Life Can Be Lonely by Colin Kelly

Chapter 17

What is it like when those closest to you are not there any longer?



Friday, March 29, 2019, After School


After eating lunch and going to his Spanish 3 class, Kevin needed to get mentally prepared for his session with Dr. Ranse. He knew what they would cover today would be intense because it was everything that he’d added to the To Do List, the answers to the six questions she gave him on Wednesday, what Laura had told him he needed to talk about with Dr. Ranse, and what happened when he went into Kathy’s bedroom.

He was a little early, so he walked slowly from Edison High School to her office, thinking about how he should organize what he wanted to tell her. He concluded that he shouldn’t try to organize the sequence of things. He’d start from the first he thought about and continue until he was finished. He hoped that he wouldn’t forget anything.

Dr. Ranse greeted Kevin, and they sat down.

“How have you been?”

“Mixed.”

“What does that mean?”

“The best way for me to explain is by telling you what’s been going on with me this week. I think it’s too complicated to try to explain what I mean in isolation, like reading it silently to myself from a dictionary or encyclopedia.” He shook his head.

“Okay. That is a little convoluted, but let’s see if I understand what you mean. Let’s start with two things on my list. First, I gave you six questions. Have you answered them? Is that a good way for us to start?”

“Yes, that’s a good way to start, and I have answered all of your questions. Here are my answers. Like you asked, I didn’t make it part of the To Do List. I wrote them down, by hand, and made an extra copy for you. I have my own copy.”

Kevin handed her the original and one copy and opened his copy so he could follow along.

“Alright, let’s get started,” she said.

“I asked if you’ve been sleeping without any problems? Not waking up during the night, not being so tired in the morning you don’t want to get up.

“You replied that as soon as you get into bed, you fall asleep. And you sleep straight through until you hear your alarm in the morning.”

“That’s right, except for this morning.”

“What happened this morning?”

“I woke up when I heard my alarm, but when I turned it off, I felt sort of drained. Like I hadn’t had enough sleep. So I thought about what I had to do today. Then when I got out of bed, I was fine.”

“Did you have dreams last night? And if so, were any of them disturbing?”

“No, I don’t remember any dreams from last night.”

“You said the only dream you remember was from two nights ago. Can you tell me about that dream?”

“That’s the one where we were playing mixed doubles tennis — that’s a guy and a girl on each side of the net. Even though we were winning, we kept hitting the ball out of the court and over the fence into the parking lot. It was a funny dream. We were laughing because the way we were playing was so bad, and what was happening was very silly.

“Thinking about it, there wouldn’t have been any way that we could have been winning, but in the dream we were.” Kevin shook his head and chuckled. “I have no idea why I’d have a dream like that and remember it. I still have the images of Bethany and me running into the parking lot to get the balls we’d hit over the fence.” Kevin grinned.

“I have to agree, that is an unusual dream. And, interestingly, you had a dream where you were laughing at how you were playing tennis. Could it be related to your being on the tennis team now? Does your school actually play mixed doubles tennis matches with other schools?”

“I don’t know. I should ask Coach Grant. I think it would be fun.”

“Let’s move on. You said you don’t remember having any nightmares, other than after your family was killed, and you don’t remember any of those details, and you don’t want to remember any of those details. You’re trying to suppress those details. Why do you think you’re doing that?”

“It’s just so… horrible. Today I realized that I’ll probably learn all of those details at the meeting with the police and the FBI. It’s all going to come out.”

“You realize you won’t be able to suppress those details.”

“I know, I know. I don’t want to talk about that meeting yet. Maybe next week. Is that okay?”

“Yes. So let’s move on.

“Have you had any other disturbing dreams?” she asked.

“No. I don’t remember my dreams. I know I dream, but I almost never remember them. I’ve always been that way, even when I was a little kid.”

“I asked when was the last time you had a nightmare about your family being killed. You replied that it was in February, but you don’t remember the exact date. Kevin, do you remember what the nightmare was about?”

“After I had the nightmare, I woke up and I was sweating and crying. All I remember about it was hearing the policewoman telling me my family had been killed. That’s the end of what I remember from that nightmare.”

“Have you had any other nightmares?” she asked.

“No. I think if I’d had any other nightmares, I’d probably remember them, unlike regular dreams which I don’t remember.”

“This wasn’t one of my questions, but can you tell me the date when your family was killed?” Dr. Ranse asked.

Kevin’s voice was heavy-sounding when he said, “Tuesday, January twenty-second.” Then his voice broke. It took about ten seconds for him to recover. Dr. Ranse waited until he was ready.

“Thank you. I know it was very emotional for you to tell me this date.

“The next question was, are you tired during the day? Do you feel like you need a nap while you’re at school, or right after you get home?

“You answered that you never feel like you need a nap, either when you’re at school or after you get home from school. You said you exercise and you’re playing tennis a lot, and that you think that gives you a high that keeps you from feeling tired. Has that changed?”

“No. When I get home from school, I’m ready to have a snack and get into my homework and get it finished.”

Dr. Ranse looked puzzled. “You exercise and play tennis, and afterward, you don’t feel tired?”

“I do, but once I take a shower after PE, I feel great.”

“What about when you’re playing matches against players from other teams?”

“I suppose if I never took a shower, it might be different. But taking a hot shower after a match leaves me feeling kind of exhilarated, happy about the match.” Kevin grinned. “Assuming I won.”

“Alright,” she responded. “The next thing I asked was, are you eating enough? Have you lost or gained any weight?

“You replied that you weren’t sure about gaining or losing weight, so you got undressed and weighed yourself. The scale read 165, and you said that was about 3 pounds more than your normal weight. You said you’d had a big meal at dinner the night before, so that might be the reason for your 3-pound weight gain. How often do you weigh yourself?”

“My tennis coach tells us to weigh ourselves at the same time each day, right after we get up and we’ve used the toilet. That way, it’s more reliable. So, that’s what I do. And I weigh myself before and after using the weight training equipment. We record our weight so we can see how it’s changing. If it’s changing.”

 “When I asked if you were eating enough, it was implied that I was also asking if you were overeating.”

“I’m careful about how much I eat. I’m eating a healthy diet. For lunch, I’m getting the tennis team meal each day. It’s paid for by the Booster’s Club and is healthier than the other food in the cafeteria. Today we had a big salad. Yesterday we had a sandwich with roast turkey, lettuce, and tomato on whole-grain bread. Our beverage is always Zero Water. That’s water with zero sugars, just natural flavor from fruit like grapefruit peel. That flavor is my favorite.

“Connie fixes the meals that I eat at home. She’s a great cook, and she is careful to make sure I’m getting a lot of protein and fiber, low carbs, and limited salt and sugar. I get a lot of vegetables. I like all kinds of vegetables. Even Brussels sprouts.” Mentioning that universally despised vegetable, he grinned. “I always wonder about kids who won’t eat vegetables. That doesn’t make any sense to me. I love vegetables. Also, I eat dessert, ice cream, or if Connie makes it, cranberry bread pudding. That’s my favorite.

“For breakfast, I usually eat high-fiber cereal with fruit. Almost always blueberries — I love blueberries — and bananas or other fresh fruit like strawberries or peaches. Sometimes, especially on the weekend, I’ll have bacon and eggs with toast or a toasted bagel.”

“My next question was, have you felt or been ill recently, and if so, how has it affected you?

“You answered that you haven’t felt or been sick, so the question doesn’t apply.

“I asked, do you consider yourself healthy?

“You answered that, in your opinion, you are healthy because you keep your strength up from the workouts you have in the weight training room, the exercise you get playing tennis, running each morning and at the end of each PE period, and you eat a healthy diet.

“Have there been any recent changes that make you feel more or less healthy?”

“I’m running every morning, seven days a week. I think that’s helping me. My tennis coach emphasized that this is important for me to build up stamina.”

“Next I asked, do you ever feel anxious or stressed, and if so, what about and when does it happen?

“Your answer was yes, and that it’s when you’re thinking about the meeting with the Walnut Creek Police and the FBI. You also said that you feel stressed about going into your family’s bedrooms because you don’t want to go into their rooms, especially your parents’ bedroom. Why do you think the idea of going into your parents’ bedroom is more stressful?”

“Because they were my parents. I don’t know how else to say it. Maybe because my mom gave birth to me and because together they raised me. Aren’t most kid’s parents the most important part of their lives? My folks sure were the most important part of my life.”

“That’s an excellent answer, Kevin.

“The last thing I asked was, how is your mood? Are you happy most of the time, and if not, how would you describe how you’ve been feeling? How often do you laugh? What makes you laugh? Have you been sad, and if so, when does that happen?”

“You answered that your mood has been mostly neutral, and you think that’s probably because you’ve been in class most of the time.

“Then you wrote that you’ve been laughing a lot recently. Listening to jokes and sometimes telling jokes. You said you think talking to your cousins Eve and Don has been a big help. You emphasized Eve and said that’s because she’s a motor mouth and a potty mouth and she always has something funny to say, and you always laugh when you’ve been talking with her.

“Then you gave an example about sending her a selfie you took of you and Alex. She responded that the two of you are both so hot you could start a fire without matches.”

Kevin laughed when she said that. It was something that Dr. Ranse hadn’t heard him do in their sessions. “I still think that’s hilarious,” he said.

“You said that you told both Alex and your cousin Don what she said, and they also thought it was hilarious and laughed. And that Alex said he’d tell his brother, Rick. Have you talked to Rick to find out if he thought it was funny?”

“No, but I will, or Alex will tell me,” Kevin said. “Rick and I are going to meet next Wednesday after my session with you. He wants to know what computer classes he might be able to take online and at Diablo Valley College during summer session. Like me, he’s interested in computer science.”

“In your answer, you said that you like to laugh, and in the past, your usual demeanor would have been called happy and laughing all the time. You said now you were more neutral than happy. You added that maybe after the meeting on April thirteenth you’d be able to be happy most of the time again.

“You also wrote that you need to figure out how to get back to being the way you were. I assume that means being happy all the time. You wrote that you will need help to be that way again.

“It sounds like you’re struggling to find a way to accomplish that, to be happy most of the time. What about your friends? Could they help you? Do they know you need help so you can be happy? Have you reached out to them?”

“I already talked about my cousin Eve.” Just saying her name made Kevin smile, and Dr. Ranse noted that.

“When I was talking to Rick Burney today about getting together to look up classes for this summer, I found that he has a wild sense of humor, and we were kidding each other even though all we were doing was finding a day and time to get together to go through summer session class schedules at DVC.

“My friend Laura likes to kid with me, too. I guess that’s it.”

“Alright, that completes your responses to the questions I asked. The second thing I want to talk about is this. Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?”

“Yes.”

“I was telling Laura that I can’t keep track of what day it is anymore. I don’t seem to be able to manage my schedule in my head, and I’d always done that without any problem. For example, I was reading the pages we were assigned in The Dream Weaver book. I said it seemed like I’d read it two weeks ago. But I’ve only been back to school since Thursday, the twenty-first. I didn’t get this book until last Friday, the twenty-third. That’s only a week ago yesterday. Everything seems stretched out and disconnected.

“Laura said she thinks it’s because of all the make up work I’m doing, and the stress of that along with keeping up with my classes, and that I’ve been running on adrenaline and that’s screwing up my brain. Is that possible?”

“Yes, it is possible. What you’re doing is limiting where you go and what you do, and that’s causing stress. It’s school, and it’s at home, and it’s meeting with me for our sessions. You need to relax and do things other than schoolwork. Do things somewhere different than in a classroom or at home.”

Kevin saw what she was suggesting. Everything he’d been doing was going to school or being at home. He recognized that she was telling him he had to get out of that cycle and do other things.

“Go to a theater and see a movie with friends. Take a walk or go on a hike with friends. Go to a water park or a paintball park with friends. Pick a restaurant you’d like to try and go there with friends. Go to the Lesher Center and see an art exhibit. Start having fun again, Kevin.”

“I go to Laura’s on Sundays, and we have lunch and study Algebra 2/Pre-Calc.”

“Think about that,” she said.

Kevin responded immediately. “It’s schoolwork?”

“Yes.”

“I’ve gone to the Burney’s house for dinner.”

“Okay, I’ll give you one point of credit for that.” Dr. Ranse grinned.

“I’ve gone there twice.” Kevin smirked.

“That’s still only one point. It’s not something different.”

“When Laura came over on Tuesday, we watched the movie Love Simon. It has a gay theme. It’s also a book written by a woman, Simon vs. the Homo Sapiens Agenda. I’d read the book.

“When Jeff came over on Thursday, we watched the movie Mission: Impossible — Fallout. It’s an action-adventure movie. It was on Netflix.

“I’m going to see the Black Panther at the Century 14 with my friend Ted Gering and his older brother Brad tomorrow. First, we’re going to have lunch at Gott’s Roadside. It’s a new burger place in Walnut Creek that we haven’t been to yet.”

“That’s good, and all of those are worth five points. That’s aggregated, not each.” Dr. Ranse grinned, and so did Kevin.

“That brings up a question I should have asked you earlier. Do you often read for pleasure? If so, what do you like to read?”

“Yes, I’ve always read a lot. I still read, but not as much as before because of all the make up work I’m plowing through. I like science fiction, some mysteries, books in the Young Adult and Teen categories, and computer books. And, before you object to that last one, I read the computer books for pleasure.”

“What about getting out and doing things like hiking and walking?” 

 “I’m running every morning before I shower and leave for school. It’s because I’m on the tennis team.”

“That’s worth a half a point…” Dr. Ranse saw from Kevin’s expression he disagreed, and then he interrupted, “I disagree. Two points, at least!”

“It’s half a point because it’s related to school. I’m willing to give you a full point because it’s getting you out of the house and away from school and you are doing something different. Even though you’re doing it regularly, it’s a diversion, and that’s good.”

Kevin grinned. “Thanks. I’ve still got things I want to talk about. Do we have time?”

She nodded and replied, “Yes, we have time.”

“Okay, thanks.

“I got to school earlier than usual yesterday morning. So, I stopped at the cafeteria and got a bottle of orange juice. I sat down and looked around, and I didn’t see anyone I know. Maybe that’s not surprising in a school that has almost two-thousand kids in four grades. Still… I was alone. Not lonely, the way I’d been when I’d get home and no one was there. That’s fixed now that my three best friends are coming over to keep me company three days a week. But sitting in the cafeteria with maybe a thousand kids, and not knowing any of them, that made me feel alone. Like I was a newbie in a different high school. It made me wonder, could this be a sign that I’m depressed?”

“You described how you felt alone when you were in the cafeteria. Did you also feel isolated? Not just alone, but unable to relate to any of the other kids? Or, did you feel that you would be able to walk up to someone and begin talking to them?”

“I didn’t think about doing that. But I could have. If I’d been in the cafeteria for a longer time, maybe if I’d gotten a breakfast burrito, I would have walked up to a table where kids were sitting, and there was room for me. Then I’d ask if it was okay if I sat down, and I’d have introduced myself.

“But that didn’t happen. I had to go to class, so my sitting there with my orange juice was just a short break. When I left for my class, walking across the campus, I thought everything seemed completely normal. But then I started thinking about how much would be changed after the meeting on April thirteenth. I’ll learn so much… I’m not sure I’m going to be ready for that.”

“What class did you have?”

“It was my first class of the day, Algebra 2/Pre-Calc. Laura is in the same class.”

“How did you feel when you got to class?”

“We were going to have an exam, so I guess I was a little anxious about it. But Laura reminded me that I didn’t have anything to worry about, that I’d gotten an A on each of the two make up exams and the last regular exam. She told me I’d be ready for AP Calculus next year. She’s always encouraging me, and I need that.

“That reminds me of something else I was thinking about. I want my teachers to encourage me when I do well. Some do, some don’t. Is that something I should want?”

“Yes, Kevin, it is.”

“My folks used to encourage me a lot. I’d bring home a report or a Spanish translation, and show them an A grade because I was proud that I was doing a good job in school.” He had to stop because he was close to tears. When he was able, he continued, “Laura and Alex do that for me now. They’re great, but I need somebody else, too.”

“What about your counselor? Have you met with him since you talked to him about finding someone to tutor you for chemistry and Spanish?”

“No. Should I ask for a meeting with Mr. Langer?”

“I think that would be a good idea. Tell him what you told me. You’re looking for encouragement from your teachers. Be sure to name the teachers who do and the ones who don’t encourage you.”

Kevin was quiet. Dr. Ranse looked at him and raised her eyebrows.

He said, “Uh… asking for that seems sort of creepy.”

“When you meet with Mr. Langer, tell him you’d like an update about how you’re doing. Don’t forget, you returned to school just two weeks ago after being out for over seven weeks.”

“That’s true.”

“He’ll be glad to have you to talk to instead of all of the kids he usually sees who are having problems.”

Kevin nodded. “Thanks. I’ll do that. I’ll also ask the teachers who haven’t been giving me feedback how they think I’m doing.”

Dr. Ranse smiled. “That’s an excellent idea. There’s something else,” she said. Did you update your To Do List?”

“I forgot to update it with the latest things, like when I went into Kathy’s room. That’s because it was so emotional.

Kevin wasn’t sure he could tell Dr. Ranse everything that happened when he was in Kathy’s room without breaking down and crying. Still… it was something he wanted to do.

“Can you tell me about it?” she asked.

“Yes. I’ll probably start crying.”

“Don’t feel like you shouldn’t cry, Kevin. Remember, I told you that crying is a way of releasing grief. You’re still holding on to most of the grief you have from the loss of your family.”

Kevin said nothing more. He just sat there, thinking.

So, she asked, “You were going to tell me about going into Kathy’s room. Can you describe what it was like?”

“I started by just walking into her room. The first thing I noticed is that it didn’t smell musty. It had smelled that way when I opened her door a few days ago. Rob and Ron’s bedroom smelled the same when I opened their door. That’s probably because their rooms had been closed for eight weeks.

“Anyway, I walked into Kathy’s room. I sat down at her desk. It was so neat. That was what Kathy was like. Very neat, very organized. I think I got the same gene because I’m always neat and organized, too. At least, I try to be.

“Her textbooks were stacked at one side of her desk. The spines were all facing the desktop, and they were positioned so the titles would be easy to read. There was a spiral binder in the center of the desktop. It was open to a page that had notes about one of her classes, Psych 225, Social Psychology. The date ‘1/22/2019’ was written at the top. That was the day my family was murdered. It had her assignments and exams, things she’d never do now. She was taking classes at DVC, and planned to transfer to either U.C. Berkeley or U.C. Davis.”

Dr. Ranse saw that Kevin had tears in his eyes, and he was trying to keep from crying.

“I looked around her room. Finally, it was too much, and I started crying. I was glad that there wasn’t anyone who could hear me crying. But then I wanted someone to hear me crying, someone who would understand why I was crying. Someone who knew me, really knew Kevin Young, sixteen-year-old high school sophomore. Who has no parents, no sister, no brothers. Kevin Young, who’s alone. Not just lonely, but desperately alone.”

Now Kevin was crying, mostly tears and sniffles.

“I got up from her desk chair and fell face-down onto her bed. I could smell her scent. I can remember thinking that it was her cologne, or her shampoo, or both. I took deep breaths, through my mouth, breathing in her scent, capturing it. I closed my mouth and didn’ breathe but held it inside. So now she’s part of me.”

Dr. Ranse saw that Kevin was crying openly. She gave him a minute, then got up, walked around to the other side of her desk, and motioned that he should stand. He did, and they hugged, Kevin crying, still softly, and Dr. Ranse holding back a few of her own tears.

Finally, when Kevin’s tears were over, they stepped apart and returned to their seats.

“You said you wanted someone who knew you, who would understand why you were crying. I know you, Kevin. I know who you are. And I know that you’re alone. That’s one of the things we’re working on, you and I together, is finding how you won’t be so alone. And I think you’re starting to resolve that so you aren’t as alone as you were when we first started having our sessions. Do you agree?”

“Yes, I agree. And thank you. That is what I want,” he said.

“You’re welcome, Kevin. I want to do as much as possible to help you.”

“You’re doing so much for me now. There’s no one else who has helped me cope with everything as much as you have. I am so lucky that Mr. MacIntosh gave me your name, and that you’re the one I picked to be the therapist I wanted to use. Do you know why?”

“No, why did you choose me?”

“Because you’re a woman and I figured that you’d be more understanding, empathic, and compassionate. Those are the exact words I thought about. I was right. You are all of those.”

 “Do you want to talk about anything else now, or wait until our next session?”

“There is something else I’d like to talk about. It’s confusing me. It has to do with the meeting on April thirteenth.

“When I was thinking about who to invite to be with me at the meeting, I thought about my Uncle Graeme. He’s my closest relative. He lives in Vancouver, which is closer to where I live than any of my other relatives. He’s also the architect of my house, and his son Don is one of my closest cousins — we’re good friends.

“So I thought about how much it would cost for him to come to the meeting. I was surprised. It wasn’t all that much, and I could pay it from my trust. He wouldn’t need a hotel; he could stay at my house in the guest bedroom.

“He would have to fly here on the Friday before the meeting. So I thought that he might want to stay over for a few days. I think he can take time off whenever he wants. It’s his architecture firm.

“Then I thought about my aunt Beth. Uncle Graeme’s wife. She might want to come, too. Still no problem. The guest bedroom has a queen-size bed.

“Then I thought about my cousin Don. He might want to come, too. Especially if both of his folks come here. That way, he wouldn’t be alone. it could be a long weekend for him and their whole family, and it would be a good way for us to get together. We haven’t seen each other since Christmas.

“Then I thought about Aunt Beth. She’s a nursing supervisor at Burrard Children’s Hospital in Vancouver. She might not be able to get the time off on Friday, and maybe longer if Uncle Graeme stayed for several days.

“So, I decided not to invite Aunt Beth.

“Don would have to take off school on Friday, and maybe longer, if he came. Also, if he came the guest bedroom would be for his dad, and Don would have to sleep with me. That would be… complicated. Alex is my boyfriend. Don has a boyfriend. Complicated!

“So I decided to not invite Don.

That made me think about Uncle Graeme. Did I really want him here for the meeting? What I needed was someone who knows me, really knows me. That’s you, Dr. Ranse. So I asked you to be at the meeting and not Uncle Graeme.

“I’m sort of having second thoughts about not inviting Uncle Graeme as well. Okay, there’s no reason for me to ask Uncle Graeme to come to the meeting. Except he is my closest adult relative, both in person and how close he lives to me. Comparatively. I’ve seen him lots more times than any of my other Aunts and Uncles. But for some reason, I dropped him from my list. And I’m not sure why. That worries me. Also, when he finds out about the meeting, he might be upset — or at least wondering — why I hadn’t told him about it, and asked him if he wanted to be here.

“So, I wanted to ask you to think about that, and we if could talk about it at our session on Wednesday. If I decide to ask him to come, if he can, calling him Wednesday night would still give him plenty of time to get a flight to Oakland or San Francisco.”

“You don’t want to talk about that right now. Are you sure?”

Kevin looked up. “I’d prefer to talk about it at our next session. Right now, I think it’s time for me to go home. I have homework to finish. I don’t want any of it left over so I’d have to work on it over the weekend. As I told you, I’m going with Ted Gering and his brother on Saturday to a new restaurant to have burgers then see a movie.

“Then, on Sunday I’m going to Laura’s for lunch and to study Algebra 2/Pre-Calc together.

“Then Sunday night I’m going to dinner at the Burney’s. I’m looking forward to that. When I’m there, it’s like being with a family again.

“I included these on my To Do List. Let me give you your copy.” He opened his backpack and handed her the updated copy of the list. “What this list doesn’t include are your questions and my answers, what happened when I went into Kathy’s bedroom, and whether I should tell Uncle Graeme about the meeting and asking if he wants to come.”

“I made notes when you told me about those. I’ll use that to update my copy of the list.”

“One other thing. I brought my personal copy of The Dream Weaver. I’ll loan it to you, and we can discuss it at our session on Wednesday.”

“Thank you for offering to loan it to me. However, my copy arrived yesterday. So I won’t need to borrow yours. I still want to discuss it with you on Wednesday.”

“Okay. The assignment we have from Mr. Sommers only covers through chapter three. I probably won’t read beyond that.”

“Alright. I might read beyond chapter three, but I won’t bring up anything beyond that point.”

“Okay. I’ll see you on Wednesday, Dr. Ranse. Thanks for everything we did today.”




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