Sunday, January 15, 2017

Damned Demons

My high school German teacher was a teacher of the old school. She was strict. She was demanding. But she loved her students.

One morning at the beginning of class she noticed that Patty was absent. My teacher remembered a front page story in the evening newspaper from the day before. A look of fear came across her face and she quietly asked, “Was that her mother?”

I knew where Patty lived. I was also friends with someone whose family was friends with Patty’s family. I knew that Patty’s mother had been in a bad traffic accident years before and was in constant terrible pain.

The story in the newspaper told of a woman who went into her garage, took a garden hose from the exhaust pipe of her car, ran the other end of the hose into the car, got in the car, and turned on the engine.

When I worked the night shift at a radio station in Central California, Mike did mornings. He was a loud, boisterous kind of guy. He had done mornings for years, but was later demoted to mid-days when a friend of the program director’s was looking for work.

Mike ended up quitting a few years later and opened a bar. Ten years after I left the radio station a friend from that station called me to tell that one day, as Mike’s wife was about to go Christmas shopping, Mike told her that she would get a big surprise when she came home.

When his wife came home, she found that Mike had blown his head off with a shotgun.

A few months ago there was a post about of an obituary of one of my instructors from junior college. He was 73, as I recall, and had died of natural causes. That did get me thinking about Dan, another instructor.

Dan was a good guy with a great sense of humor. He was rather dapper, always wearing a three-piece suit to class. He drove a classic Jaguar. Dan was looking forward to me being successful in radio and he could not wait to listen to me on KGO (San Francisco) – even though radio was not my major in junior college.

I tried looking up information about Dan. About the only thing I could find at first was mention of a memorial scholarship in his name. Further searching told me he died in August, 1981. He was 38.

I have a friend from high school who went into the line of work we studied in junior college. Dave is retired now and often travels to diverse place around the world. I did not want to ask Dave when he was on one of his trips. Last night he was home, so I messaged him.

He replied, “Only know the short story, he put a gun to his head and pulled the trigger. Whatever demons he was fighting got the better of him.”

Several days ago I was speaking with someone about what super power we would like to have. We talked about the usual stuff.

Now I realize that if I could have a super power, it would be the ability to slay those demons that drive people to desperation.

As I mentioned, my friend Dave travels around the world. He goes where the people go, not to big resorts. It is as if he travels to see the good in people everywhere. I have often thought that this was his way of fighting his demons.

I just wish I could help others fight theirs.


  1. Thank you for the heartfelt post Matt. I've come to believe that people who take their own lives are in so much pain, either physically or mentally, that they can't see the utter devastation of their actions on their family and friends.

    I must believe that. It's the only way I can cope with the long list (that keeps getting longer).

    "..the ability to slay those demons that drive people to desperation.."

    What an incredible super power that would be! Bless you Matt. You're a wonderful man and I'm proud that you're my friend.

  2. Thank you Lady Red.

    The sad part is that sometimes people feel that their continued presence is devastating to those around them. That is feeling we need to eliminate.

    1. Yes. It's just so hard to know sometimes....I think, why didn't this person call me? We talk about everything! I would have been there!

      But. I wasn't there, was I?

      Gotta shake it off though and keep on going. It doesn't do any good if one of us falls into that black abyss. We can't help anyone then.

      Probably too much sharing: I was buying groceries early one morning right before Christmas, and the cashier (an older lady, late 60s? Early 70s?) started crying when I wished her a Merry Christmas. I went behind the counter to her and just hugged her and hugged her. I cried, I told her it's okay to be sad. I was so shaken I even wrote a poem about it, which is so breath-stealing that I'll probably never share it. I may have kept someone's nose above water. I hope I did.

      We all do the best we can. Sometimes it's the smallest things that make all the difference to someone.

    2. Sometimes the pen, or keyboard, is the only tool we have to fight our own demons. I often would like to write something, but the more I want to write he less I know what to say.

      If you should decide to share your poem, I would love to read it.

    3. Oh Lord! Okay, I'll email it to you, but don't go jumping off the roof after you read it!

    4. Damn, Lady. That was good. I thought you hit is, well not beautifully (if you understand what I mean), but poignantly.

    5. She touched me so deeply that I had to find an outlet for all the emotions. You know? It was too much to carry around.

    6. I understand. I think we have had some good writing here on the table for that very reason.

    7. Oh, I am sure the lady had a much better Christmas because of you.

      You are a blessing.

  3. I would like to see your poem as well, Lady Red. I think it might do me some good to see how others feel, just now

    1. I nominate Lady Red as the Poet Lauriate of the Table.

      It is good, but I will leave it to Lady Red as to whether she wants to post it.

    2. Oh my gosh you guys. Okay. Here it is, for what it's worth:

      Natale Melancholia

      Once more it’s Christmas

      I won’t put up a tree or cheery decorations,

      Tinsel, red and green, wreaths bedecked with pinecones.

      No one comes to visit anyway,

      I won’t hang up the single card I received

      From the insurance office downtown.

      It would look so lonely there on the mantle, by itself.

      I won’t cook a big dinner

      Ham and sweet potatoes, pie

      For just myself.

      I won’t listen to Christmas music,

      Haunting and holy,

      Jingles and snowmen.

      The carols bring me sadness,

      And flood me with memories.

      I’ll sit quietly in my little house

      And pretend that Christmas is just another day

      While my family celebrates with gifts and laughter

      Without me. Far away.

      I’ll sit with my ghosts; the voices of those no longer here,

      Whispering from Heaven.

      Hallelujah! Hallelujah!

      And I’ll pray for Christmas to be over.