Wednesday, October 22, 2014

The Passing of a High School Hero

Did you ever wonder what happened to certain people in High School, like where are they now?

I was thinking back to my grade 9 year. I went to Cawthra Park Secondary, School for the Performing Arts. It was Fall, and our school was putting on the Neil Simon play, “Brighton Beach Memoirs.” The movie had just come out, and Jonathan Silverman had delivered a brilliant performance as the main character, Eugene Morris Jerome, a teenaged boy growing up in NYC.

The lead in our production was a young kid named Larry Grimes. He lived in Bolton, and I lived in Brampton. In my freshman year, he would catch the school bus from Bolton, then transfer to my bus in Brampton, where we made the 1 hour drive each and every morning to Mississauga.

Larry was something… Charisma oozed out of his pores. When he got on the bus, you felt a shift of energy. This guy brought it with him. He would smile, high five, and shake hands with everyone he saw. He reminded me of Ducky from Pretty in Pink, except he was the popular guy in school. He was his own person. He wore really different outfits and hats. He listened to John Lennon and loved the Beatles, when everyone else listened to Tears for Fears, Duran Duran and Corey Hart. He played guitar and wrote his own songs, and they were damn good! He had seemingly endless amounts of energy. In short, he was the most dynamic guy I had ever seen, and I was already his biggest fan.

Then I watched him in the role of Eugene Morris Jerome, and he blew me away! He was nothing short of magnificent. After the show was over, he was signing autographs! The excitement in the auditorium was so electric, that I actually felt like a VIP, and bragged to people who didn’t know him because Larry and I rode the same bus together. Yep, shameless, but I was 14.

I remember one time, I was sitting in the cafeteria during lunch and Larry and his friends were hanging out a couple tables over from me. I was sitting alone reading a book, eating my lunch when I heard him say, “Cmon, let’s go.” As soon as he said it, about 30 kids picked up what they were doing and followed him to a practice room. I got up and followed them as well, and tagged on to the end of the line. When we got to the practice room, Larry pulled out his guitar and played 4 or 5 songs that he had written, and they were damn good. I mean, what 15 year old kid had the charisma to pull something like that off? Larry might’ve been 15, but he was WAY ahead of his time. Yet, time has a funny way of catching up to us.

To tell you the truth, I don’t know what happened to Larry after that. A couple years ago, I asked around and heard that he had moved out west, and was battling a lot of demons in his life. I guess life got really dark and significant to him. When we make poor decisions towards ourselves, it stems from a thought or belief of unworthiness. I wanted to reach out to tell him I thought he was dynamic and talented as hell. I wanted to call him, but I felt stupid doing it. What would I say? “Hey Larry, remember me? I was that grade 9 kid 25 years ago who marvelled at you at Cawthra Park.” I didn't have the courage to tell a guy that a few years ago. Yet as I write this, that is exactly what I would say. I’ve tried to find him for years now to tell him this, but it’s too late.

I just found out Larry passed away.

When I read that Larry passed away, a host of emotions and thoughts flew through my head. But not one of them was one of surprise. I knew it. Don’t ask me why I knew it, but then again, don’t ask me why I would reach out to a guy I hadn’t seen in over 25 years just out of the blue. It was just a feeling I had.

The feeling I had was Larry needed someone to replay or re-tell the moment of watching him under the spotlights of that stage, lighting up the audience in all of his glory. We all have a happy place we go back to, perhaps that moment was his? It was that moment I wanted to share with him. I wanted to tell him all about the experience he left me with in 1986, and I still remember it as if I was that 14 year old kid again.

Now it’s 2014. That 14 year old kid is long gone. That 14 year old kid is 42. I am older now than my father was, when I was 14. I have been married, divorced, and have a 6 year old daughter. Life just got really significant, didn’t it? Yet, I transport myself back to more than half my lifetime ago, and remember a wonderfully talented kid named Larry who really rocked my world. He was really something...

I wish I would’ve been able to tell him all of this which I’ve just told you. I wish to God that life wouldn’t have gotten in the way, or that someone I knew, knew where he was. I wish I could tell you that he and I chatted on the phone. Maybe he would’ve told me he was in a really shitty spot in his life; that he felt worthless, and he was the world’s biggest underachiever. But I was able to tell him my memories of him, and that my share really made his day. I wish I could’ve told him that I’ve felt despair at times in my life, and that I understood his pain. I wish I could tell you that happened, but that’s not the way this story went. It ends with me getting a message that Larry passed away, remembering Larry for his God-given talents and gifts, and sharing this story with you.

It ends with me remembering that each one of us can feel that we are worthless, and what we’ve become is meaningless or insignificant. We all feel that way at any one given point in time, and when we do, it's the support of our Loved ones that keeps us going. Perhaps I was luckier than Larry was in this case. Certainly I’ve had dark times and feelings like the ones I’ve described; we all have. Those dark feelings are not something we talk about at parties, or share on Facebook. Yet we all walk around with the pink elephant in the room, avoiding it at all costs hoping that nobody notices it. Yet it’s real to us. The simple fact is very few of us are where we thought, or wanted to be coming out of high school. We saw it happening so much differently. It's easy to hate ourselves for what we're not, rather than Loving ourselves for all that we've overcome to still be here. 

Well, I’m sure that Larry is now free from the physical body which limited and betrayed him. I bet his soul is out there writing new music which is the stuff that poets long to write in an entire lifetime. I bet it’s flowing off him like a limitless waterfall cascading into a bottomless pit. If I close my eyes I can hear it, and just like Larry, it’s amazing.

To where you are Larry, I hope you have found peace. To where you are…

God Speed Larry Grimes

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