car·riage re·turn

n. the lever or mechanism on a typewriter that would cause the cylinder on which the paper was held (the carriage) to return to the left margin of the page

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No More Excellent Adventures

cross-posted from elsewhere

I had a WDN column due yesterday,and before I sent it in I called home to have my dad give me his opinion on it. Judy,my step-mom,answered the phone. We chatted for a while,and she told me her sister,my Aunt Connie,was up from Kentucky with her husband Bill and youngest son,Steven. Dad wasn’t home,so I told her that I’d try calling later in the evening.

Dad and I talked later in the night,and he told me there were a few things he wanted to sleep on,and that he’d call me again in the morning.

Well,I had just gotten back from running this morning when I got a phone call from my dad.

He and my Uncle Bruce are both firemen,both department captains. Yesterday morning at about 2:15 Central,just as I was going to bed out here,their department got a call to report to the scene of an accident about four miles outside of town.

When they got out there,the car was in a field,obviously having missed the road’s sharp curve to the left. It was a familiar car. It was my cousin Teddy’s car.

Teddy hasn’t had an easy life. His biological dad ran out on his mom when he was just a kid,and he’s always been vulnerable because of it,though he tries to compensate with an air of bravado. Anyone who would spend any time with him would see right through it,because Teddy was obviously such a sweet kid. He was a favorite with his younger cousins (of which there are many on that side of the family) because they could count on him to play with them,to give that playful adult attention that little kids seem to thrive off. Bruce,his step-dad,was his true father,and though it often wasn’t easy between the two of them,I think they both loved each other in ways they just couldn’t say.

Teddy and I were close because we lived in similar circumstances. We were both vulnerable because our parents had split up. Teddy was,for a very long time,my best friend in the town my dad lives in. Teddy was my little brother for years before my younger brothers were born,and when Dad,Judy,and I would go on vacations,we’d take Teddy with us. We called these vacations,and all our other exploits,“Bill and Ted’s Excellent Adventures,”partially because everyone called me Billy at the time. Over the years we had many excellent adventures,hiking bluffs with our Uncle Tom,playing baseball in the field between my folks’place and our grandparents’house next door,going to Wisconsin Dells,and roofing my Uncle Tim’s house.

The last few years were particularly rough on Teddy. He had gotten into a rut and into some minor trouble. But things started to turn around when one of our other cousins,who Teddy had once admired,was sent to prison for trafficking drugs. Teddy saw that he was headed down a similar path and turned things around. He quit partying hard with the wrong crowd,turning that energy to work. He would walk from the lumber plant he had been working at to our grandma’s house for lunch every day,something they both looked forward to. Teddy had always been protected by our grandma and grandpa because of his dad running out on him,and after Grandpa J died Teddy became even dearer to Grandma J’s heart.

None of us could protect Teddy enough.

Teddy and Steven went out yesterday night. They were on their way home when Teddy’s car,for whatever reason,left that country road. Steven was standing next to the car when Dad,Bruce,and the rest of the fire department arrived. Teddy couldn’t stand,because Teddy didn’t make it. He was thrown from the car and most likely died upon impact. Bruce was there when the other firemen put the tarp over his body. So were Stephen’s parents,who had showed up when Stephen called them.

Dad drove Bruce home to tell Debbie,Teddy’s mom. Then they went and told Judy,and then they went and told Grandma J. Dad thought about calling me afterward,but waited until they figured I’d be waking up to go to work.

I called Bruce later yesterday morning. Bruce is sometimes a gruff man. He works in a lumber yard in addition to the fire department,and he can struggle with expressing his feelings. He’s got a great heart,the kind of guy who exemplifies giving the shirt off his back to help out his family and friends. He’s also just one of those guys who can’t talk about what is going on inside him. When I told Bruce how sorry I was and that I’d do anything to help out,his voice waiverd precariously. We only talked for two or three minutes because neither of us wanted to be the first one to break down. That’s when it hit me.

The last time I saw Teddy was at a party at his folks’place just before New Year’s. I introduced Jo to him that night,and I promised him the next time I was in town we’d go and have a few beers and catch up.

I’ll never get that chance. There will be no more excellent adventures for Teddy and me.

I’m gonna miss him.

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