I’m a mess. No. More than a mess, I’m a disaster.
It’s my own fault… kinda. More on that later in this post.
I spent last night without a wink of sleep. Instead, around midnight I built-up enough courage to fire-up Ryan’s laptop. In some ways, I was hoping it wouldn’t work. Problem is, it’s a Mac and they are so damned reliable. Dependable enough to even go as far back as 2007 when Ryan’s laptop was manufactured and bring it to life. It was looking hopeful that it wouldn’t work… for a few minutes anyhow. I would press the power button and nothing would happen. Turns out, the battery was completely drained, but quickly got enough of a charge to turn on.
I cringed when I heard that familiar whirl of the hard drive spinning and the static snapping as the monitor came to life.
It’s just four days shy of 3-½ years since it was last turned on. Ryan was the last person to use that laptop. I held back the tears seeing his fingerprints on the screen and what appears to be Mexican food on the keyboard. The last time he touched this was the day before Austin Vantrease and Jonathan May attacked him… a chilly Friday afternoon on November 6, 2009. He was a different person, but not as much (or in the same way) as people might think.
Honestly, I didn’t want to touch that damned laptop. I couldn’t stand the thought that my fingers would remove physical evidence of Ryan’s former self. Too many things have changed in this world since November 2009. I really didn’t want to be responsible for yet another. Ironically, the reason I had to do this was to get evidence of Ryan’s former self!
Again, more on this in a bit.
The desktop screen washed over the darkened room with an electric blue… and I smiled. It was classic Ryan and I again realized just how much I miss him. Minimalistic and organized, yes Ryan was… but it was the background photo that stole the show.
It’s a women, as equally beautiful as sexy as classy. The view of her is from behind. It’s a wonderful view, if I say so myself. So good, in fact, that it’s frustrating that it blocks the front! She is entering water that is as crystal clear as the Gulf of Mexico. She’s wearing just enough of a white string-bikini to keep her from being arrested. A pearl necklace hangs loosely around her neck. The sky is that perfect shade of blue that is both dark and bright at the same time. The type of sky that only lets itself be seen on a rare summer morning. It is beautiful in every way, this photo is.
This goddess is a digital aphrodisiac. Even as an image made up of a million pixels she stirs a man’s soul (notice how I kept it clean?). I feel my chest getting entirely too heavy. Not heavy, really, but tight. Like I’m trying to make my way up to the water’s surface, dying to exhale the stale air in my lungs. Why? Well, because this woman, and every women for that matter, will never be with Ryan. He will almost certainly not experience the intimate touch that makes every nerve in the body come alive. A passion he clearly dreamed he would… based on his laptop background image.
It’s so wrong that he’ll miss so much. Is there really anything that compares to intimacy to make life a wonderful experience?
I realize that I’m not breathing. How damned long has this basic survival reflex failed me? This realization is unrelenting and tightens around me like a belt. I actually worry that I might be on the cusp of a heart attack. My sadness slips to anger without me noticing until it is now my head ; it feels like it’s in a vice. Forcing myself, I purposely cut-off my thoughts (by thinking of Uncle Fester from that classic 1960’s Nick-at-Nite sitcom, the Munsters) and get to work on the reason I’m reluctantly doing this anyhow. Namely, to find Ryan’s own words on his morals, values, beliefs, and wishes.
Truth is, I already know these. And I’m not the only one either. My wife, Sue, already knows these. His sister, Kari, already knows these. Hell, anyone who spent some personal time with Ryan knows these. Still, there’s nothing better than having him spell it out for me to see, respect, and honor. It stops cold those people who want to impose their values on and, even, above his. Ryan was deeply in touch with his intellect and his writings — expressed through me — will stop any nonsense with people trying to say what is best for him. There’s no need to guess here folks, he spelled it. It’s all there in glorious 12-point, arial font.
That’s all I can really say at this time, but someday (after the civil suit is resolved), I’ll color in the details. I’m literally screaming inside to cry foul! Still, I must wait and I ask you understand this.
Like I already said, Ryan was über organized. His laptop’s file structure was so logically laid-out that I didn’t spend a solitary second figuring it out. I jumped right in to finding everything I needed.
I never wanted to go through his personal files… EVER. Sure, if he were a suspected pedophile or child pornographer I would… but Ryan has done NOTHING to warrant invasion of privacy. Believe me, I was forced into it. I deeply resent that. I had to forego his privacy to protect his principles. That, my friends, sucks!
Even though I know it’s not such, it just felt like I was invading his personal space in some way. As it turns out, not one thing on his laptop surprised me in a negative way. Not one iota. It seems Ryan didn’t hide things from me or Sue, something I believed anyhow. I can probably now say that he shared everything because his personal writings were consistent with family conversations! I’m telling you, many discussions (mostly in debate format) where deeply intellectual and philosophical. I could tell you just as easily how Ryan felt about Hitler’s rise to power, or his position on Affirmative Action, or his outrage with the government infringing on people’s rights, or his take on who the Redskins’ should draft, as I could tell you what body part he most admired in women. Hint: For the younger people, let’s just say Sir Mix-a-Lot would not disapprove. For us older folk, K.C. and the Sunshine Band encouraged the women to “Shake, Shake, Shake” it.
He was open. Honest. Genuine. Passionate. Logical. He was, I suppose, much like me… real. I wish I could say he learned this from me, but the truth is I learned it. He was “real and tactful” whereas I am “real and raw”. Hey, “tactful” just didn’t feel real on me, so I modified his lesson to fit my style.
Okay, so I didn’t know all I would see going in to his laptop, so my original plan was that I was going to get just enough of what I needed and get out. Let’s face it, we all keep things on our computers that are deeply personal.
As did Ryan.
But, Ryan didn’t have a single thing that he should be embarrassed for his dad (or mom) to see. Yes, much of what he has on it was meant only for eyes, but I’m telling you it was all
good great stuff. Nary a naked women, porno clip, or inappropriate file . His internet browsing history was almost entirely sports, educational, and fun websites links. His email was completely void of tasteless content. He behaved himself… virtually. He did so when he believed no one would ever know otherwise. His “private” life was wholesome.
His writings showed his love of family. His dreams of becoming a dad and coaching his children. He wrote about relationships. His talked about respect and kindness toward others, especially those who were on hard times. I wish I could share it all with you. I can’t. Ryan intended some things to be private and that’s just how they’ll be. What I will do though is quote him from papers and projects that he prepared for classes. I’ll share these stories.
Here’s one to get you started. Ryan was journalizing his volunteer work, but it read like a story. The words reached out with sincere compassion. I cried — hard — when I read about a boy named “Justin”, age 5 or 6, who was at the Ronald McDonald House. This boy was terminally ill. Cancer. Ryan was volunteering there for his class in public service. It was an ideal opportunity because Ryan loves children as much as they love him. Still, this one hurt Ryan to the core. Ryan spoke of how this little guy’s courage changed his life. I wonder if Ryan draws on this strength now?
Ryan made me proud… once again. He really is made of the right stuff.
It was an emotional night. One I hope to never experience again. I wandered through the darkness at first. Then, almost miraculously, Ryan reached out a touched me with his words. Those keystrokes echoed from years ago and pulled me along. In a weird way I could hear Ryan telling me, “See Dad, you’re doing right by me. What you found tonight was for a reason. It confirms what you already knew about me. You’re respecting the person I was, because your upholding my principles no matter the person I am. I need you to speak for me when others somehow think they know better. They don’t. I have already spoken.”
So, maybe (and almost certainly) it wasn’t Ryan consciously giving this message and it just happened. It really doesn’t make a difference. He gave it to me just the same..
I got the message!
Be sure to read tomorrow’s Guest Post from Karen Tiplady to learn more about Ryan!