Tuesday, August 14, 2007

The Defining Moment

When you look back at your life, have you ever had a defining moment? I don't know that you recognize them when you are in the midst of one. It is in retrospect, you realize that that one event changed everything?

I will tell you a story...

When I was 16 I began working for a veterinarian. "Kay" was the same age as I was and began working there around the same time. She went to a different high school and was a little shy but after a little time, we really hit it off. We became pretty close. Like, spend the night close. Tell each other our deepest secrets kind of close.

She had a different home life than I did. Her parents were divorced and she never really got to know her real dad. Her mom had remarried a doctor, so they were very well off, but her mother had a child with this man and that child seemed to grab all of the mother's attention. To put it mildly, Kay and her mother DID NOT get along very well.

For one thing, her mother would exercise the power of "no" simply to do so. No reason given, just "No, you can't go with your friends tonight." Then, when Kay turned 16 they bought her the ultimate of vehicles, a Pontiac Firebird. This was the mecca of cars, pure nirvana with raised white letters.

The summer of our senior year, as thoughts of college, dorm life and older boys! went through our heads, Kay spent the night with me. We stayed up late, laughed and talked a lot and for some reason, I took pictures of her. She posed with my dog Muffy and did a few other silly poses. I don't know why I did it. I mean, this was the day when you had to drive all the way to a FOTOMAT! Pictures took effort and negatives! and money!

The next day I worked the early shift and then waited for Kay to arrive to pick up the afternoon shift. We always liked to overlap each other so we could talk. Kay didn't arrive early. There were a few clouds in the sky so I told our lab tech (who was like a mom to us teens) "I'll bet Kay's mom said she couldn't drive because it might rain (Her mother used this excuse all of the time - it made Kay ballistic! I mean who in their right mind buys their kid an awesome sports car and then won't let them drive it but every other day not ending in Y??)

I tried to call Kay's personal phone line (imagine back before the days of cell phones). No answer. My pulse is quickening at this point. My antenna is wiggling, goosebumps bumping and radar on high alert. Something is wrong and all of my senses know it. Another 30 minutes goes by...

Our lab tech used to work at our local hospital. She says, "You know, I'll call my friend who works at the hospital and just check and make sure they haven't had any accidents come in." I wait nervously. I watch her face as she is on the phone and I know the signs of distress. Something has happened.

She gets off the phone and gives me that look. That look of "I have bad news and am getting ready to knock your world off its axis."

"They have a girl in the E.R. My friend says its Kay. She tried to kill herself."

I was prepared for a car accident but this? I find my knees buckling and I slide to the floor in shock and horror. "How? What happened?" I ask her.

"She shot herself. They still have a heartbeat and are working on her but it doesn't look good."

I ended up getting to the hospital, talking to police detectives (who were all hung up on the calendar notation 38-Special - which I had to explain was a CONCERT not a suicide directive). But, long story short - this incident fucked with my head big time. The entire rest of the summer was a blur.

I ended up going to college but finding no point in it and dropping out after 18 months. The sense of betrayal took me years to get over. Why didn't she share this plan with me? She spent the night with me the night before! You don't go and dig your step-dad's 357 magnum out of the closet, stand in front of your dresser table mirror, place the gun under your ear towards the rear of your head (where all vital organs are located - not in the more popular movie version temporal lobes) without planning a little beforehand. How could she not call me before and say "Hey, I am miserable and thinking about ending it all?" I would have talked her out of it.

The rest is as they say "history." I did go back and finish college but it took me years to figure out why I didn't finish the first time around. It wasn't until just a couple of years ago that I figured out what a pivotal point this incident played in my life.


  • I'm so sorry about the loss of your dear friend, even all these years later. Suicide is so hard to understand, and it does f*** with those left behind -- but people who are suicidal don't think about this. If they did, I believe they'd be less likely to follow through with their plans. It's a damn shame Kay's parents -- her mother in particular -- weren't tuned in enough to help prevent this from happening, but I have a feeling Kay found some happiness and relief in her friendship with you, and you added to her life in that way. *hugs*

    By Blogger B.E.C.K., at 8/14/2007 11:30 PM  

  • I've had a defining moment just recently. A couple of years ago I left my secure job in a local school district to work for a non-profit agency. It was an opportunity to be a program director though the sacrifice was a lower salary and longer work hours. I discovered that in fact, I could create a program from nothing - very gratifying. This summer I found out that the plug was being pulled on my program (long story). At first I was devastated as I had given a lot of time and energy to this venture. I have always been a "save the world" kind of person and my first reaction was "I'm NOT going back to a school district job." But I interviewed with a couple of districts anyway as I knew that would be a sure thing. In the midst of all this, I received a phone call from a parent from my former school district who I hadn't talked to in two years. She called to tell me that her son graduated from high school and was going to college (he is hearing impaired) and to tell me what a difference I made for this young man and consequently for their family. The right phone call at exactly the right time. I found a job in another school district making much more money than I ever made at the non-profit or the previous school district for which I worked. So I am now going to "save the world" in my new job. :-) I started Monday and the people are great and I am really feeling like I am where I belong.

    By Anonymous tlc, at 8/14/2007 11:50 PM  

  • Mental illness is so hard to understand--what a terrible story.

    By Anonymous jess, at 8/15/2007 7:50 AM  

  • I always wonder just how deep those depths of despair must be to make a person think she has no other way out.

    My sister's aunt hung herself one morning while her boys were in school and her husband was at work. No note. No indication. Whatever her reason was, it died with her.

    By Blogger Type (little) a, at 8/15/2007 8:26 AM  

  • Interesting jump from your last blog.

    I've read and re-read this and I don't see if Kay lived or died. What did happen to her?

    That must have been a horrible experience. At my age, my reaction is to think how horrible it would be for my children if one of their friends committed suicide.

    By Anonymous Tank, at 8/15/2007 8:48 AM  

  • Oh man. That's awful! I have goosebumps. I take it she didn't make it. I mean, I wouldn't expect her to have, but you never said specifically. 16. 16 is so young!

    By Blogger Tink, at 8/15/2007 3:39 PM  

  • No, she did NOT make it.

    To top it off, her mother then tried to become my best friend which messed with my head even further. Her mother was the cause! My boss (the vet) had to tell her to stop calling me at work and to leave me alone.

    By Blogger DebbieDoesLife, at 8/15/2007 7:30 PM  

  • I remember that day well, Debbie. You called me and wanted me to come over and we sat in your parents bedroom and cried. I hardly knew Kay but it scared me to be faced with our fragility. It's ironic that you wrote this blog message just as my boys are dealing with a similar situation. I told them how your Kay's suicide made me look at life in a whole new light and how it has stuck with me all these years. You see, they lost a friend last week to a heroin know the story, never did it before but while really drunk decided it was a good idea. She graduated with my son in June and had her whole future ahead of her. It scared my boys and we had some good conversations about life, death and the fact we are indeed destructable. I believe this will be a difing moment in their lives as well.....a hard lesson learned about drugs. A life lost at such a young age is always a tragedy. Be happy that your friendship was a bright spot in her otherwise dark life.

    By Anonymous Carol, at 8/15/2007 11:26 PM  

  • Wow. I think that things like this, where you have no real answer for the why in what your friend did, just linger and haunt a person. Suicide gives no closure and leaves only questions for family and friends left behind. We just went to a funeral of a dear friend of our's sister who left behind two kids and a family who loved her. Even though her life was always filled with problems and drama, it still forever changed all who knew her to have lost her in a such a way.

    Hugs your way on this. I know it has been a long time ago, but you still need a hug.

    By Blogger Crazy MomCat, at 8/16/2007 1:19 AM  

  • That's horrible. I think a lot of people just don't feel like they can tell others; perhaps she was ashamed. I've had friends attempt and when i found out afterwards, it was like "why didn't you just say something?"

    By Anonymous Sarcastic Journalist, at 8/16/2007 9:15 AM  

  • How awful, Debbie. And way too deep for a 16-year-old to have to deal with. You just never really know what's going on with someone. I have that thought all the time.

    By Blogger Renee, at 8/16/2007 1:25 PM  

  • Poor Kay, that she felt like she had nowhere else to turn.

    By Blogger teahouse, at 8/20/2007 10:11 PM  

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