The boy who wanted to be a stunt man.

We noticed when he began throwing himself down the stairs.

“What are you doing, trying to kill yourself?”

“No,” he said.  “I’m practicing to be a stunt man.”

Sometimes he’d start at the top of the stairs.  Seized by a heart attack at the age of seven, he’d clutch his chest, crumble to his knees, and then roll – bump, bump, bump – down each step.  Other times he’d start at the bottom and dash up – chased by a knife-wielding or gun-toting villain – only to be stabbed or shot in the back half-way up, whereupon he would crumble to his knees, and then roll – bump, bump, bump – down each step.  Backwards.

When he perfected falling down stairs, he moved on to leaping over trees.  Short trees to be sure, sapling evergreens, but a fair leap for a kid.  Eventually he graduated to flinging himself sling-shot fashion out of bigger trees.

The year my parents took part in a local theater production of Dracula, he pretended to be the lunatic Renfield, and collected flies in a jar.  He went around saying heh heh heh and wringing his hands for a year.

He had a paper route and accidentally set himself on fire.  He graduated high school and started lifting weights.  He grew muscles.  He went to college and studied chemistry.  He thought about becoming a pharmacist.  He got married and had two sons, instead.  When I got married he was best man at my wedding.  He showed up shortly before zero hour in a car with a door that wouldn’t open.

For a while he chased demons.

What happens from there to here?  From boy to man?  From lost to found?  Life.  Life happens.  And we manage somehow to muddle our way through it.

For the love of a good woman (my take on it), he has now found his way to where he needs to be.  He is not a stunt man.  He’s a research scientist/engineer and he would like to go to the moon.  Or at least into outer space.  I think that he is happy now.  Which is the best stunt ever.

He wins.

Boy bundled up & reading on a cold winter afternoon. Stunt boy bundled up & reading on a cold winter afternoon.

N.B.  I started this as last week’s DPChallenge on Character.  I like stories, and what are stories, but a study of character?

Not waving, but drowning . . . .

Not Waving but Drowning

Nobody heard him, the dead man,
But still he lay moaning:
I was much further out than you thought
And not waving but drowning.

Poor chap, he always loved larking
And now he’s dead
It must have been too cold for him his heart gave way,
They said.

Oh, no no no, it was too cold always
(Still the dead one lay moaning)
I was much too far out all my life
And not waving but drowning.

Stevie Smith

I had planned on posting a piece about the end of my summer.  But, then I was reminded that today is World Suicide Prevention Day.   And I thought about how on May 6th, fourteen years ago, my brother, the baby of the family, sat in the same lounge chair that he often slept in, and ended his life.

Depression is an insidious disease.  Statistically, more people in the world die from suicide than from war and murder combined.  I can understand why:  Life is full of misery and hardship.   There are moments in almost every day that I think this.  But there are also moments in every day when I find something to feel good about or laugh at, and that is enough for me.  That, and having a wonderfully funny son, a loving husband, family, and friends.

My brother and I talked about a lot of things, but we danced around the possibility of suicide.  I worried that if I said the word aloud it would make the possibility more real.

So, let’s talk about it, people.  You can find help and resources here.  Or call 800-273-TALK (8255) now.

Let’s not be afraid to say it:  Don’t die.


My brother, Tom. Taken on my last visit with him, a few weeks before he died.