we can do. And hope. And keep on hoping, and teaching and listening. Never let go and let go at the same time. Even when/if things get very dark and feel hopeless and you are full of regret, guilt and shame as a parent for the mistakes you might have made/did make. And when you wish you could wind back the clock to age 14, 10 , 9 ...... You just get up every day and keep on doing your best or as close to that as you can.

  2. Wish I had something pithy to add. All I can think of is to just sit with you and be quiet. Much love

  3. Thank you, Jan. And much love back, Sunil. You know that's just what I need.

  4. Don't have anything wise to say - just sending you hugs and loving kindness x