Lessons learned on Valentine’s Day 1992

I learned a couple of valuable lessons on Valentine’s Day in 1992.

I was a 20-year-old sophomore at the University of Missouri. D.T. was also a sophomore, but he was about 8 months older. It’s not a huge age difference but significant because it meant he had turned 21 years old the past December and was now able to go to bars … without me.

Mizzou campus

We’d been dating about 18 months and this was my first long-term relationship, unless you count my torrid affair with J.V. that spanned fifth and sixth grades at Benton Elementary {lots of intense dates at the Skate-or-Bowl in Columbia, Mo.!} <– sarcasm font goes there

It was not a super serious relationship – we did spend much of our limited free time together and we didn’t date other people. But I don’t remember ever thinking about marrying him. I don’t really remember thinking any farther than plans for the next weekend.

I was going to school full-time and working a part-time job to pay my way through. Also, as part of my coursework in the news-editorial sequence in the School of Journalism I had a full-time beat covering the Columbia College men’s basketball team for the Columbia Missourian, the city’s morning daily newspaper.

Just painting the picture that I was busy and D.T. wasn’t my reason for being or anything.

So when it was brought to my attention by a third-party that my relationship with D.T. wasn’t quite as exclusive as I thought it was (that’s where access to bars came into play), I wasn’t very happy. I broke things off. I’m pretty sure I was the first person to say: “ain’t nobody got time for that”  – long before Sweet Brown made it famous.

D.T. wanted to talk and explain what had happened. I didn’t want to listen.

A few nights later, on Feb. 13, he showed up at the newspaper and caught me at the door when I returned from that night’s game. I told him to go home, I needed to write my article for the next morning’s paper. When I came out several hours later, he was still there –  teary-eyed and shivering from the cold. I told him again that I didn’t want to talk. I got in my car and drove off.

I remember looking in my rearview mirror and seeing him standing in the middle of the road with his hands up in the air in exasperation. There are just some images you never forget.

I went home and struggled to clear my head; I eventually fell asleep. The phone ringing was what woke me up. It was a call from the ER telling me that D.T. had overdosed on pills and they needed to know if I’d seen him recently and if I knew anything about his condition when I saw him – had he been drinking, did I know what he might have taken, etc.

I couldn’t help, I hadn’t been close enough to him the night before to notice anything.

I rushed to the hospital that Feb. 14th morning. And I was there every day after – some 30-plus days. D.T. was in a coma the entire time and eventually his family took him off life support. He passed away during spring break that March.

Why hadn’t I let him talk? What if he would have given me a clue of what he was thinking of doing and I could’ve prevented it.

Why had I been so angry with him when it wasn’t that serious of a relationship? What if I’d told him it was OK, we’d both move on, we’d both be fine. He could have turned his focus to his other issues.

All of these ‘what ifs’ nearly broke me. I considered dropping out of school. I considered a lot of things, none of them good.

But the people closest to me picked me up and helped me see that this wasn’t all about me – it wasn’t what I did or didn’t do that caused him to overdose on a prescription medication he was taking for epilepsy. D.T. had other issues going on besides our failed relationship.

That spring, my editor at the newspaper assigned me to be the beat writer for the Missouri football team the next fall. It was a coveted assignment (even though, yes, it was during some bad years of football at Mizzou). It gave me something to look forward to. That is probably the one thing that kept me in school. And being in school kept my mind busy.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

The sports crew from the J-school and the Columbia Missourian, circa winter 1991. In fact, D.T. was at this party and he may have taken this photo because he wasn’t studying journalism and he didn’t know any of this group. The sports editor I mention in this post, Paul, is the third from the left in the front row. I’m in the middle in the back, standing on a chair because I definitely wasn’t as tall as our assistant editor, Jim, standing to my left!

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

So what lessons did I learn that Valentine’s Day?

  • just be willing to listen
  • sometimes you have to forgive someone for hurting you or disappointing you – more for your own good than for their benefit

That last one, especially, has come in handy through the years when close family members repeatedly disappointed me by not reaching out to me as much as I wanted or by not showing the support I wanted during some of the biggest moments of my life. Based on that lesson from my last moments with D.T., I chose to keep those people in my life – at a safe distance – instead of writing them off and not talking to them again.

I didn’t do this for them, honestly. I did it so that if something happened to them, I would have fewer ‘what ifs’ and, hopefully, no regrets.

This entry was posted in College, Family, Friends and tagged , , .

7 Comments

  1. nikki February 14, 2013 at 3:45 pm #

    I was just thinking about DT about an hour ago – that is so weird.

    • Melinda February 14, 2013 at 7:44 pm #

      That is strange — do you remember what made you think of him?

  2. Melinda February 14, 2013 at 7:43 pm #

    That is strange — do you remember what made you think of him?

  3. nikki February 14, 2013 at 9:43 pm #

    It seems so strange – but i finished watching. Brave with Rachel and the credits were rolling. I saw a name that is the same as his first name roll by. And for some reason it made me think of him (probably because i have never known anyone else with that name) and then it made me think about how that had affected you and if you still thought about him (which i thought to myself – I’m sure at some point you do) then an hour later i look at your blog and here it is. Craziness!

    • Melinda February 15, 2013 at 4:27 pm #

      After I asked the question of what made you think about him, I wondered if maybe you just remembered when it had happened.

      Wow, that is quite the coincidence! The universe loves to mess with our heads, huh?

  4. Mel. February 15, 2013 at 12:20 am #

    Meow!! :>)

    • Melinda February 15, 2013 at 4:25 pm #

      Thanks for the comment, Mel — and helping me hit the ‘publish’ button on this one!

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