Not so lucky charms–Day #3 of the 30 day challenge to blog

I can’t quite describe how miserable the last two days have been. My friend Jimmy came over to my house for a meeting, and I said, “Sorry if I’m a little like Robert De Niro in the movie Awakenings.” I’ve never been on medication for my depression until 4 months ago, never. So I’ve never experienced this type of thing. Imagine laying still on your bed, and feeling like your falling out of a window. It’s not as fun as it sounds, it’s worse. At it’s worse, my wife came in the living room and said…”So I’ve been googling”…okay, here we go…”And apparently there is a class action suit about that specific medicine, because of it’s severe withdrawal neurological issues on patients”…Oh, cool. I thought it was going to be bad news. At it’s best I felt dizzy. At it’s worse, it opened up a door to the worst parts of my suicidal day dreams. There’s no real beneficial point to tell you what I was thinking, but it wasn’t pretty. But I know I’m not alone, many of you have been there. Know that we’re never alone friends. Know that we are loved.

I got my medicine early evening, and when I woke up this morning I opened my eyes and said, “Ah, I’m normal again.” And my soul was calm. My heart was still. And in the stillness a saint came to my mind. My childhood best friend, St. Kyle Jennings.

I met Kyle at camp when we were 13. We were fast friends. We ran around that camp on a sugar high, being idiots, and flirting with girls. I had such a bond with Kyle, and other ragamuffin type friends that summer like Brandon, and Joe…that when I returned home I wanted to go to their church. Their church had a real youth group, unlike my grandma’s church, which did not. So I went. My parents weren’t Christian, so know one taught me the politics and rules of religiosity. I remember walking into Kyle’s church. And I was wearing a hat. And some adult grabbed that hat off my head and handed it to me and said, “We don’t wear hats in church.” And I said, “Why?”…And He said, “We just don’t”…and I said, “Why?”…He must’ve thought I was being a rebellious jerk kid, but I genuinely just wanted to know “Why?”…It’s funny how small moments stick out to you. I’ve thought about that moment for years. I wonder if that guy ever did figure out, “Why?” Because I saw in his eyes that day, that he didn’t know either.

Kyle and I loved comedy, movies, and cooking. Kyle is an amazing artist. I can still picture his bedroom from high school. I remember I envied him. I’d go to his house, and be greeted by his sweet mother Debbie, and Kyle’s brother Chris would come down stairs and give us shit before going out wherever he was going…in his own car…wow…he’s got his own car…and his cutie pie little sister Kacie…I loved going to their house…as young teenager it seemed Kyle had everything that I did not. The perfect family. And you know what, through all the ups and downs, they are pretty perfect. They are beautiful people.

One day I remember walking into church, and as a young boy does…I walk in and immediately was looking for my friends…and probably a few girls I had crushes on…and there was Kyle wheeling in a man in a wheelchair…I remember I asked someone standing next to me…”Who’s that?”…Oh, that’s Kyle’s Dad. What?

I didn’t know. I don’t know that I ever asked about Kyle’s dad. My Dad was never around in those years. He was somewhere in Oregon, being all Oregon-y or something. So I don’t know that it ever came into my mind to ask about his Dad. Dad’s just aren’t around usually. So…

I came to find out that Kyle’s Dad had a degenerative brain disease. (forgive me debbie if I get my facts wrong in this blog)…but I came to learn that this disease was rare, really rare. Like only a handful of families in the United States have this disease. There’s still so much you don’t know.

Kyle and I remained close through high school, doing sketch comedy at church’s, going to music festivals. And after high school before college we basically spent 24-7 together. I believe we both graduated a semester early. We worked at the same restaurant, were single, had jobs, I was living in broad ripple with my cousin so I was independent…broad ripple is like the coolest place in Indianapolis….We went out on double dates with girls from our restaurant…and then by the end of the summer …I was with the girl he was with …and he was with mine…It was just this crazy, wild, fun summer with my best friend.

And then Kyle was going off to college. I don’t think many know this. But Kyle is hands down the main reason I went to Anderson University. I wasn’t going to go to college. I didn’t want to go to college. Not an ounce of desire. But Kyle was. He was going to this school called Anderson. And that’s when the thought of loosing my best friend hit me. Suddenly this fun crazy life in Broad Ripple, and the restaurant, and even dating beautiful women..wasn’t as fun anymore. It suddenly felt really lonely.

But, as a total non-traditional christian, and wild Jesus freak…I had no intention of going to go to college. I was going to be a vagabond evangelist, before I was ever really familiar with the term. My friend Jason, who was a few years older, and I talked about it really seriously. We are going to be dishwashers or waiters and go from town to town, preach jesus, and then go to the next…and the next. And I still look at it like I chickened out…but one day I told Jason I was going to go to college instead. And our friendship was never the same after that moment. But my love for him has never changed.

But I still had no money so I said…”Allright God if you want me to go to college…I need money…which I have none…and I need to get accepted…even though my grades and g.p.a. is shit (or so I thought…turns out it wasn’t that bad…I didn’t know what it was because I never cared before”…but that was my prayer at the time. I got in to college. I got the student loans. By the way I still have those. SIGH!!!!!!!!

Kyle and I lived together my freshman year, and my Junior years of college. That first few weeks of college is still such a sweet memory to me. I can remember the hotness of the summer, moving shit up from my green mini-van into the dorm called Smith Hall, blasting rusted root from Kyles radio…driving to get our loft from Elkart Indiana, meeting Bryan Bontrager, having my first college kiss…I was getting to experience all this great college goodness, and I was doing it right beside my best friend Kyle.

It’s a distant memory, but somewhere along the way, I found out it was a strong possibility that Kyle could have the disease his dad had. He never seemed to want to find out, at least from the conversations I had with him. He could take a test, but didn’t want to. And why would you? Kyle fell in love with a beautiful and fun woman named Maggie. We graduated in 2002 in they were married within weeks. And since I’m striving to be more transparent…I’ll just tell you. I got shit faced at his wedding. I was the best man, and I remember doing his speech, and reading it, and crying…and bumbling drunk I looked up at Kyle…and only God knows what everyone else was thinking…but when I looked at Kyle’s eyes…it seemed he was saying…”Oh, Dave…I love ya…you idiot”…But in that moment I felt an affection, and a compassion, and a comfort that can only truly come from a close friend. It’s makes you feel safe, and like nothing else matters.

Turns out, we all got drunk that night and all of our college buddies took over the dance floor …dancing to brown eyed girl…that’s really all I remember…that…and one friend puking in my car…one tried to get out of my car on the highway and about broke his leg…we got home…I walked down stairs…and got the spins…and said…”Um…and I was the sober one”…Stupid, I know. But that was a damn good night. A bit out of control, and a bit sinful, but there was lots of love. Thank God, that love covers a multitude of sins. Because were sure felt the love that night.

Kyle and Maggie moved to Chicago after that to start their life together. A few months later I got a call that Kyle was coming home from work and had a seizure and wrecked his car.

A seizure. I knew in that moment what it meant. I think we all did. I think I heard it wasn’t connected to the disease it was something else. It still wasn’t confirmed he had it.

Time passed, and they had a child. Kyle got tested, and as it turns out. He has the disease. I wish I could say I’ve been a good friend to Kyle over the years, but I’m not sure I have. When I left for Hollywood the two people I regret leaving behind are my Grandma (who was like my mom) and Kyle…both of them began a slow descent into deterioration of the brain.

Here I am in LA pursuing my dreams…while two of my dearest loved ones don’t have that option. I don’t know that I can sit here and tell you it’s been worth it. Although I think God works to the good of those who love him, but that doesn’t mean I’m good, or have been good, or even will be…but thank God, God is good…is is compassionate…in his Grace I can hear God say …”Oh, David…you idiot…I love ya…”but so much good has come out of LA…My wife, my daughter, my friends Bj, Jesse, Dave, David, Tim, Tom, Mike…and so many fun experiences…but in the quiet and still moments I wonder if I should have never left Indiana. If I should have stayed to fight for a better life for my Grandma…and lived in the Midwest to be a better friend to Kyle. I’m a great friend if we are hanging out…not so much if were not. I’m distant, and withdrawl, and wallow in my own self too far often, and way more than I care to admit…I can’t mention Kyle without mentioning three people that I love dearly and am so thankful for…first for Maggie…Kyle’s ex-wife…who loves Kyle, and even after their divorce threw him a birthday party. What ex-wife does that? She has a great gift of compassion. To Brandon, Kyle’s best friend- that you for being his best friend. For being and being a great friend to Kyle. For the camping trips, and bike rides, and movie nights. Thank you for loving Kyle so well. And to Debbie Kyle’s Mom- wow. You have cancer, and take care of your two grown adult boys who can’t take care of themselves. If there is ever a vote of what the true definition of hero is…my vote would be the name Debbie.

I was in town a few months ago. Which is rare. And my time with Kyle is always limited. Which honestly, there is no damn good excuse for. It’s gotten hard to communicate with Kyle. The connectors don’t connect in the same way. When I walked into the house Kyle spilt Lucky Charms, the breakfast cereal he was making for himself all over the counter. He spent the next 15 minutes picking up the cereal, not saying a word. He was stuck. We tried helping, but Kyle was just stuck…until the hero, Debbie came in and helped…and some how he was able to snap out of it. It now feels like were having two different conversations. Kyle’s brain is either five minutes behind or somewhere else entirely. I can barely breathe as I am writing the reality of where Kyle is at, that I think just out of pure emotional survival I push out of my day to day brain.

I thought about how (f-word) ironic it is that Kyle was eating Lucky Charms that morning. a Cereal based on how the Irish believed in a sort-of magic by wearing charms it will bring you health & happiness & luck…and here is Kyle who doesn’t have enough luck to eat his cereal…And here I am watching when I have a pretty charmed life. And yet I bitch so much…about what I don’t have.

I think that’s a way God has continually helped heal my selfishness or complaining spirit…I’ll see someone in a wheelchair…or a mentally challenged man or woman…or some one with ticks like I’ve had the last few days…and go…”who gives a shit about a career”…You know in Hollywood…especially in classes…they preach…if you are going to be an actor…acting has to be your life…it has to be everything…Fun fact…I’ve never not heard that…not once…and not gone…’BULLSHIT!”

You know what life is, and it sucks, and it’s painful, and it’s also beautiful. It’s my friend Kyle spending 15 minutes to pick up his “lucky charms” that he spilt. I see more beauty in my friend who’s always had more faith than me, not giving up, not matter what life deals him, having the patient endurance to put one foot in front of the other and keep going. Who gives a shit if it takes him an hour to eat cereal. Kyle’s better than most the rest of us…because he doesn’t give up. He keeps going. He keeps living.

Once when Kyle went to visit his dad in high school…I was asking him about it…because eventually the disease turns you into a total vegetable…not able to communicate whatsoever…and I said…Kyle is it weird…is it hard…what is it like…what do you do…? And all Kyle said to me was…”I just talk to my Dad…He’s still in there…He still hears me…”

Kyle Robert Jennings has taught me more about faith, and perseverance than anyone else on this planet.

But we all have our shit don’t we. Faith is hard. But God loves you. Yes you, who is reading this. You may not hear him talk back. But go ahead and talk to him anyway. He’s still there. And he still hears you.

Kyle, thanks for teaching me about faith, and life, and love, and loyalty. I love you. And I’m glad the magic ran out on your lucky charms. Because you’ve taught us all something more powerful than magic and miracles. You’ve taught us what life is all about. To keep going. To not give up. Not matter what happens. No matter how long it takes to pick up the lucky charms.

I will, do, and forever will love you, Kyle, my brother from another mother. Thanks for being my friend, even when I haven’t been the greatest friend back. Your compassion love for me overwhelms me. You don’t say much these days…but that’s okay. I see it in your eyes.

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~ by David Leo Schultz on October 9, 2015.

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