Sunday, September 14, 2008

Mind Over Matter...(on turning 50)

Yesterday, I had my 50th birthday and like many people facing this milestone, I had mixed feelings about celebrating the occasion. There are several cliches that I will run through just because they seem apropos - golden oldies like, "If I thought I was gonna live this long, I would have taken better care of myself," or "Turning 50 isn't great, but it beats the alternative." On a more serious note, I never really thought I'd reach this age. I have battled severe clinical depression most of my adult life, and have attempted suicide on more than one occasion. But here I am, thanks in no small part to a wonderful therapist and a fabulous psychiatrist that helped me through my most recent battle with the demon depression. Thanks also to my wonderful family who has always been there for me, no matter how badly I tried to hide from them and the world at large. And thanks also to the amazing friends that I have had the great good fortune to know, some for many, many years.

I am still in touch with my best friend from high school, although I just spent the last hour or so trying to find the obituary of my first best friend, Michele Dermond, who was not as fortunate as I, she died of a drug addiction and/or homelessness (depending on who is telling the story of her demise) in Fort Wayne, Indiana, sometime in the early 1980s. I remember my parents telling me about her death -they were friends with Michele's parents - Jackie and Ed Dermond. Ed worked with my Dad at Detroit Diesel Allison. I remember playing in the backyard of the Dermond's house off of Girls School Road. We started the fairy club. I remember walking to a Reed's Drug Store and buying a small bag of miniature Reese's peanut butter cups and sitting on a retaining wall over an almost dry creek and eating the candy while it melted on our fingers. I also remember that my Mom said to me when I told her about how we spent our afternoon, that "that is a memory you will have all of your life." And because she said that, it is so. I do remember that afternoon, the heat of a Hoosier summer, the walking and stopping to sit on the concrete wall, licking the chocolate off our fingers, hanging out with Michele, talking and laughing. We both planned to be writers, she actually wrote a diary - I just dreamed of fame and fortune. I have often tried to think about what happened in her life - we lost touch when we went off to different universities (I headed to Indiana University in Bloomington, Michele went to Ball State in Muncie, IN). I was poised to head up to visit her after we had both finished our undergraduate degrees, but a snow storm got in the way. That was the last time I talked with her - I could tell by the sound of her voice that something significant in her life had changed, but I didn't guess what it was. Not that I hadn't done my share of illegal substances by that time in my life, but I wasn't living on the streets, surviving hand to mouth, trying to score my next fix.

In any case, I just said "Hasta luego," to my parents who drove out (620 miles - I come by my love of road trips honestly) to help me celebrate my birthday. While they were here, I asked them again about what they knew about Michele's death, and they repeated the story that I remembered and have already recounted here. I picked up another piece of information that may help me as I search the vital records of Indiana, that is Michele's mother's maiden name, so I will go back online with this new piece of the puzzle and see if I can find a record of her death.

I have devoted a lot of this post to a friend now long gone, but there are certainly many friends who have been an important part of my life and I hope will always continue to be a part of my life. Not just my best friend from high school, but my two dear friends in Albuquerque, along with a group of friends that I am fortunate to work with at the University of Tulsa, and I cannot neglect to mention a new group of friends that I have met thanks to the Stephanie Miller Show and the blog, FourFreedoms. They are a great bunch of folks whose politics and good-humor have gotten me through some of the toughest times I have experienced over the past year.

Kalyn, mfaye, & Vicki at my 50th b-day party

I, like all honest people, have no idea how much more time I have to live in this world, but I am forever grateful for the people who have touched my life, those I mentioned here and those who will be forever in my past. It has been a wild ride and a good life so far, and I will continue on as long as I can - trying desperately to make a positive difference on this planet.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Morose birthday memories-birthdays suck after 10!