Being a social butterfly isn’t in my comfort zone, and I’ve always been envious of those who can go into new situations and immediately feel at ease. I still have moments of being quiet and not overly outgoing in social situations. Mom enrolled me in tee-ball when I was very young, probably five or six. We went to the park to try out and not knowing anyone was terrifying to me. In fact, I don’t think I even got out of the car. We ended up going back home, never getting out. After some pep talks, we gave it another shot, hoping to overcome my inner fears.
Somehow I wound up on a different team, and distinctly remember driving up to the baseball park once again. I was full of trepidation, and as before, really didn’t want to get out of the car. But then I saw Garrett. We were in the same class at school, and were friends and wasn’t aware he was playing as well. Suddenly, everything seemed good and I stepped onto the practice field and the coach introduced me to everyone, but I had a friend, and it made all the difference.
Garret and I became closer through baseball. Hanging around in school, and during the season brought us closer. I stayed over at his house, and he came over a few times. I got to know his mom, dad, and older brother better and think highly of them. We played baseball together (were even altar boys for the church as well) for a few years, but as we aged, our personalities became different and we drifted apart to an extent. Garret was a great athlete, and was a key member of the team, but his interests drifted away from athletics. We were still friends, but hung out in different groups.
This past Thanksgiving, I was visiting my dad, and a long-term project I’ve been working on has been scanning and digitizing all our old family photographs. I brought back a finished album, and he had a box full of random photos to take back to digitize. When I opened the box, the first picture that caught my eye was one I remember posing for with Garret when he was visiting. I thought he was a cool customer, and I could only cheese it up for the camera in my own, uncool way.
A flood of memories came back in an instant. I’ve always wondered if it were not for Garret, I may never have played baseball. I think of all the great memories that may never have been. Some of my best times as a child centers around baseball. The question often comes to mind. Would it not for Garrett, I may not have stepped out of the car.
Garrett was a character. On one hand, he had convinced the nuns at our school (I went to a Catholic school) he was interested in the priesthood. Obviously they looked very favorably on that. But he could be a cut-up and comedian. He could have people around giggling when he would do something one of the sisters teaching the class was oblivious to. By the seventh grade, I felt we were growing closer again, and was looking forward to our last year together before high school.
A moment frozen in time, I answered the phone and his brother said Garret shot himself. I was sure it was something like a grazing or like an accident like a discharge into a hand or foot. When mom came home, and can still remember her reaction when I told her. While I thought things were fine, completely oblivious to the seriousness of the situation, mom was quite emotional and began to cry and make calls for updates.
The severity was quickly clear to me. Garrett was in the hospital clinging to life, but the damage was too severe. Apparently, he waited until his parents were out of the house and made his fateful decision. Garrett died in the summer heading into eighth grade. He left us far too soon.
I glance at the photo, discolored by time. I smile at the memory of this moment, fully aware that this photo is my only physical connection to Garrett, now gone well over thirty years. I wonder what he would have done, and how he would have been. Would he have met the woman of his dreams and have a family? Would he have actually entered the priesthood? This is doubtful based on what I knew, but you never know. What would he do for a career? As we shared time with family on Thanksgiving, I sent prayers and well wishes to his surviving family, forever pained with the loss.
Garrett was there for me at a time when I needed it. He really didn’t do anything that special or out of his way, but he was a friend when I needed it. The moment I stepped out of the car, a long line of memories sparked to life. It pains me to think he may not have had someone to check in to see how he was doing during his final days. Mom always said she noticed that the Sunday before, when we all left the church, as she was talking with other moms, as she would usually do, she saw he remained inside for a while. Was he praying for guidance? Was he asking for forgiveness for what he was planning?
I’ll never know for sure, but often wonder if I could have returned the favor. We never quite know for sure what goes on in someone’s mind. All I know for sure is that his loss still pains me.
Garrett, I may not always think about you on a daily basis, but sometimes I think about days gone past, or when I hear of other unfortunate suicides, I wonder what may have been. You were there when I needed to get out of the car and overcome my fears. I wish I could have been there to help you when you needed it. You were and shall always be my friend, and take heart knowing your legacy endures.
Till we meet again, my friend.