With both of our vehicles jam packed, my parents and I set off to move me to Calgary. I was excited for a fresh start, and a chance to press reset on everything. It was time for a second chance. As we made our way to Calgary, I was ecstatic. This really was the beginning to the rest of my life.
We pulled into the parking lot at MRU Residences and opened the door. Jokes were cracked at the expense of this dump, we belly-laughed. It was a beautiful day. Sun was out. It was hot. I just remember feeling so good, genuine joy at that moment. I was grateful for my parents, everything they’d done for me, everything they’d put up with, it even hit me I would miss them as they left. I just reveled in joy, and happiness for a while. I was on my own for the first time. This was it. I felt refreshed, relieved and ready for the beginning of the rest of my life.
It didn’t take long for the euphoria to wear off. I began to hate the place I lived. I began to hate having no money. What I thought would be this awesome university experience was none of that. It didn’t take long to sink back into my old ways. Struggling to find happiness but somehow convincing myself that everything was ok. When you have this recipe, you become an asshole. That’s what ensued. I had a hard time making friends, really only because I chose to have a hard time making new friends. I thought I was better, or too cool for everyone else. I’d go to class, sit in the back, scoff at the try hards, then class would end. I’d throw my headphones in and walk to the next class by myself. I wanted nothing to do with just about anyone I saw.
Then, I was asked from one of my instructors at the time if I would be interested in coaching hockey.
This was the first good thing that had happened since I pulled into the parking lot at 52A on campus. One thing I always knew I wanted in my life was to be a hockey coach. I may have stumbled through my entire life to that point not knowing who I was or what I wanted, the only thing I knew was I wanted
to coach hockey. Even when I played, I just wanted to coach. Ever since I was a kid. Finally, I had the chance to get involved, it just kind of fell into my lap. I quickly accepted this invitation and met some of the best people in my life. Without this opportunity ever happening, I honestly don’t know where I would be today, or if I’d even have made it this far. I can guarantee I wouldn’t have lasted long in Calgary without this outlet. I really have to thank Geoff for a lot of this.
I began living two different lives. One at the arena that I enjoyed, and one on campus that I hated. I felt purposeful, and relevant at the arena. I felt two feet tall, and alone on campus. I wanted to hide on campus, I didn’t want to be seen, or heard. I wanted to be seen, and heard at the rink. Going back and forth from these lifestyles became exhausting, I was such a different person in each place that it really became difficult to know who I was. I’d be frustrated with myself that I couldn’t be who I was at the arena while at school. I hated it. I felt smart, creative, I had ideas at the arena. I wasn’t afraid of mistakes. I wanted work, I wanted to learn, I wanted to get better. At school, I had no interest in any of it. I didn’t want to do any of the work, I didn’t care to learn, I wanted the time to just evaporate. I did the bare minimum, and good enough, was just that… it good enough. At the arena, I refused to accept good enough. I needed great. I had drive, passion. Didn’t matter how hard it was. I wanted more.
At school, as weeks went by, and group projects became a thing, I would be the last kid on the playground picked for stuff, simply because no one really knew me. I hid, and surely I was not the most inviting person in the classroom. Eventually, I realized I had to get over myself, and I aligned myself with the people I thought were most like me. They were good dudes, and we got along. They were about my only friends I think I ever really made at campus. The rest of the people I just found so phony, I had no time for it. I am sure they were good people, I just wasn’t a good person myself, so it was hard for me to give anyone else a fair chance, when I couldn’t even give myself one.
To this day, I have zero friends from my four years at university. Not one. This used to bother me, but now I laugh at it, and shake my head at myself. Again, because my life at the arena was so vastly different. Guess where all my friends come from. But, now I find humor in this… How do you go to university for four years, and come out with more degrees than friends. (1)
As my mind continued to flip back and forth from Arena Life and Campus Life, I spent more and more of what little money I had at the liquor store, looking to party. This was how I was able to trick myself into being social, and feeling more relevant amongst my peers. I could tell myself I was fine, but I wasn’t fine, not even close. I was confused. I was entrenched in sadness, loneliness and confusion. I increasingly became more and more difficult to deal with, and when I went out, I bordered out of control. But, it allowed me to sort of escape everything so I didn’t stop.
Back at home, things weren’t great either, but this time I had the luxury of ignoring everything, and turning away from it all because I didn’t live there anymore, and it was at about that moment, I learned the real reason of why I was enthralled with the idea of moving away, and being on my own. Ultimate Avoidance. I avoided absolutely anything that could interfere with me coasting through my life on campus. I remember my parents were heading towards a divorce, to which I thought ‘about time’.
There was a point I didn’t even know if they were together or not anymore, and I didn’t care either. My own Mom and Dad, that really did so much for me, ultimately held my hand to get me to where I was. I didn’t know if they were together anymore or not. I just didn’t want to care.
I can’t imagine the stress my brother was enduring at home, but I wasn’t there so I didn’t have to deal with it. He was 8. He could handle it. Not my problem anymore.
As I turned away from everything, I pushed everyone away that mattered to me. Amanda (my high school girlfriend) was still in the fight of her life with Leukemia, though she was doing better. I was not, and I still handled this the worst way possible and continued to ignore it and pretend it wasn’t happening. Truth is, I was so scared I would lose her that I just pushed her away, and I lost her myself. It was almost as if I could just lose her on my own, I wouldn’t have to deal with ever actually losing her. Ultimate Avoidance. In hindsight, it’s disgusting, and sick that is how I was. This girl, that was in love with since Grade 7, whom I had been dating for the majority of my life since Grade 9. She was in the fight of her life, and probably needed me more then ever, but I was nowhere to be found because I couldn’t handle the real world myself. I was partying instead. Ignoring everything that was my life away from the arena. I think it got to a point where we deleted each other off of social media, began to slowly hate each other, and we didn’t talk. At least for me, it was trying to convince myself I didn’t need that relationship, and for her, I am sure she just hated who I had become, and ultimately, I did too. If we did talk, it was hurtful and uncivil, with my leading the way in attempts to push her right out of my life. Really, this became a part of my life that I was not at all proud of, and just confirmed the type of monster I was becoming. Until, I would get to the rink, It was there that I felt like a good person. I continued to confuse myself. Who was I, really? Why was I like this at one place, and such a monster at a different place?
As the year went on, and hockey ended. I really loafed my way through the rest of the school year. My parents would always tell me growing up that I was lazy, never applied myself to anything. School, or playing hockey. I always thought screw you guys, but then sometime in February, March… six months into my post-secondary career, I realized just how right they were. But, I didn’t do anything to change it, I guess that’s the exact thing they were talking about. Plus, my new skill I had learned. Ultimate Avoidance. I ignored everything. I just couldn’t wait to get home to drink, and party with my real friends. All I wanted to do. I didn’t put in much time or effort studying for exams, or working on projects. I’d again do the bare minimum and hope for good enough, and then I would head out and party. I began to further neglect everyone else in my life; my parents, my brother, my sister, and even my friends at home I was an asshole to them whenever we’d talk. If you reached out, chances are… I tried to push you away.
March 30, 2008
About 2-3 weeks before I was heading home. Nothing was going on. Hockey was done. I was “studying” for exams, and finishing up classes. I was bored, yet I pretended I was the busiest person in the world, studying, working on projects, doing school things. Because, it made me feel superior. I actually remember my mom asking me if I had been studying in the library, and I lied, I said “Yes!”. Truthfully, I had never once even walked into the library. Not one time. If I wasn’t watching sports, or playing video games. I’d watch HBO shows, and Criminal Minds. It got so bad that I’d get through an entire 12 episode season in a day or two. That was studying, that was the ‘library’.
Amidst an episode of something, I received a facebook notification for a message. I was frustrated… Ugh, who is this? what do they want? Oh… It was my sister. I hadn’t talked to her in a long time. I still had carried some resentment towards her for everything that had happened in the past, it was all just beneath me again I thought. I had no time for drama. I had no time for family. Ultimate Avoidance. Last I heard, she was doing well, so I left it at that and turned away. I want to say it was literally months since we had spoken.
Clearly, I had no time for anyone else. Reading this again… is upsetting, it hurts. She was always such a caretaker, and tried to protect me. She just wanted me to be happy, and to be doing well. Little did she know, I was not doing well, and I was a mess. But, I wasn’t about to tell her. I wasn’t stressed about school. School probably provided me genuinely the least amount of stress in my life. Hard to stress about something you did not care about whatsoever. I zombie-d my way through that entire first year. Then the only bullshit drama there really was, was just me, pushing everyone out of my life.
This would be our last conversation.
I moved home sometime towards the third week of April that year. I partied for about three weeks straight. It didn’t take long to piss people off around me. I think by about this time my mom was probably ready for me to go back to Calgary. I just remember we fought lots. I recall my parents were still living together, trying to make things work, and I don’t think I really even knew that. But I didn’t care at all. I had gotten a summer job with the town working with some buddies. It was the dream summer job for guys my age in our town. Great pay for an 18 year old, and we just worked outside cutting grass. I was supposed to start Thursday, May 8. It was shaping up to be a good summer. Great little summer job. Free living. Free Food. Friends. Booze. What else would I need?
May 7, 2008
The day before I was about to start my dream summer job. It was a gloomy day out. Cloudy. It was colder. My parents were back to their regular ways of fighting, so I tried to spend as little time as I could actually at home. If my parents and I weren’t fighting, they were fighting with each other. I had no problem deserting my poor 8 year old brother to deal with all the fighting on his own. I was not a great big brother, nor a great little brother. But, I thought that I was great. I went to my buddies house that afternoon, and we were looking at some houseboating options as we were planning this extravagant party weekend for the boys. I was pumped. Again, this was truly shaping up to be a great summer.
Then, as we were perusing different trips, throwing out ideas. Arguing even a bit because I was so difficult, and wanted to be the guy. My flip phone started buzzing. My uncle Jeff was calling me. Combined with how I had no time for anyone but myself, and the fact that my uncle never called me. I thought, that’s weird… whatever, decline call. He left me a voicemail. Right away I listened to the voicemail curious as to why he was calling me. I could sense the panic, and the urgency that was in his voice. I was confused. Then, he texted me.
“CALL ME RIGHT NOW WHERE ARE YOU”
Again, I thought this was odd. The urgency and panic was confirmed with the apparent use of caps lock
in his text. I was confused, but I was also irritated that someone was interrupting me. I was hanging out with my friends, leave me alone.
I called him back, and I just remember him almost yelling
“WHERE ARE YOU, GET YOUR ASS HOME NOW, YOU NEED TO GO HOME.”
I asked WTF is going on, and he just told me I needed to get home, be with Brody because my dad had to leave to go and get my mom. I knew my mom was leaving to Edmonton so that made no sense to
me. I told the boys I had to go. I remember the drive home from my buddies place to mine, which was
about five minutes in reality, but in this moment, it seemed like an eternity. A million thoughts ran through my head, of what could be happening. Was there an accident? Then I thought, my parents got into another fight so something happened there? Things finally got really ugly, and Brody needs me? Did something happen to Amanda? Is my brother sick? Grandparents? Did we get robbed? Fire? Literally, any scenario I thought possible, I thought of.
As I walked back into the house through the garage, my Dad had opened the door, and had this extremely frazzled, almost a scared look to him. One I have never ever seen on that man. This is one of the most stoic people I have ever known. But, this wasn’t normal. He wasn’t himself. Something was happening. We exchanged a brief conversation of him giving me instructions, and I responded of course with defiance.
“Just wait here with Brody, I won’t be long. I have to go get your mother”
“Isn’t she gone to Edmonton?”
“Yes, I know, I have to go now”
“Why, what’s going on”
“Just sit with Brody, I’ll be back, Just stay here. Don’t go anywhere.”
As he spoke, his voice increased with panic, and urgency. My spidey-senses went into a five alarm tingle. Something bad had happened. Very bad.
I simply nodded to my Dad, and went downstairs to see Brody. As I watched Brody race through the Need for Speed video game on the PlayStation, I tried to do the math in my head, if my mom had left 20-30 minutes ago, which I knew she had… In order for my dad to catch her, he’d have to literally drive like he was in the Need for Speed game. I remember Brody and I joking about this.
My mind left that moment, and again began to race elsewhere. The pit in my stomach began to grow, and this feeling took over that something really bad had happened. This was not right. But, I couldn’t quite put my finger on it. The disconnect here I think was my perspective on my parents relationship. That seemed like the most possible outcome here was that something was going on with my parents, something happened that my Dad had to chase Mom down the highway. I figured I knew what was going on, but I couldn’t understand why everyone was so frantic about this. I wanted them to get divorced, and to just find happiness on their own. As this was the only outcome that made some sense, I began to calm down a little bit. I thought I’d be relieved when I finally found out what was happening.
Surely, when they got home, they’d announce to us they were getting a divorce. But it still didn’t make sense, why my Dad had to literally risk his life on the highway to catch her. To this day, I still think about that. How fast did he have to go? How’d he catch her? What happened? I watched Brody play video games for a bit longer, and I asked him what he thought. He was a smart kid, and quite funny too. I can’t recall what is was that he said, but he knew something wasn’t right, I could see he was upset, but he was also trying to hide it and remain strong. I never knew what he thought, or if his mind was racing like mine. I just knew he was shook up. He just tried to play the game and ignore it. But, I could see it. I began to feel a knot twist in my stomach even further, and then suddenly something hit me. Something hit me that I needed to protect my brother, I needed to finally step up and be Brody’s big brother. Something I had neglected to do for so many years. I felt for the first time in maybe ever, this sense of purpose regarding my family. I felt family. I felt love in our family. I was proud to actually feel that this time, instead of ignoring, or neglecting my family. I felt a strong bond with my bro that evening, like we really connected, came together. It was like we were one day apart, not ten years. I asked Brody if he was hungry, we went upstairs, made some dinner and waited on the couch for my Dad to return. Would he return with Mom? Would he catch her? Those were all the answers
I awaited, and tried to figure out as we blankly watched TV. It was maybe half hour later… I heard the garage door open, I knew my Dad was home then. Little did I know, that my entire life would drastically change the minute the door would open in a few seconds.
Life has never been the same since. The door from the garage slowly opened, and I heard my mom just absolutely sobbing. My mind went off again, I convinced myself almost immediately, ok… whatever happened, it can’t be related to my parents marriage, because honestly no one in our house would feel that kind of emotion about it. I went back to wondering what could be wrong. My mom somehow managed to get herself around the corner into the living room where my brother and I were. I heard a knock at the door, and my dad went to get it. Now I was confused. Who the hell is here. It was this woman from the RCMP, Victim Services Unit. I began to get very agitated, I thought I had figure out what was going on. This was an intervention for me, and they were going to send me to some sort of rehab or something because I drank too much. I knew it. So this VSU lady enraged me because for a moment, I thought she was going to take me away. But, then when my Dad came back into the scene… That thought left my mind immediately. He was emotional. I’ve never seen emotion from him ever. Never. He wouldn’t cry if I needed an intervention. He wouldn’t have tears in his eye. I could see him almost shaking. I remember studying him head to toe as if his body language would disclose the tragedy that had transpired. As I sat on the couch, people started talking. I don’t remember who first, or what was said. I just remember my body undergo this intense amount of pain, my entire body. I felt weak, powerless. My stomach sunk, and twisted. I felt nauseous. Looking back, this… this was real heartbreak. I felt jittery, tingly, yet this sharp pain consumed every inch of my body. Tears began to well into my eyes. I can’t remember who was the one that actually said it. I am pretty sure it was my Mom, maybe my Dad. I just remember her struggling to stay upright, and breathe. I believe both her and my dad grabbed my hand, it was like a vice grip. Or maybe my dad had grabbed Brody. I can’t recall. There was just this intense grip on my hand, and at that moment the only thought I hadn’t thought of came into my mind.
Something happened to Jen.
Just as I came to that realization. Every sinking, twisting pain I felt, intensified even more, and the
tragedy was revealed.
Jennifer has committed suicide.
I didn’t even really comprehend what had been said, I heard the words, my mind knew, but my body hadn’t yet processed what had happened. (It doesn’t make sense, but I hope you never have to experience that feeling.)
I remember my lip violently began to quiver, I intensely stared hard away from this scene in our living room as if it weren’t real, and the harder I would squeeze, the sooner I could just escape the nightmare. I tried to squeeze the knots loose in my stomach, and I just prayed I would wake up, and realize this was not real.
For some reason, I tried so hard to hold it all together, to not break down. I think as I tried to do that, I believed I truly believed I could still be able to escape, to turn away. I had never felt something this excruciating before, I had just never experienced devastation before, and I guess this was what it felt like.
It took a few seconds of this, then everything I had just collapsed, everything. I felt drained, empty. I had just tried so hard to hold everything together. To avoid this. To turn away. To pretend this wasn’t real. All in just a few seconds. Then, when I just lost the strength to squeeze any harder, I collapsed. I couldn’t run anymore. I realized this was in fact real. This happened, there was nowhere to go and there was nowhere to hide. I guess this was the moment my body finally processed what my mind had just learned.
My sister, my hero, the person I one time wished to be my best friend… had committed suicide.
You know when you have a really bad dream, and you wake up. You have that moment of panic and fear, then it’s followed by this sense relief as you realize it was just a dream, then
you go back to sleep… This was that, except… that moment of relief and realization of a dream never came.
It didn’t matter how hard I squeezed, or how deeply I stared somewhere else.
I couldn’t run anymore. I never had the chance to go back to sleep.
This nightmare was real.
This would be the beginning of the rest of my life.
May 7, 2008