Reading the collaborative post between MattG, Ambulance Driver, and BabsRN has reminded me of things that I normally leave hovering in the back of my mind.
They're the crappy things that happen when you're growing up that you try to forget, until the memories pounce on you from out of nowhere, and sometimes out of everywhere.
See, the part about the kid dying... thats what did it for me. We have about one major wreck involving one of the young people a year, usually around prom time.
One year, it was Mitch.
Mitch was being a nice guy, giving a drunk friend a ride home after the after-after prom party. She lived out in the country... Mitch never made it back to town. They figured that he either fell asleep, or was leaned over looking for something in the floorboards, when he went head on with a semi.
They had a hard time sorting him and his dog out, afterwards.
There are three different crosses on the side of the road for Mitch, and his family keeps the area mowed, they decorate for Christmas... one year someone impaled a jack-o-lantern on top of one of the crosses, but that didn't last long.
That was the kind of thing Mitch would have loved, though. My clearest memories of him are from junior high, not long before he died, when he would come running through our cheerleading practices quoting Beavis and Butthead at the top of his lungs. If you looked down, he'd hug you. If you looked upset, he'd hug you and ask what was wrong. He always tried to make people laugh. Thats what I remember, the things that made me smile, rather than the shock the next morning.
Then there was Aaron. Aaron was a great guy, a couple years older than my brother, but never too busy to listen, and help if he could. I remember spending hours talking about stupid problems while he patiently listened, offered advice, and tossed pizza dough at his job. I remember shedding a couple of tears when he went away to the Air Force. I would miss him, but I knew I'd see him again.
He came home after Basic, or whatever they call it in the Air Force. I knew he was in town but hadn't had a chance to catch up with him yet, and I was looking forward to it.
Then one night mom took me aside. She told me that Aaron had died, stepped in front of a train. I remember my knees going out from under me, they just wouldn't hold me anymore. I remember going out, even though it was late, looking for more information. For some reason I thought if I could find out what had happened, it would all be ok.
I found out, and it wasn't ok. Apparently Aaron must've had a hard time of it since he left home, because he was a little depressed by the time he got back... and then found out his "girl back home" had been playing "girl next door" for several guys. She Dear Johnned him, and he decided there wasn't anything left for him.
I remember running into her. I remember her laughing about something, laughing on that night of all nights... and then I remember two of my brother's friends holding me against a vehicle, talking some nonsense about how she wasn't worth it. To this day I can't remember what I did in between. Grief does strange things to you, I guess.
Months later, my gym class was having a mandatory alcohol education session, and the teacher made the mistake of saying "Yeah, alcohol makes you think you're tough as nails... or tough as rails..." and chuckling.
Most of the class sat there slack jawed, one girl ran from the room in tears, and I forgot everything I'd ever learned about respect for your elders. That teacher and I had a "discussion" right there.
No faster way to lose my respect than to mouth off about things you're only half-informed about, and make a joke out of the death of one of my friends at the same time.
Yes, there was alcohol at the scene. Yes, there was a six pack of corona, minus two, in the car. Yes, its entirely possible that Aaron had had a couple before he stepped in front of a train with a beer in each hand and his favorite song blaring on his car stereo. But he wasn't completely drunk. He didn't step in front of a train because he didn't know what he was doing. He made a choice. A choice that, sometimes, still makes me want to bring him back just so that I can kick his ass, but a choice nonetheless.
I'll never stop missing Aaron. I'm not sure I'll ever be able to forgive him, either, but I'll always miss him.