Karl at my senior ball
I went through a period of angst for a couple of years of my adolescence
around the age of 14. I was so angry with my father, I had fantasies
of killing him. What if there had been a gun in our house? Thank god there wasn’t. Many suicides are a result of the kind of rage
that people soon get over, like mine. In a short time, I adored and cherished my father again. Some teenagers turn the gun on themselves—suicide
is the third-leading cause of teen deaths. Years later…
The phone call came during a neighborhood block party I had organized. We’d gotten a permit from the city to shut off car traffic and brought out picnic tables to the street. I’d made potato salad and hors d’oeuvres, neighbors were roasting hot dogs and hamburgers, and children were shouting and playing badminton. I was standing on the sidewalk by our cement stairs, thinking about how many serving spoons to retrieve from my house…
Decades before, Karl and his pal would stop by our house when walking my older sister home from high school. Before long we became best buddies, spending weekend afternoons washing his light green Plymouth and my family’s beige Chevy together, going to jazz concerts, swimming in Lake Anza, or just hanging out.
Karl, a Peace Seeker in the Enneagram, was mild mannered. His big blue eyes were outlined like a cat’s by dark lashes. He loved to giggle, laugh, and make jokes. Our relationship was easy and fun, not romantic. He had less life force than most kids I knew, no consuming interests, and drank too much. Karl was almost sleepwalking through life.
Other men in his family overshadowed Karl. His brother won a big scholarship to college. His army officer father had been honored at the White House for his artillery innovations. His father’s first son, the apple of his eye, had died when Karl was thirteen; a radio had fallen into the bathtub, electrocuting him.
Karl’s first schizophrenic episode occurred in the army. Then he was in and out of mental hospitals. His health and moods steadily worsened. He couldn’t keep jobs and was unable to control much of anything while living in a halfway house.
Returning to the block party, someone in my house heard the phone message from my mother and relayed it out to me on the street. I was stunned. There I was at a party on a sunny day and my old buddy, at age forty-three, had just jumped to his death from the Golden Gate Bridge. I felt intensely sad thinking about Karl’s unhappiness and his death. I mourn him as one might mourn a child. His life never quite got going. I hope the next person who shows the same symptoms as Karl gets the help he needs early enough.
The following is based on With Guns, Killers and Victim Are Usually Same, NY Times, 2-14-13, by Sabrina Taverise:
Though Karl (based on “My Buddy Karl Kresge: Peace at Last” from The Enneagram of Death) took an almost certain route to death, those who use a gun are 85% successful. Those who use pills are 2% successful. Nearly 20,000 of the 30,000 deaths from guns in 2010 were suicides. Most experts agree, guns in the home increase the risk of suicide.
Israel reduced the rate of suicide among soldiers by 40% by not allowing guns home on weekend leave. The more seriously we take the danger of guns the better, along with taking other measures to reduce violence.