Wednesday, April 27, 2016

About Mister Manziel. This time.

Part I

In which we grab things from current headlines that repeat in sad loops, in memes of loss and judgment, coming to aching endings and every so often the glory of surviving.

We grab this particular headline and hold it in the light, though, just because we think the better part of humanity - the silent, collective, gathered bunch who prays for the highest good of us all - is so much bigger than the hasty castigation of strangers, which is often the bullshit of social media which is really nothing more than old-fashioned gossip ramped up, broadcast by prettier people, repeated by uglier ones in hissed whispers that'll be played back at the ends of our little skin school on earth and, oh, won't that be a bitch to see?

Even if we cannot erase the times we've been that low brow sort, it seems fairly likely that angelic scorecards can accommodate newer, more merciful acts that are to our advantage to begin soon.

Today, as always, someone's life is at stake. Millions upon millions of lives are on the brink daily, if the truth be told, but by focusing on the one or two here, we may pump something of value to the rest. (Hell, no, I've no empirical proof of this karma stuff. Only flying by the seat of my ass clown pants: where the gut and the heart connect albeit higher up and in the front.)

Lest it seem we're posting this from some high and mighty ground, please note: We confess to plenty of moments filled with pettiness and self-righteousness that make Nancy Grace look like an amateur. But, by golly, we've seen some progress of late, and feel that it's connected to meeting some of you. Yes, as in stranger on Facebook you.

We're in this together, standing far apart, but every now and then, when we're all looking up at that crazy big night sky, our shoulders touch. I tried to write this looking up the whole time.

Part II

Johnny, We Hardly Knew Ye


My ten year-old nephew, Pat (not his real name), thinks Johnny Football hung the moon. That's putting it mildly: Manziel is his astronaut, fireman and John Wayne all rolled up into one.

Granted, it'd be hard to ignore the headlines about Johnny, but I pay closer attention because this kid's heart - like most kids' - is pure enough to only believe the best about young Johnny.

You see, my nephew has his great big hero tied in with his own football-playing dreams. He wears Johnny M jerseys at school and other kids now tease him for it. Pat's heartbroken. My little nephew doesn't understand what's happening. And you know what? I'm an alcoholic-addict who's been sober almost as long as Johnny's been alive and I can barely understand it myself. Then or now.

By the way, even if this particular boy wasn't my nephew, I'd still want to relay the following anecdote by way of describing who he is: Although it meant that the outcome of the game went in favor of the other team, Pat corrected the referee on a call. You see, Pat was tagged out and the ref didn't see it. While the other team congratulated him, some of his fellow players were mighty quiet on the bus ride back. You bet I'm proud of him, and there's also a part of me that knows his path is going to be steep and lonely at times. Like the George Washington cherry tree legend, that little episode goes to paint a larger picture. Where does conscience come from? Why do some of us whittle away at morality when it becomes inconvenient, while others draw lines in the sand never to be crossed?

Perhaps no one knows for certain. Nurture? Nature? Plain dumb luck? To be fair, I know that my sister and brother-in-law are parents who discuss intangible concepts. - like morality - with both of their children. And they start young. Actually, all four of my sisters have raised and are still raising fine human beings who have displayed degrees of morality, verity and compassion at tender ages. (I'm the only childless one out of the five daughters and shudder to think how my progeny might've ruined the curve.) But back to Johnny: I know this much: Right now, his Mama and Daddy's hearts are breaking and in slow motion. His father was concerned enough to state publicly that he doesn't think his boy will reach his 24th birthday at the rate he's going.

Apparently, his Daddy has seen Johnny's running buddies. You don't have to be running with Johnny to know that it ain't your granddaddy's wild time any more. (It's one of the few times you'll ever hear be recommend Googling 'Johnny Manziel running buddies'. One of them actually looks like a photo of the devil even though he's just another young man betting on the wrong horse with his soul as the ante.)

Drugs in the mix change everything. They amplify both the effects and hasten youth the disintegration process. The same stuff that can let you drink all night is what'll kill you quicker than booze by itself. Johnny hasn't hit the dark side of that learning curve - yet. His young body can take plenty more hits, on and off the field.

What he's not reckoning on, what he'd sneer at during an intervention, is the notion that what's happening in his brain right now as he parties is infinitely worse than a lifetime of NFL concussive hits. And, unlike the helmeted hits on the field, it won't take decades to see the effects. After all, "killing brain cells" has been a frat house punchline for ages, a destination. It is what alcohol does.

Maybe I'm slandering him to presume drugs are part of his party panorama.

At this point, I'm guessing we all have a lot more to worry about.

Seeing Johnny's Twitter feed alone is akin to hearing heckling at a crucifixion. Strewn in together in the big trampoline of Instagram are the love bytes, hash tags of ass kissers and true blue God-fearing fans who honestly wish him well. Then there are the damnable, savage curses of strangers who perceive Johnny's reckless sojourn as pure, willful selfishness. A special mix of loathing is reserved for the lucky, the gifted who embark on the path of addiction.

I recall going to the great white hope rehabs just to get people off my back. Here's where I really feel for Johnny. He's never been sober before. (It's reported that he went for over 60 days at an inpatient facility. I'm talking longer than this.)

I'm pretty sure that he actually still believes this is something he can handle. Further, I'm imagining he even feels the keen betrayal of those who've loved him for a long time suddenly leaving his golden circle.

This happened long before this little nephew was born, but I will never forget who left me and when as my own public spiral became out of control . Someone I employed, who stood to lose a good living, looked at me and said, "I won't watch you do this to yourself." It would be years before I could tell her how much I loved her for that. She was the first to leave me and the one with the most to lose. And when she turned to go, even though I was a bitter hypocrite to actually notice it, I couldn't help but notice the crowd who stayed. Part of me was dying for them to do the same thing.

In her way, she was willing to do what my nephew did. She told the ref about a bad call. She was willing to lose the game for one reason: Hers was the only head that had to fall asleep on her pillow that night.

There were uglier things to follow and I cosigned them all: I'll never forget who tried to get money from my CPA when I was nearly dying on my way to rehab. (A blood relative.) I'll never forget the grace of forgiveness both coming and going as those inconsequential moments flooded in and out of my consciousness as I lay, for all intents and purposes, dying.

I didn't. And I'm glad. You'll be glad, too, Johnny, if for no other reason than it'll make all the wrong people happy.

Thanks for reading this.

By the way, if any of it makes us think twice before being stupid enough to blame a Kardashian, et al, for what's wrong in this world, then we accomplished something. The difference between symptoms and the actual disease is vast. Granted, they really make it hard to keep our eyes on our own paper, but that's another post.

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