It happens. You never forget it but it happens. It happens more than you can imagine and it isn’t a forgettable experience. After more than sixty years the memory is still fresh in my mind. Terry Lipski, briefly a boyhood friend, disappeared one day.
Terry arrived in our neighborhood – I’m guessing sometime between our 5th and 6th grade years? He was well mannered and never failed to tell my mother how nice she looked. My mother loved that about him. He was sincere about his compliments; he just had that way about him. Terry had moved in with his Aunt who lived on Annapolis, a couple of blocks over; right across the street from another friend Tony Hernandez. The house became a mystery because we, as Terry’s friends, weren’t allowed to come inside. That mystery was never solved except that after Terry disappeared, the Aunt’s house was made a mystery all the more.
I can’t recall the city that Terry said he was from, it was somewhere up in Northern Michigan and he said he had to move to our neighborhood to live with his Aunt. We never asked why he had done so because it didn’t matter. He was fun to have as a friend because he was so nice to be around. The only thing that bothered me about Terry was my mother continuously suggesting that I should be more like him. Terry, for his age, had a deep voice and spoke very loudly. You always knew when he was around because he commanded the space wherever he was. Then, without explanation, he quietly disappeared.
It was several months later that I learned what happened to Terry. I believe it was on a weekend morning when I was downstairs in our basement that my mother came with the news. “Ronnie” she said, “I have something I need to tell you.” She went on… “Your friend Terry, I just learned, has committed suicide.” Well, I cried of course for a very long time about my friend.
I assumed he had shot himself and whether it truly was suicide or not I will probably never know? As an adult, and a parent now, I don’t know how else you are to tell an eleven or twelve year old that his friend has just committed suicide. We as parents aren’t taught how to do that. The fact that it still troubles me at this late age should say something about how these types of events affect us for the rest of our lives. Though many generations have passed, the hurt never goes completely away.
There are similar events, increasingly and continuously, going on around us that we have a tendency to want to ignore. Because, I think, they are too painful to think about. No one wants to deal with them. The events I am referring to are children killing children. When finding a parent’s, or guardian’s unsecured weapon; a child’s guilt can only be their inherent curiosity. It is the parent’s carelessness where-in the guilt lies. I think it is time, we as a nation did something about it.
Another memory comes to mind; as a young adult I had a favorite Uncle that committed suicide with a gun. He was a World War II veteran and had earned a purple heart having suffered the loss of an eye in battle. I’m sure he was a victim of what we now know today as PTSD (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder). I have a horrific vision of my cousin, his daughter, having found him. I think how terrible that memory must be for her to have to live with. Our Veterans today are killing themselves at an alarming rate, at last count, as many as 22 a day and it needs to be fixed… NOW!
Statistics show, by the end of 2015, about 265 children picked up a firearm and shot someone by accident. Their families, and their victim’s families, will never be able to forget what happened to their loved ones. The pain and the memory of the event will forever be unforgettable.
He was a kind soul that Terry. I have spent time looking for records of Terry’s life to no avail. It is almost like he never existed and that should be a crime as well. At eleven years old, where did he get a gun and who did it belong to?
Wake Up Now Nation, it is time we did something about our children and gun safety.
I’ll leave you with my paraphrase of a poem
by a favorite poet – Philip Larkin:
They’ll screw you up, your Mum and Dad
They’ll leave their guns, know not where
They don’t mean to, but they do
Then cry a stream, when you’re not there.