A man shoots and kills his wife and then turns the gun on himself. It happens with enough frequency that we might not take note of it when reading or watching the news, except a momentary thought of how unfortunate it is. Then the news goes on to the latest celebrity gossip and you don’t think of it again. Until it is someone you know.
My best friend from high school killed his wife last night, who was also my friend, and then turned the gun on himself. At least, that is what the news says. It is still very difficult for me to write those words. It is very difficult to comprehend… Why. It is difficult to comprehend the loss of two very good people, one at the hands of the other, when they seemed so outwardly in love. It is difficult to comprehend how my life did and didn’t intersect with their lives over the years.
I deal with difficult feelings best by writing about them, and that is why I am writing this, which I guess will serve as both a tribute to them (though I won’t write their names here), and a difficult thought exercise for myself, with–perhaps–a lesson about friendship in modern society. For those who might be reading who are not connected to any of this, I hope I can manage to compose it in such a way to hold your interest.
In the Beginning
I met Him in middle school in the suburbs of Columbus, Ohio. We weren’t friends right away. In fact, I’m not sure we really became so until high school. Like a lot of teenagers, we had our group, which included a few other guys as well. We were always together. We were like brothers. Especially me and Him. We played baseball together, both in a summer league and on our own at the local diamond. We drank together. We watched football together. We partied together. We played pool together. We sometimes got into trouble together, as teenagers often do.
I met Her, and two of her friends, in high school when I was walking back from a fishing hole with a friend outside of our “group”. They passed by in a red van and honked. We waved. They turned around and came back to talk to us. They went to school at my high school’s sports rival. They offered us a ride. We accepted. But that wasn’t the end of it. We went out with them that night. I introduced Her and her friends to my group of friends. There were a lot of get-togethers. Eventually, Him and Her started dating.
We all shared a lot of fun times together. We laughed together. We cried together (we lost way too many people we knew in high school). Yes, it was a group… Her group and “my” group, but the two of them were the most constant presence in my life during that period.
And then, I graduated from high school. Life stared me in the face. I had focused so much on my friends I had neglected my future. At least, I felt that way at the time. I turned away from my high school life completely. Abruptly. And put my entire focus on my future. I am certain many of my friends from that time take issue with how I handled that. I don’t blame them for it. Many, if not most, managed to sculpt a successful life for themselves without doing what I did, but that was the path I chose.
As I neared graduation from Ohio State, I received a call at my mom’s house.
It was Him.
Through a very scratchy connection, he told me he was in the military. He was calling from overseas. He didn’t explain how he found me. I just know it was good to talk and reconnect. It was like old times.
We stayed in touch after that. Regularly, but intermittently. Emails. Sometimes a phone call. Through me living in Central America and him being deployed wherever the government decided to send him.
I eventually ended up in Southern California. Eventually, there was Facebook. Eventually, She reached out to me on Facebook and we became friends. I dumped Facebook. Twice. I have a love/hate relationship with it. She was always there when I returned.
He called me up one day. I remember it well. I was on my patio. It was a beautiful sunny day. I told him I was friends with her. He wasn’t on Facebook at the time. At his request, I helped them connect again. The next time I spoke to him, they were getting married.
I don’t go home, to Columbus, very often. Maybe once a year for a few days. I go there predominantly to see my family, and sometimes go to an Ohio State game. Whenever I did go home, He or She, or both, asked to get together. Every visit. Every time. I ended up not getting together because of the limited time with my family. Every visit. Every time.
I’ll see them next time.
We did have a planned get together once. He called me a few hours before I was supposed to come over to tell me he got called into work. I was flying out the next day. It never happened.
Making face time not happen was the theme through last night. Then I saw a high school friend post condolences to their families on Facebook. I asked what happened. He messaged me. I went into my bedroom and laid down. I stared at the ceiling fan. I had a good long cry. I don’t do that often. I’m usually trying to be the strong one. But there was nobody to be strong for this time. It was me. Alone; with all of these thoughts about Him and Her and the times we had together and the opportunities lost. Forever.
I am an introvert. I have an almost uncanny ability to genuinely care a lot about someone, yet hold them at a distance. I have known this about myself for years. It’s not a new revelation. It is a reason why I can genuinely consider myself a friend of someone, yet not see them in person. Facebook makes it easier. It is both integral to the existence of Facebook “friends”, and to making it easier to not see friends and family with relationships that have nothing to do with Facebook.
Facebook can be a wonderful thing, if it accentuates your personal relationships and doesn’t serve as a replacement for them. I think we all know that. I know I did. But did I really know that? If I didn’t before, I sure do now.
I loved both of them. I thought about them more than they will ever know. Seeing either of them in person and giving a real hug is infinitely more valuable than a million “I love you bro” messages on Facebook. I will never get that chance again. And neither will any of their many friends and family members near and far. Those of you who were there, with them, expressing your feelings in person, I commend you. Sincerely. You’ve been there for them in ways that I have not. For those who are like me, and I am sure there are many of you, take this opportunity to reach out to someone you do care about in a way more personal than an instant message or Facebook post. Your opportunity is now. Don’t let it pass by.