You grew so fast from the little black-haired baby I gave birth to, to the tow-headed boy who couldn't wait to see what was around the next corner. You grew into such a handsome young man who had your sister's friends falling in love with their brother. You had a certain charisma and class that was hard to put a finger on. I once heard the definition of "class" was the ability to make others feel comfortable around you. This definition would define you. Everyone liked being around you. You were so easy to talk to and now I recognize that it was because you were never judgmental. It didn't matter if you were with the rich or the poor. Your sister Sheree explained it this way.
In high school, the classes of students were separated by the wings of the school. There was A Wing, B Wing, C Wing and D Wing. In each wing a certain stereotype of students would gather and most would feel comfortable only in "their wing". You however, had friends in each wing. From the intellectuals of A Wing to the "stoners" of D Wing, you were able to mingle and fit in.
Your sister Susan would explain it. There could be a man driving a Mercedes and you would be driving your pickup truck but people would gravitate toward you. You were my wonderful, handsome boy, so full of potential.
I wonder what day it was I missed my chance. What day did I miss my chance to recognize you had detoured off the road and was headed down one that was full of shadows and storm clouds.
I remember our talk...well my talk as it were. I talked hoping you were listening. I warned you of smoking. I told you about my brother Henry who had died of cancer of his mouth. He wasn't a heavy smoker, but it didn't take being a heavy smoker. He noticed a small sore in his mouth; one that wouldn't go away. He went to a doctor and they lanced it to drain it, but it only became worse. He was taken from Wyoming to Salt Lake City where they performed surgery and during the procedure inserted a tube in his throat so he could breathe. Later, the cancer would continue its cruel journey around the tracheotomy hole, eating away his entire throat. He would die when he was only thirty three years old.
I warned you about drinking alcohol. My father had been an alcoholic and even as a very small girl I recognized what behavior drinking brought about. I told you I remembered one day when I was three years old and I was with my mother as she stopped at a bar on the south side of Green River, Wyoming to get some beer for my dad. She left me sitting in the car as she went in, and when I saw her returning to the car with the beer, I locked all the car doors not letting her in. After a while, through pleading and threats, I opened the door and cried "I don't want my daddy drinking that bad stuff." When we arrived home, Daddy asked why I had been crying and Mama told him. He said if I didn't want him drinking, he wouldn't drink. He threw the beer into the Green River by our house.
You already recognized how drinking influenced your dad and knew it was not for the better.
How silly I was to think that one talk would be sufficient; that I had covered all my bases that would prevent you from delving into chemicals that would harm you.
I was so naive. To me, drugs were something only hippies used in California. Surely, drugs would never make their way to Provo. I had no idea they had already made their way across the country and had already taken hold in "Happy Valley" Utah. I would soon learn the error of my thinking. Drugs in Utah were very real and would soon threaten my family.
You had gotten a job and decided it was time to leave home and move in with some of your friends. We knew your friends. Some of them belonged to the same ward we belonged to in our church. There was the bishop's son and first counselor's sons and others that had hung around our house, sleeping over and raiding our fridge for years.
Times were hard in the Whiting household at that time. Your dad was having a hard time in his construction business dealing with a partnership he had with his brother. Along with Geneva Steel shutting down, causing a local recession, and a chemical imbalance your Dad already had, he was plunged into a deep depression. At that time, depression or any other emotional problem was considered a mental problem and not a physical one. The medical world was just sitting on the edge of a breakthrough that would soon recognize that a chemical imbalance in the brain would cause the neuro-transmitters not to function correctly, thus causing a myriad of emotional problems...problems that were in fact a medical one. At that time, however, that door had not been opened and there was limited help for anyone with such an imbalance.
Depression in a way is contagious. It has a way of affecting everone, as it did with all those living in our little red brick house. My saviors would be my seven children who for whatever reason held on to your sense of humors. Through all the darkness, you would manage to bring on the sunshine. Silly little things you did would lift weights off my shoulders. Your midnight Naugle's run for example. Naugle's was a Mexican Drive-through restaruant that was opened all night. I would be up waiting up for all of you to get home and when the last one of you would walk through the door, you would jump in the car and take off to Naugles to get food and bring home. We would sit and watch David Letterman on TV and eat french fries in green sause. I know, I wasn't be a very good mother by promoting correct eating habits, but it was such a comfort being there with all of you.
When you made the decision to set out on your own, I couldn't find blame with you. It had been a while since happiness had made an entrance at home. I wanted you to be happy and to make a way in your life. You would visit often and I could tell that you were not eating your Mom's cooking anymore. You had lost weight. "He's must be burning the candle at both ends," you Dad said once. "He looks worn out."
Your dad was coming out of his depression and had just acquired work installing television cable in Park City. He was on his first job that day I received a telephone call.
"Mrs. Whiting?" A voice answered as I said "Hello."
"Yes." I answered.
"Please don't hang up on me." The lady on the other end said.
"I don't hang up on people" I replied.
"Do you know your son is killing himself with cocaine?" She asked.
My breath caught in my throat as my heart skipped a beat.
-to be continued-