15 Years

IMG_0684Rounding the bend on my way to Clear Lake, I see him in that old Ford pickup truck, driving away – too fast. It’s like something out of a sappy country song.

It’s a memory.

And a wish.

It is fleeting and impossible all at once.

My friend, Buddy, died 15 years ago today. He took his own life. One of life’s great mysteries.

It is quite remarkable, that time has marched on.

Yet I still wouldn’t be surprised if he showed up on the lake one day. I honestly wouldn’t.

That feeling that he’s just around the corner? It’s made 15 years of one-sided friendship easier.

As a mother now to a son of my own, I’ve been really dwelling on this impending anniversary. It is terrifying and motivating all at once. Motivating in that I hope to raise my children to know that I will stand by them if the dark corners of their minds creep from the corners and into the midst of their lives. Terrifying knowing that the dark corners are like the depths of the ocean – unstudied realities.

Oh but what a gift it is, to be Elle and Jay’s Mom.

On this day each year, I make a point to reiterate that I miss Buddy far better than I ever loved him.

And I’m sorry for that.

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I Think I Was A Bully

I’ve been struggling with whether or not to even write about this topic, to even put it out here, in my blogging space. But, from back in my sports media days — you talk when it’s good; you talk when it’s bad. So, here it is.

I think I was a bully.

Not in the overt way that one thinks of bullies, but in the more subtle, texturized, intentional way of a teenaged girl.

There was this girl in school. She was sort of weird, but not in any harmful sort of way. She was always one laugh behind, one snort too many when the rest of us at the ‘cool kids’ table thought something was funny. It wasn’t JUST me — we all thought this way about her. In our silent, nose-turned-up kind of way, we ganged up on her.

She’d grown up in our circle of friends, she ought to have moved around it effortlessly. But it seemed as though fitting in took tons of effort for her. It was never natural. Never easy.

It’s like those girls who sometimes grow too fast, they hunch their shoulders in, and suddenly, one day, they realize they are confident and fearless and capable, beautiful and they stand tall.

Except, this girl wasn’t like that. Her shoulders hunched in, as though she were insecure about every step, and she never stood tall, never seemed confident in who or what she was or was about to become. And in high school, that was all that was needed for ostracization.

We graduated from high school 14 years ago this June. We have all gone on to become adults — in one way or another. I knew that the girl had moved out of state, away from the hometown I’d returned to live in. I knew that she was a teacher. That was all I knew.

We weren’t the sort of friends who kept in touch, and she wasn’t on facebook, or at least our paths hadn’t crossed out in cyber space.

Maybe if they had…

I’m telling you folks, this girl got shaving creamed at every sleepover. And yet, she was at every sleepover. We gave her an awful, making-fun-of-her-behind-her-back nickname and she had the exact same hair style for as long as I’d ever known her (how that matters I’m not even sure). But, it was all part of the leaving her out, of keeping her at arms length, of ‘allowing’ her to hover around our circle of friends while never totally, unequivocally letting her in.

If you never had someone like this in your social circles, I applaud you and the rest of your circle of friends. You are better than me and mine. We were not the friends we ought to have been.

Wait, stop.

I was not the friend I ought to have been.

Leave the rest out of it. Perhaps I’ve included others in my memory to ease my own burden of guilt.

And why do I bear the burden so heavy right now?

Because just over a week ago, that girl-turned-woman took her own life, apparently after a bad run of luck and timing in the life she had built for herself.

So maybe if I’d been just a bit nicer…just a bit less judgmental. Maybe if I’d been less inclined to laugh when someone else made fun of her; less inclined to lead the charge or remind everyone else why it was (again) that we were making fun of her.

Do I think that I – or any of us – were the reason she made the choice to take her own life?

Absolutely not.

Do I believe that there was a way for me to have made her journey a bit smoother, a little less rough for the going?

Absolutely.

It haunts me, that the strongest stand she seemingly ever took for herself was at the end of her life. It haunts me that I couldn’t find common ground with someone who I KNEW needed a friend; with someone who I understood to be less comfortable in every social situation than I was.

I think I was a bully. By today’s definition, I very well may have been.

I’ve spoken with several of the women who moved in the same social circle back in high school, and while we have all navigated our way through losses, this one, of a mutual high school friend, of a girl who grew up across the street/down the road/in the same class is haunting us all. Mainly, we’ve seemingly agreed, because we all feel overwhelmingly like we could have done better by her and maybe – just MAYBE – things would be different today.

We knew that she was more fragile. We knew she needed us more than we probably needed her.

And yet, now that she’s gone; now that there’s no way to include her at the Christmas reunion or the 15 year class reunion or the girls weekend, there’s guilt. And a need for absolution.

Every word I have read or spoken of this woman since finding out about her death references a single common word: ‘kind’.

She was overwhelmingly, unfailingly kind.

She was – and will remain in my memory – smiling, kind and caring.

Someone I came across wanted to refer to her suicide as ‘such a waste’ and I loudly refused to allow that. I will not allow her to be bullied anymore, even though I never stood up for her before.

Not a waste.

Perhaps a crying, sorrowful shame.

But not a waste.

Never a waste.

I am better for having known her, for having had her in my life.

And I will attempt to teach and lead my own daughter — and the social circles she chooses to move within — how to be better than I was, than I still am.

 

A Dozen Years

Disclaimer: This post is not so much about me and/or my baby brain, but about something that happened in my life and I existed through 12 years ago today.

 

“A dozen years.”

That’s what my Mom said when I told her, earlier today, that Buddy died 12 years ago today, September 24.

A dozen years.

The time has gone quickly and it’s hard to comprehend. It’s even harder to believe that all the life I’ve lived and the life he’s missed can be captured within those three little words.

A dozen years.

John Thomas Kaseman II was just 16 years old when he left. I was 19. And I loved him with all the heart I had at that moment, a college sophomore focusing on classes and getting drunk on the weekends. It was a mismatch from the start and was destined for ruin and years and years of fabulous friendship. But, he left.

He died.

He took his own life.

“Buddy Kaseman died…of a gunshot wound in the front yard of his home…” my Grandpa’s voice in my memory.

“Buddy died, Lindsay,” Ryan Biggs calling after his high school’s football game. I never did forgive Buddy for making Ryan grow up and make that phone call to me.

And while I think of Buddy less and less in the front of my mind, in the part of me that lives forward — there is also this part of me that is stranded in the past — in all the uber-dynamic parts of my past — and Buddy is one spot where I get stuck. In my memory, in those nights of drinking where I’d get sad about something…it was always about him. My Aunt Julie told me then, when he died, that this was not something I was going to get over. It was simply something I’d get around, like a big huge boulder in the middle of my life’s path.

And she was right.

And now, with just a few short weeks before I welcome a child of my own into this world, I can NOT imagine losing this baby, my child. Can’t fathom it. I marvel at Buddy’s parents, his sister. Living — existing — through his death remains an incredible feat.

Every year, I have made certain that I had a card at the Kaseman’s house to let them know that I have not forgotten. That Buddy remains a friend in my life.

This year, it slipped away and I didn’t make it in time. It’s not that I didn’t think about it all week, not that it wasn’t on the top of my list. I had sent to Mrs. Kaseman a book that a friend of mine wrote, “The Reason” by Sally Grablick, about suicide and the death of her own son. But that was a few months ago. I feel badly that I didn’t send a card to let them know that I remember, that I still am sad that I don’t have the great pleasure of knowing him as an adult.

I get frustrated, that he didn’t let us the opportunity to be grown-up friends. I’m sad that we didn’t get the chance to grow apart, like I have with the majority of the rest of my Clear Lake friends. I’m troubled with the could-have-been’s, should-have-been’s…but only in the back of my mind that lingers on things that happened a dozen years ago.In the here and now, I’m giving myself today to remember him when he creeps into my mind and to simply relax ahead of the craziness I’m so looking forward to when our Minnie makes her debut.

Now, I’m focusing on the things happening in the future — and how exciting and potent my future is, with Jon, with our Minnie.

But still, the part of me that remembers a dozen years ago, nights on the lake, drinking in random fields, enjoying the freedom that a teenage summer allows, the way his sweaty hands felt in mine, the way his white t-shirt and tattered jeans hung on his body that night in the thunderstorm outside my grandparents’ cottage — that part of me misses him. All ways.

As always, I miss him better than I ever loved him.

I remain sorry for that.