I'm on notice. A number of people were not happy with me yesterday for missing Morning Coffee. Sorry again.
I'm planning a trip soon, and today dear Butters the dog "interviewed" at Camp Bow-Wow, a doggie daycare where he can board while I'm gone. The dogs are campers, the kennels are cabins, the attendants are counselors.
It's a really neat place. Lots of dogs milling about in a number of separate indoor and outdoor play areas, with attendants always on duty...and, er, cleaning up duty. They all carry spray bottles—a spritz of water is apparently enough to distract dogs from a momentary altercation.
And lo and behold, one of the attendants was Kirsten R., who was my son's girlfriend his senior year in high school. Kirsten was over at our house a great deal that year, and by the end of the time I felt almost like she was a surrogate daughter (she's how I learned that parents can miss their childrens' significant others when the relationships end). I like Zander's current girlfriend a lot, but they've never spent much time at our house so I don't know her as well. I hadn't seen Kirsten in over a year, although I figured I'd run in to her again around town sooner or later. It was great to see her again after so long.
Zander's first serious girlfriend, when he was fourteen, was a girl his age I'll call Ingrid. They met in Middle School and spent a lot of time together one summer and for a few months afterwards. She was always talking about her "ex-boyfriends," and one day in the car I asked her how many ex-boyfriends she could possibly have at the age of fourteen. Turns out not all of her exes were boys she'd even kissed, and some of them she "went out with" for less than two weeks. I said something to the effect that maybe that didn't quite rise to the standard of a boyfriend and girlfriend, and her funny answer made me laugh: "Oh, Mister Johnston, kids our age don't latch up." Meaning, get married.
After Zander joined the ranks of her many exes I only saw Ingrid one more time. She came over looking for Zander when they were both about seventeen. He wasn't home, so she waited for him for about forty-five minutes, and we talked, on the back deck. She was trying to be her old cheerful, breezy self, but I could tell she was troubled, and she related some troubling things: for instance, that her mother had kicked her out of the house. That shocked me, because her mother, a divorced woman who lived in a nice house and had a good job, had always seemed to me to be very attentive and involved in her daughter's life, quietly proud of her and appropriately protective.
To our shock, we learned earlier this year that Ingrid had died. I was distressed when I heard it and curious as to what had happened, but it was not obvious—there was no mention of an illness or accident or cause of death in the obituary. I asked Zander if he'd ask around, and a few weeks later he learned that Ingrid had died of a heroin overdose. Her mother kicking her out of the house suddenly made sense as a desperate parent's attempt at an ultimatum that might change her behavior.
I've thought about poor Ingrid many times in the past several months. It is such an acutely tragic waste of a fine young life; I cannot imagine the anguish of her poor family, especially her mother who doted on her, and my heart goes out to them. I remember Ingrid as a smart, articulate, pretty, perfectly normal girl with a sense of humor that was both wise and lively. She was a person of superior social skills—even at fourteen she loved to keep track of all her friends, and she was polite but confident with adults. She was always quick with an update about what people were doing—who was dating whom, whose family had moved where—always sharing details about people she knew. But always generous, not gossipy. She always struck me as a young woman who really cared about people.
And now she never gets to latch up.
"Morning Coffee," auto-published weekdays very early to be in time for morning coffee breaks in the UK and Europe. They're just little blips about things that are on my mind.
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