Every once in a while even I can find myself down in the dumps. Usually clowning around and driving friends nuts with my antics, I reckon that no matter what your usual demeanor might be, feeling this way is just a part of life. I know I will be back to my old self soon, but for now, just consider this column with an open mind.
I don’t really have an exact time frame when this all started but I do know that just after Father’s Day, I was in my car listening to music when Neil Young’s song “Old Man” came on the radio. My dad passed years ago but the song’s verse “Old man, look at my life, I’m a lot like you were” really touched me that particular day.
If it wasn’t for my dad, and particularly taking me under his wing when it came to fishing, Lord knows where I would be now. A dad myself to two great kids, I know his guidance taught me volumes on how to raise healthy, happy and well-adjusted children.
To say I am a usual run-of-the-mill dad probably has any of you that know me chuckling, and rightfully so. Sure, my dad and I butted heads, but when we fished together it was all laughter and we both let our guard down.
I learned more about the “real” dad during these hundreds or possibly thousands of hours spent on the water, and for him, vice versa. As years passed, our relationship on fishing excursions no longer stayed in the father-son realm; instead they transformed into best friends where nothing, and I mean absolutely nothing, was off the table.
Without a doubt the most challenging period of my life was in my teens and early 20s. That time of love lost, hormones raging, and at a loss what career path I might take was horrible. Quite honestly, I never thought I would make it past those tumultuous years – but one thing got me through, and that was spending time on the water with my dad.
As you might imagine I got fatherly advice almost daily but being stubborn, hard-headed and rebellious to a fault, only a fraction of things he tried to tell me stuck. Looking back now, that fraction got me through.
I’ve been unsure whether I should make this the subject of my column, but an event occurred a week ago that convinced me that talking about such things was the right thing to do. One of my best friends called, telling me that his brother’s son had just taken his own life.
Having aided another best friend for the past handful of years after his son also took his own life, this new call instantly had me crying like a baby. I can’t fathom going through such a loss.
As for these young people’s parents, the loss has to be unbearable. “What did we do wrong?” “Was it something I did?” must be common reactions, but the more I research this rise in suicide rates among kids ages 16-26, I am sure no parent is at fault.
Now I know why my trying years were what they were. Our brains are yet to be fully developed in our teen years. Being a bit slow since birth, I probably lacked a brain until I was 30.
Another interesting aspect of this horrendous act is that in many cases there were no signs at all that something was wrong. With the world the way it is right now, I can’t comprehend how difficult going through puberty must be.
Between social media, the ridiculous divide among us because of politics, and a world traveling at warp speed has to make these toughest of times for our youth that much tougher.
I don’t have an answer or a solution, just a suggestion: Find something you and your kids develop a passion for and use that activity to bust down traditional parent-child barriers. Leave your ingrained desire to parent at home and I guarantee you’ll find out more of what is really going on in these young minds than you ever thought possible.
I suggest fishing but hey, that’s just me.
Collins Doughtie, a 60-year resident of the Lowcountry, is a sportsman, graphic artist, and lover of nature. firstname.lastname@example.org