It’s not been a good year for me or my old gang back in Tulsa. Three of my close friends from those days have committed suicide in just over a year. First was Kelly Dancer, then Shawna Stevens, and now Glenn Holtz. I guess I could intellectualize Kelly’s suicide, and somewhat blame him for his substance abuse problems and other issues that lead to his demise. Not so with Shawna, who was the sweetest woman you could possibly want to meet, but suffered from severe health problems from a car accident and the accompanying financial catastrophe that comes with that in the USA. And, similarly, Glenn was lost to mental health problems before high school, and there is no morality tale relevant at all for his demise. It’s something I understand from my own family, though none of mine have taken their own lives to this point. These last three are not the only close friends of mine from the neighborhood who have taken their own lives, there was Lori Ellis, Greg Geiger, and several others (as I recall from a recent network posting for our 30th reunion) from my high school class committed suicide. As a sociologist, I think about how my upper middle class neighborhood was also fraught with contradictions for mobility or status maintenance. Education was downplayed, social visibility and status were linked to success at sports and sex, and alcohol and other drugs were readily available and heavily abused. I may have more to say about suicide in a formal way in the future, it is an area of research I will soon explore.
I probably first met Glenn Holtz when I was in kindergarten, if not before. He lived on the next block, and he had older siblings who were about the same age as my sister Darla. I remember spending tons of time with him as young children combing the fields catching horny toads, toads, frogs, and snakes. We’d ride our bikes around in the fields of the abandoned farms that are now a Sam’s Club, office buildings, and various other businesses near where my Mom still lives. We even found a rattlesnake in that field once (probably the last survivor). We busted into the shed used by teenagers as a party house and drank all of their booze. One of the teenagers busted us one time and chased us around the field in his car but couldn’t catch us. When the teenager got out of the car I busted his head open with a rock, he’s lucky he wasn’t closer to Glenn (Glenn could hurl a rock). Those were good times. Later, Glenn and Dave Bowen and Ned Schupp and I would sneak out and meet up with Owen Lea and Clay Edwards and Randy Raby and Steve Young and Daniel MacDonald at night after our parents were asleep. I had a morning paper route, so I could sometimes use that as an excuse if I got busted. We did all kinds of crazy stuff. As we became adolescents, the inevitable happened and we began to pursue girls. Glenn had great success. I never understood that. I always thought he was ugly, but now that I look at his pictures I realize that I was wrong. Back when we were 13 and 14, we used to sneak out in his dad’s Mercedes a lot. Holy crap. Totally nuts stuff. And, more regularly we’d all sneak out in Owen’s parents’ van. We’d be pushing the cars down the street so their parents wouldn’t hear them start up. We’d stay out all night smoking weed and drinking. It was good practice for not sleeping in college, if you got there. Most of my friends didn’t.
In high school Glenn showed signs of mental illness, first exhibited with a drift to conservative Christianity for a bit (his parents were a non-practicing Jew and a Catholic). He fought that off for a bit, but lost contact with most people. I had not heard from him in almost a decade, but we did correspond about some political issues about ten years ago. He seemed angry and glued to a strange, right-wing ideology, but that’s pretty much par for Oklahoma, and I thought he was otherwise doing well. I was wrong. His dear sister Stephanie told me that they had been estranged from him for sometime, and she didn’t learn of his death for several days. My only one positive from all of this is finding out that Stephanie made it, she got a degree at Cornell and has a nice, stable existence. Too few of my old brothers and sisters have any hope for the future, and one little calamity often leads to despondency and self destruction. I don’t think that Glenn will be the last of my band of brothers and sisters who exits abruptly.