Wednesday, January 23, 2013

No Place Like Home


I spent my teen years in Warrenville, a small town in the western suburbs of Chicago.  Mostly blue collar, slightly incestuous in that sort of fun, sort of gross small town way that you can really only understand if you are from one; everyone knows everyone’s business and you know all of theirs.  There are pros and cons to this kind of community.  This is the town where I fell in love two out of the three times I’ve fallen in love.  It’s where I had my first kiss, my first car crash, where I got drunk for the first time, high for the fist time, arrested for the only time, met my best friend, and most of my life-long friends, in fact.  It is also where I was when the proverbial shit hit the fan.  When I was twenty one I fell victim to a  completely devastating broken heart.  It was no one person’s fault, shit happens; especially in your twenties.  What resulted was….well the rest of my life which is pretty great, but what happened first was I ran away from home.  I left Warrenville in a cloud of dust because staying would have resulted in daily reminders of what I wanted and could not have.

The result of my flight was the loss of community.  Community is definitely one of the pros of living in a little town.  I left a lot of friends in my flight for life and I missed them. By that time in my life, I had friends that would always be my friends, but there are people in the world that are important to you that you sometimes don’t even notice until they are no longer around.

A couple of months after I up and disappeared from home I was on a date in downtown Naperville; a really, really bad date.  I said I needed to go to the bathroom as an excuse to figure out how to get the hell out of there, I walked around a corner and literally ran into my old friend Casey.  I had known Casey for five or six years at that point, I hadn’t seen him in a while but had always had a soft spot for him.  He was a good friend of my first boyfriend and at one point had helped my little brother and I out of a bad situation; I was a big fan.  I explained about my crappy date and Casey thought it would be fun to help me escape.  So we left.  I didn’t tell the guy I was leaving; I never spoke to him again.  For all I know, he’s still sitting in that bar in Naperville waiting for me, I hope not; if he thought it was a good date he definitely had his own issues.  Casey and I left, we went and had a drink someplace else and he drove me home.  At that point in my life my personal dating history was pretty short but I definitely already had a flair for the bad boys.  I would have told you that Casey fit the bill.  He was always nice and polite but he had an edge that I always found intriguing.  When we got to my house he asked me for my phone number and I asked him why he wanted it; frankly I didn’t believe he would use it, I was just grateful for the rescue.  He looked at me and said, “I want your phone number because I’m going to call you tomorrow and ask you out on a date.”  To which I replied, “No, you won’t.”  and he looked me square in the face and said, “Kris, you date all of the wrong people.”  I gave him my phone number, and he called me the next day and asked me out on a date.

Of all the many boys in Warrenville I dated, Casey was the only one to ask for my number, call me up and ask me on a date.  When he came to pick me up, he came to the door, he talked to my family, he opened car doors.  I was floored.  We had a fantastic time; he took me to dinner, we didn’t go anywhere near Warrenville, it was lovely.  When we got home he opened my car door, walked me to the front door and kissed me under a porch light.  Thinking back on it now, it may have been the best date I’ve ever been on.  We went out several more times, and ended up spending a couple of fantastic months together, he never became less polite, he was charming and wonderful and warm.  Unfortunately, I was young and broken hearted and I just wasn’t in the right frame of mind to be in a relationship. I stopped seeing Casey because I liked him and at that point in life I didn’t like myself enough to always do what may have been right; I wasn't whole.  We kept in touch for a while but eventually drifted apart.

My life often works in ironic and mysterious ways; I often think of people that I haven’t seen or heard from in years and then hear from them or run into them unexpectedly.  Saturday morning I drove past the apartment where Casey lived when I dated him, I hadn’t thought about him in a long time, I never drive that way and probably hadn’t been down that section of road in ten years.  I thought to myself, I’m going to message Casey’s brother on facebook and ask him to say ‘hi’ for me.   Two hours later my brother called me to tell me Casey died Friday night.

Today he was laid to rest; Casey was young, only a year or so older than me.  He had a family and friends that loved him; he had personal demons that chased him.  He will be missed by many; myself included. My heart aches for his mother and brother.

I spent today in Warrenville with old friends.  We spent the day as a group saying goodbye and reminiscing about a boy who was wild and fun and free and a man who was a friend, a brother, a son and a dad.  He was also polite and sweet and kind and he tried to help fix me when I was broken. When you are forty you appreciate those little kindnesses, when you are twenty one you don’t really see them at all.  I wish I had a chance to tell him what his kindness and friendship meant to me.  Instead I told his brother. 

Here are a few of the things I did and learned today; small and big:

I found out that Ginger thought I hated her and I thought she hated me and it turns out no one hated anybody and all moms across the universe wait with baited breath for 7:30 to roll around and everything to go quiet so we can breathe.

I remembered, yet again, that Colleen is fun to hang out with and I miss her when I don’t see her.  I’m very thankful that she stayed my friend when I ran away from home.

Most importantly to me, today I mended a relationship with someone who has been important to me since I was 17 years old; he is practically part of my family.  Since before my mom died things have been strained between us and I’ve been unable to find a way around it.  Today we went and said goodbye to Casey together and as quickly as the rift sprung up; it is gone.  Wherever Cheli is, today she was happy to see me and Bill together and friends. 

If he were here, I would thank Casey for bringing everyone together.  I wish it could have been under different circumstances, I certainly would have loved to have him with us, but I am thankful none the less.  Everywhere I looked today I saw people coming together; cousins, friends, family, old loves.  Casey was everywhere; and he would have liked that, he was always the life of the party.  Life is short.  Tell the people you love that you love them.  Tell the people who matter that they matter.  Forgive people when you can; you will feel better for it.  Today I was able to go home.  It’s true; you can’t always go home.  But, sometimes you can; when you can….you should.  There’s no place like home.

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