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We’re not here to stop the fun

People who know me well from back home might smirk if they knew what I’m up to these days.
Joining a community coalition fighting teenage drug and alcohol abuse doesn’t seem much like a Nick thing to do. Oh well — IMPACT Ennis has been a rich exercise in getting to know this community.
As neat as it was seeing John Erisman and Ross Jones dressed down at the coalition picnic Saturday (you don’t often get the opportunity to see police brass without the brass), my part in this is personal. Event organizer Kelly Kovar put it eloquently for me last week — IMPACT Ennis is not about ruining people’s fun. We aren’t the enemy. IMPACT is not a group of party-crashers. We want to prevent lives being ruined.
“We’re on the other side of the picture, and we know what happens,” Kovar said.
My story would be fit for a bad public service announcement on local access TV if it wasn’t mine.
During high school, a long-time friend of mine we’ll call “Brady” for the purposes of this column went through some life changes.
He was a long-haired type, a fellow captain on the school fencing team, a compatriot. We’d met in first grade and made fast friends.
As he got to the late stages of teen life, he changed.
One girlfriend wanted him to cut the hair, so he did.
With that, it was as though the floodgates opened. Next came the change of dress — he went from typical teenage roughage to the clean class of a young professional. He was tall, slender and blonde, so it worked on him, but we all wondered what sparked all the growing up so fast.
Brady is incredibly smart. He beat my ACT score by two points, and while I was the student chasing achievement as a way to get help for college, he was coolly detached in his smartness. Blaze, you could say.
It only got worse as graduation came and went. While yours truly toiled in engineering classes at the local university, Brady was skipping his computer science courses. He was staying up late, partying with the crowd of young clean-cut types that hid behind their exteriors as a way to get away with using drugs and alcohol.
By the time Brady was of legal age to buy the liquor, it’d already bitten him. But it hadn’t beaten that blaze exterior — he was still sure he had all of it under control, even as it controlled him.
The long-haired guy who loved playing guitar and wanted to make video games when we were young was absolutely gone.
He’d started showing a beer belly just like the one he reviled on his father. He and a girlfriend slipped up and the result was a young son who he’d barely get to know — Brady broke up with his son’s mother while she was in the recovery room.
While his friends reacted with shock, he reacted by buying a motorcycle. They eventually got back together and split up a few more times, complete with alcohol-induced shenanigans from both parties. She moved away and took Brady’s son. He drowned his sorrows.
By the time we lost touch and my career pushed me farther from home, he’d gone from the athletic, bright-eyed guy I met in elementary school to someone I couldn’t be around. He made me profoundly sad. And it wasn’t that he was a total wreck. Brady’s life had fallen far short of his own expectations — and his son was paying for it. All of his friends felt powerless to stop it.
Last I heard, he’d married and regained a foothold in his son’s rearing, but not too much of one. Brady was selling used cars while his wife waited tables, but their lifestyle choices were still poor at best. I haven’t kept track since meeting my own wife some years ago — I likely should, but the first time I brought her to town to meet friends and family, he hit on her. Go figure.
Kelly Kovar’s statements to me last week rang in my head while I thought about all of this.
“I just really want kids to know that we are on their side and if they ever want to talk about what’s going on, we’re here,” Kovar said.
He really needed somebody to get through to him.
I’ll tell you what, when I’m sitting in IMPACT Ennis meetings, I’m thinking of Brady.
Nick Todaro is the editor of the Ennis Daily News. He can be reached at nick@ennisdailynews.com.

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Posted by on Jul 29 2009. Filed under News. You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0. Both comments and pings are currently closed.

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