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Friday, October 21, 2011

A Life Not Lived

Few would have seen it but there was an obituary that appeared on the Brooks & White Funeral Home website earlier this month:

Ian Gabriel Jordan
Born 06/28/1990 Durham County, NC
Died 10/01/2011 and resided in Roxboro, NC

10/03/2011 6:30 PM to 8:00 PM

Brooks & White
907 Durham Rd
Roxboro, NC 27573

10/04/2011 11:00 AM
Church Service
Roxboro Baptist Church
202 S. Main St.
Roxboro, NC 27573

He was born; he died. He left behind a number of surviving relatives.

And that was that.

He was all of twenty-one years old.

Twenty-one?  How could Ian Jordan have died so young?

Barnie Day - our own Barnie Day - whose name, unfortunately, appears on that list of survivors, tells us:
Ian Jordan

The obituary says he died at Person Memorial Hospital, in Person County, North Carolina (just south of Danville), but that’s a lie, maybe sanitized out of some warped sense of compassion for the family, but a lie nonetheless.

Ian died an addict’s death at a drug dealer’s house.

He overdosed on oxymorphone, a relatively new (two years on the market) semi-synthetic opiate marketed as Opana, or Opana ER, a prescription, time-released pain medication.


Remember that word. It’s killing kids all across America. There is a 100% probability that it is going to kill someone you know.

I had never heard of it until a week ago.

Junkies—and I’m not talking about homeless, bum-looking street people—I’m talking about relatively affluent, well-dressed, high-achieving, Volvo-driving kids, kids who belong to the honor societies, who play soccer and lacrosse, kids headed to the good schools—refer to these little pink, octagonal killers in cute, hip-speak slang: blues, biscuits, octagons, stop signs, pink heaven, the O Bomb, and others.

Go through their rooms. Check their pockets. Search their cars. Read their emails. Listen to their messages. You will find them. Don’t “trust” them. Don’t “treat them like adults.” They’re not adults. They’re children. To hell with their “privacy.”

I Googled “Opana for sale,” and a vast, on-line marketplace came up—600,000 buyers and sellers. They are everywhere. Forty dollars a tab.

Remember that word, Opana. It is going to kill someone you know.

Ian was my sister’s kid, and I loved him like a son. He loved coming here, he and his brother.

We camped, and hiked, and rode horses all over this mountain. We took road trips. Stonewall Jackson’s house. R. E. Lee’s tomb. Monticello. We goofed off at Fairystone, and visited museums. We fished the Chesapeake Bay for stripers and Laurel Fork Creek for trout.

I think his descent into addiction probably began out of sheer boredom. He was electrically bright, and a compulsive reader. My sister home-schooled him for eight years. When he hit high school he was an instant exasperation for his teachers—the once-in-a-while kid who really does know more than the teacher knows, the kid who won’t pay attention, who won’t conform, who refuses to do mindless rote anything—but the kid who, without trying, can ace every exam you put in front of him—and do it blindfolded, with his hands tied behind his back.

He went to France with the French class and picked new language up like you and I would pick coins up off the sidewalk. The family breathed a sigh of relief. It was like a vacation—a couple weeks with no Ian to deal with.

He was a hardcore addict by the time he got out of high school, a well-read addict though, one who would try anything once he had read up on it, had studied the variables at length.

Oxycontin was his favorite, crushed, cooked in a spoon, and injected. But he would try anything—mushrooms, the jell squeezed out of pain patches, anything—once he thought he understood its properties.

He eschewed college and announced he was going into the Navy. Another collective sigh of relief went up. The Navy would straighten him out.

The Navy put him through a battery of entrance exams. He scored the second-highest cumulative score ever recorded at the recruiting office in Durham. The high score was posted several years earlier by a recruit who already had a degree in engineering. Ian was just out of high school.

The Navy thought his score was suspect, and made him re-take the tests under tighter scrutiny. He sat at a table checking the answer boxes for half a day, while two Navy officers watched him. I waited out in the car. The test score went up.

I don’t know this for a certain fact, but he told me his recruiters coached him on how to pass the drug tests after his score was verified.

I don’t know how he passed all the physical examinations—he was born with only one kidney—but I suspect the same thing—the test score.

Two shooting wars dependent on volunteers puts a lot of pressure on recruiters.

The Navy inducted him, tracked him into its nuclear program, and sent him to its Great Lakes training facility, and after that, to Charleston. He was home in a year, on a medical discharge.

The subsequent trajectory was entirely predictable—menial, meaningless jobs, unemployment, self-imposed homelessness, subsistence by theft, hospitalization, rehab.

You hold your breath every time the phone rings after dark when there is an Ian in the family.

He finished a five-month program in California this past May. Came home clean. Clear-eyed. Maybe. It wasn’t long before he was circling the drain again.

On October 1, 2011, he crushed a 40-mil Opana tablet, inhaled the powder through his nose, went to sleep, and never woke up again.

I told him a year ago I was not going to his funeral. But that was a lie, too. I was there, staring into that “what-if” abyss.

I don’t know what death is like. I know the part that hurts is living.

Ian was 21.
Every parent's nightmare.  A young soul irretrievable.

So sad.  So tragic.

One is left asking: Why?