Enjoy your youth, Keith. Right now you feel like you’re on top of the world. You’re playing APBA football an awful lot and when you go outside you sometimes throw a football against an overturned barrel and struggle to catch it on the bounce-back. You’re completely healthy, you know that, don’t you? The only thing I can say about your health is to keep it at all costs. Before you know it you’ll be taking a dozen prescription pills a day just to get through the day. But that’s far away and into your adulthood. Right now, I just want to remind you to keep your sense of humor for there will become a time when you will go into a depression and it will seem endless.
You have a green bicycle now and you’ve tied a rope to the handlebars and call it your green horse. It’s fun to ride and don’t worry, you won’t be crashing it. You will cut your foot really bad while playing Frisbee in the woods behind your house. You will be barefoot and cut your right instep on a broken bottle in the woods. Though it won’t hurt you, it will scare the shit out of mom and she will take you to get stitches.
Treasure your family at this time. Though it seems like they will all be in your life forever, they won’t. Please try to do what you can to get Mom to quit smoking. It will be the death at her far too soon. You and Daryle will grow apart and it will take you forever to rekindle the friendship you enjoyed in your youth. He will go off into the military and won’t come home until your sister is gone. I’m so sorry to tell you this but Terri won’t make it past the age of 15. You and Terri will have a long history of sibling rivalry but in the last two weeks of her life, you will hear the Holy Spirit command you to be nice to her. You really will hear this voice in your head saying “Be nice to her.” You will obey, Keith. You will throw a birthday party for her, give her gifts and even treat her and a friend of hers to a double feature movie.
After a while, being nice to her will wear off and you will regret your actions for the rest of your life. You will have a drivers’ license and Terri won’t have one, so she will ask you for a ride to someone’s house in the family car. You will be listening to music in your room, with your headphones on. You will tell her “NO!” in a very harsh way. The last thing you will see of your sister alive will be a smile on her face as she says it’s okay, she’ll ask someone else for a ride. That person will ride her on the back of a motorcycle and get hit by a car. Terri will only survive long enough to give her name at the hospital. You will be at work with Mom at Stop-N-Go when the hospital calls. You will have no idea of what comes of the accident. You think Terri is accident prone but always pulls through. As you man the store while Mom goes to the hospital, driven by her friend, Ralph, a man will enter the busy convenience store and all the other customers will mysteriously leave. The man will buy a pack of gum and as you ring up the sale with nervous fingers he will flip open his wallet and you will see a picture of a painting of Jesus with a bleeding heart. You will know at that moment – and not when Mom comes back and says “She’s dead!” – that Terri has ascended to heaven.
Keith, don’t be afraid of life. I know you think you are on top of the world but you’re not. You’re stagnating in your bedroom playing APBA football games, which last over an hour apiece. I know you come home from school and go right to the game. You think it’s so cool and you’ll spend hours every night playing this football game. Wait until you see when computers are common-place in almost every home. Here you are at 52 and still playing football games and marveling at the statistics involved.
Keith, you love statistics and you should go to college. Oh, I’m not saying you won’t try to. You’ll go to LSU admissions and due to a freak ice storm that rolls through Louisiana during the orientation phase of registering, the college will cancel the rest of the day and ask everyone to return on Monday, three days away. Sad to say, but you will spend the registration money that weekend…on what, I don’t remember, but whatever it was, it wasn’t as important as a college education. By the way, you would have signed up to major in sociology. You will have a friend, named Beth, go to register with you. Between the two of you, the money for college will be gone in 48 hours.
Your relationship with your dad is at a crisis point now. I think you know what he did to Terri by now. Mom shocked you with the announcement of what dad did to Terri. You never questioned it. You let it sink in and grow into a hatred of dad. You tried defending him to Mom when she turned on you and told you what dad did to Terri. You went into yourself and never defended dad again.
I know I said you feel like you’re on top of the world at this age, but the reality is that you’re living in denial about so many things. You’re also going through a period of “unstained purity” which is holding you back. Don’t get me wrong, I understand what reasoning you had about being without sin. But let’s get it straight, you are afraid of sex at 16 and though you have female friends who would love to be your girlfriend, you avoid them like the plague. You also are avoiding guy friends who have inroads to finding you a girlfriend. You are torn between a deep sense of morality and a yearning for a girlfriend. Being this torn, you hide yourself in your bedroom and play football all day.
I know you’re keeping a journal notebook as well. You write down how you feel about almost every day you experience. Tanda and little Kelly also live with you at this time and soon you’ll get a knock at the front door and there will be two state troopers there. Kelly’s father will die in a car wreck. That night will be hell for everyone to hear as Tanda, in bed on a couch, will cry all night and beg God to bring back Walter as He brought back Lazarus. This will creep you out, expecting a crumpled Walter Thomas to show up the door in answer to Tanda’s prayers. Kelly will never know his dad.
And speaking of Kelly, you and him will have a wonderful time growing up together. You will both play-wrestle and chase each other many times. Kelly will grow up admiring you and you will admire him too, until there is this distance between you for a while.
Keith, you’re going to Yellowstone National Park to work there for the 1991 season. Kelly will go with you, as a last-minute decision. You will be called “Key” all through your season there. Another friend, a female named Chris Johnson will also join you in Yellowstone. You will have given up a secure job you had with the Louisiana Civil Service for over ten years to go to Yellowstone. Though you won’t realize it when you are depressed and seeking the geographic cure. Yellowstone makes you feel a sense of bliss for a couple of months and there are women with whom you really enjoy being around, though jealousy arises in your mind about one of the women and you will start to use another woman to hurt the one who rejects you. Keith, this will be a major regret in your mind for years to come.
Meanwhile, Kelly can’t handle the cabin fever – no TV and no radio – and gets a ride home with another employee who has been fired. Don’t worry, you get to keep your dorm room to yourself after Kelly leaves. And though there’s a dress code involving the prohibition of long hair, you manage to make it through the summer with long locks. And believe it or not, you will get your job back with Civil Service in Louisiana. This time, you will think you will never leave again, but you will.
Your relationship with Kelly will never be as strong as it was before you left for Yellowstone. You will also go to two other National Parks; the Everglades and the South Rim of the Grand Canyon, but Kelly won’t be with you. Oddly enough, a young lady who adores you will travel from Yellowstone to the Grand Canyon just to be around you. You won’t like her that much, for some stupid reason, but you will have finally come to terms with having sex with someone without guilt involved. Her name is Wendy Humphries and maybe you should have stuck it out with her. You will feel guilty for using her for sex, but everything else was there. She was intelligent and strong and adored you like nobody else will…until you get married.
Don’t hold your breath on the marriage thing, kiddo. You will think yourself a lifelong bachelor until you meet someone with whom you decide to marry. Sadly, this woman will break your heart with a dramatic secret she has in her life. You won’t be able to handle it and resign yourself to lifelong bachelorhood until, miraculously you meet someone on the Internet with whom you form a bond. You think her name is Abigail for the longest time until she reveals her true name, Cynthia. Or Cindy, if you will. You will be 42 when you marry and she will be 39. She will be everything you ever wanted in a woman. Though she may frustrate you at times, and you her, she is the woman for you.
But Keith, all I’m trying to say, in a nutshell, is to enjoy the time you’re having now, but socialize more. Join clubs. Be a part of a group. Go on dates. You’ve got a brilliant, though quirky, mind, and people like you. They really do. Teachers at your school have called you “Precious.” You know that. Therefore, don’t hide in the library during lunch period – go out and eat with the rest of the people and you will make friends. Although, now that you’re in the library, make friends with Debbie Loque. She also hides out in the library instead of eating lunch. Oftentimes you sit at the same table reading from the same series of books. She talks to you and you respond with one-word answers. Elucidate, man, elucidate. She’s someone who’s just like you. You know you like her and have an inkling that she likes you too. Make the most of it. It’s high school, for God’s sake…ask her out! Don’t let her just disappear from your life.
Daryle will get a hardship discharge from the Air Force when Terri dies. For some reason you two will never have a relationship until Kelly sadly dies on the operating table in 2011. Daryle will want you and Cindy (your wife) to move to Baton Rouge and to rekindle your brotherly relationship. You will want to but things will get in the way. You’ll be living in West Hollywood, California, by this time and working for Warner Bros. Studios as a security guard. You finally made it kiddo. You’re living in La-La-Land and working at a movie studio. (Well, actually working at TMZ.com, which means nothing to you now, but you just wait.)
So, go masturbate for the third or fourth time today. Enjoy it without guilt. There will be a time when it will become impossible for you to do it without a splitting headache near the back of your soul.
Start treating Terri nicer now, as well. Tell Daryle you want to be closer. He’ll understand. Tell your Mom you love her and every single day remind her not to smoke cigarettes. Rekindle a relationship with dad, no matter what you may think of him now. He’ll develop Alzheimer’s in the future and won’t remember your name. You’ll find this to be a great time to be around him as he won’t remember he’s a bigot either. But before that happens, let him know what you really feel about him and then try to forgive him. The bitterness you carry in your heart will scar you for life. Don’t let him die without some clarity from you.
You and Tanda will become closer than ever at some point in the near future. Think twice about leaving Baton Rouge for California. You will stay with her and Kelly for about a year after your house gets burglarized while you’re at a play. Or should I say, performing in a play. Yes, Keith, you will become an actor and get nominated for three best supporting actor awards during your time on stage. You will receive great reviews and develop a following. It will break people’s hearts that you will give it up to move to California. Though you love your wife, you will often wish she moved there instead of you going to the West Coast.
So enjoy your life. Revel in your youth. Go to college, despite a freak ice storm rolling in on admissions day. Ask Debbie Loque out. Continue acting. Marry Cindy but bring her to Baton Rouge. She will come because she loves you.
And above all, if Terri ever asks you to take her somewhere, for God’s sake, say yes.