Monday, November 12, 2007


When I was a teenager, I went through a rough patch. My mind spent too much time in dark spaces and I was consumed with images of my own death. Despite a loving family, granted a family with problems of their own, but loving none the less, a supportive group of friends, and endless possibilities ahead of me, I was unable to see farther than my current state of despair. It could probably be chalked up to teenage hormones, or my legacy of a family history of depression, but I was falling deeper and deeper into my sinkhole.
As I was carefully planning my final exit, gently saying my last goodbyes and stepping silently closer to my turn to shrug off my perceived burden, someone noticed. His name was Terry D. In junior high and high school, we were close friends. Our friendship was kind of an odd match. I was a closet over achiever, he was happy just sliding by. He was lanky and funny and played the clown, and inside, despite his "I don't give a fuck" attitude, he was sensitive, sweet and kind. Although much of our time together was spent listening too hard to our latest music finds and smoking pot, he was also the person who I could trust.
Terry noticed that I was slipping into a darkness that he wasn't able to handle on his own. He watched me planning and knew what was in my mind even when I wasn't fully able to admit it to myself. When Terry saw me slipping, he reached out to stop me. When Terry saw me slipping, he went to my family. He tipped them off, and got them involved even though he knew I would see it as a betrayal. At a time in my life, when I was hoping to die, Terry made sure that I would live.

As teenage friendships, even the profound ones, often do, we waxed and waned. At times we were inseparable, and other times, usually when boyfriends or girlfriends were on the scene, we would drift apart, but it always felt inevitable that we would find each other again.

Terry's family situation was a mess. His role in the family was a precarious balance between playing baby sitter and caretaker for his brothers to working hard to blend into the walls so he wouldn't upset his mom or her asshole husband who neither one wanted the responsibility of a teenage man with emotions and hormones and a lot of spare time on his hands that he frequently filled with music, drugs and alcohol. And as thanks for his help with raising his brothers, on his 18th birthday, his mom kicked him out.
My mom offered Terry a place to live, but instead of taking her up on it, he disappeared. Knowing how things had worked in the past, I didn't worry, I knew over time, our paths would cross and we'd find our way back to our comfortable friendship.
In the meantime, I graduated from high school, spent a year as an exchange student and came home. No word from Terry. I left Portland, and headed to San Francisco for college, and still no word from Terry. I graduated from college and started a career, I fell in love, got married, had a baby and still no word from Terry. My life continued on, I moved to Seattle, had a second son, continued my career and still no word from Terry.
For years now, I have searched for him online every month or two. I google him, his name with our home town, our home state, our metro area and any combination of search criteria that might yield some line on his location, but I had never found him. Every time I went to Portland, my eyes scanned the strangers on the street hoping to catch a glimpse of my lanky long lost friend moving toward me with his laid back gait.
All of that changed tonight. Through a six-degrees-of-separation kind of deal, I connected with an old high school friend. As we talked about who we had seen and what friends were where in their lives, conversation turned to an unlucky man who had died from a heroin overdose. "Terry D. too" she said casually.
I had to ask her to repeat it, because this is not what was supposed to have happened. I was supposed to meet him again, to be able to thank him for pulling out my safety net when I most needed it and was least able to ask. I was supposed to see him in his life, with his family and his career. Instead I only found out I was years too late. That I wasn't there for him and the person who I credit with really and truly saving my life had slipped away without me ever being able to tell him just how thankful I was.
In December 2000, Terry died as a result of a heroin overdose. He had just turned 31.

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