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December 05 • Back-up the Bus

Day 514

Tracy Black thought I was special. A year or two younger than my third-grade age, he watched my youth group activities in church and made a big deal out of seeing me in skits, choirs, and even once in a patriotic parade on a float in our small Kentucky town. When Tracy saw me on the playground or anywhere else, he always seemed to have something nice and uplifting to say to me.

I never knew how to react to his kindness. No one else had ever treated me that way with such consistency, and it seemed a little weird even as it made me feel good. I liked Tracy Black.

Stories spread quickly through our small school one fall morning about a kid that had been hit by a car while crossing the road to get on a bus packed with student witnesses. They said he was knocked forty feet in the air in plain sight of a couple of dozen traumatized young eyes. When I got home, I learned it was Tracy. He was dead.

As my mom told me what she knew, I just awkwardly stood there reliving a few memories of him being kind to me. He let me ride his pony, and he owned the first G.I. Joe I'd ever seen, and he was more than willing to share it with me in his backyard fort.

I wondered whether I should be sad. I did not go to the funeral; I don't recall whether I knew anything about it. I don't remember any further conversation about Tracy at home, and I didn't see his parents again for more than ten years when I returned to the same town to attend college. I visited them in their business just to say hi. We never mentioned the hollowness in the room caused by the death of their only child a decade previous. The first time I heard Mr. Black laugh, I caught myself shocked and wondering how he could do that; I assumed he had been grieving the whole time. He had been, of course, but he also got on with life.

As I type this, decades later, my eyes are leaking for the first time thinking about this, even though I've thought of Tracy often.

This next thing is a ridiculous confession and I don't know what it has to do with Tracy Black, but

I don't remember being a child.

I do remember my childhood years, generally with great detail that has been validated as accurate more often than not. But those memories are through the same adult eyes and filters that I've used for as long as I can recall. For years I've accepted that I was one of those old souls, a young man more mature than my friends. Today I'm wondering if I missed something back then, something like an innocence that can't really be faked.

In recovery, I'm being asked to reclaim my childhood as a healthy tool. That doesn't make sense to me. My overall memories of those youthful years are idyllic; I have always considered my childhood to be pain-free. But maybe I just didn't always know what is supposed to cause pain, so instead of allowing it to run its course, I ignored it, allowing it to fester and turn to shame. Years later this all played some role in my destructive and dangerous behaviors, maybe a big role.

Despite having great parents and friends, crap happens to lots of kids, and the hurtful experiences I have re-visited during the past year or so, while not numerous, are substantive. I can't help but wonder whether there might be more waiting for me.

I have no desire to dig into my past looking for the proverbial pony under the pile of shit (or is it the other way around?), but I am willing to do what it takes to remain sober and to get on with my life.



Don't wanna look like a fool

Stay in line

And everything's fine

Riding on the bus to school

Sit tight

Don't fight

Everybody's all right

–Jay Ducharme, ”Riding on the Bus"



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