An Inexcusable, Petulant Teenage Act

As the former guardian of a teenage boy, and as an adult family man, I presently look at the world from a maturing perspective. From my point of view, characteristics such as responsibility and honesty trump characteristics like impetuousness, laziness, and rebellion. Every teenager, from my own self those decades ago, to the one who was under my roof, is rebellious, lazy, prone to haste, and ignorant of real-world consequences.

But this is the story of the actions of a teenager that are, quite honestly, amazingly selfish and thoughtless.

It was the Friday before spring break 1981 in Lawton, Oklahoma, and a nice day. My yearbook advisor Rick Hill and I had met up with the members of Eisenhower High School’s “Ike Mafia” to take a picture for the ad they bought for the ’81 Talon yearbook. We picked Chip Johnson’s house because it sported a circular driveway, we could get up on the roof to make the photo from above, and Chip was a member of the group and a yearbook staffer like me. The Mafia members were mostly rich kids whose parents owned expensive luxury cars, and those cars were props in the picture.

They circled the luxury cars in the driveway and placed two lawn chairs in the center. Most of the people in the photos donned mirrored sunglasses, which we simply called “mirrors,” and all the mafia members are wearing their signature “Ike Mafia” t-shirts. Amazingly by today’s standards, four of the ten people in the photo are holding firearms.

Jeff Glenn is the one on the far left side of the image. In all the frames except this one, his middle finger is extended.

When we were done making the picture, everyone got into their various cars and went home, except Jeff. He got into his gold Pontiac Trans Am and without telling anyone at all, most notably his parents, drove to Chicago to see his girlfriend. As a fellow 17-year-old, I wasn’t particularly concerned. But after being responsible for a 17-year-old, I can only imagine the phalanx of emotions that must have gripped Jeff’s parents when he didn’t come home, and as they waited the three days before he bothered to call and confirm what they suspected, that he had run away to see his girlfriend 1200 miles away.

His girlfriend was named Deanna, so in future conversations, we dubbed it “De Day.” It was a particularly rebellious act in the midst of a series of pointlessly rebellious acts, a series which ended in Jeff’s suicide just 14 months later, May 12, 1982.

If you are a parent, maybe you understand my point of view.

The infamous "Ike Mafia" yearbook ad photo, which included the lame, slightly racist cutline, "Keepa up the spirit or we breaka you face in."
The infamous “Ike Mafia” yearbook ad photo, which included the lame, slightly racist cutline, “Keepa up the spirit or we breaka you face in.”
1+

3 Comments

  1. I felt a part of me in each of the self-proclaimed groups in our class that year – The Mafia, The Radicals, and The Saints, but was not in any of them. (and it doesn’t look like females were allowed in The Mafia) I felt like a fly on the wall watching them all and wondering where I fit in.

    Of course I knew who Jeff was, but did not know him well. Still it was one of those things I will never forget – where I was and who told me that he had taken his life. It sent a chill through my entire body. My first, but unfortunately not my last, exposure to suicide.

    I hope not to sound unsympathetic, but I view suicide as a very selfish act. I don’t know if it was simply another act of rebellion, a true medical depression, or an impulsive and thoughtless act. Regardless, we all still feel a void of a life needlessly taken too early.

    0
  2. You have pondered Jeff’s suicide all of your life, haven’t you? First as a peer and now as a parent? You used to talk to me about it quit a bit. I don’t remember thinking much about it one way or another. Now, I am a parent of a child who accidentally took his own life and my heart is very tender towards the death of every young person who dies and every parent and sibling who has to face that kind of loss. I also noticed that Michael’s friends suffered a great loss when he died. Mike’s friend Frankie has had such a hard time letting go because he’s afraid it will mean he wasn’t a true friend if he moves on.

    Jeff’s death has clearly had a life long influence on your life. He was just a kid too. His parents were probably younger than you and I are now. I took off lots of times and went places without telling anyone. Jeff probably had parents who didn’t pay enough attention to care what he was doing so he figured he could be as rebellious as he wanted. I’m not trying to judge his parents whom I didn’t know–I just know that’s the way it was with mine. He may not have even meant to actually kill himself. Maybe every rebellious act he committed was just one more try to see what else he would be able to get away with. That’s what it always was for me. He was probably crying out for help but didn’t know how to ask for it and there was probably no one to ask anyway. The real truth is that some people just die young. That’s just the way it is. So someone always says parents aren’t supposed to outlive their kids. Who says? Death is random. Jeff died when he died and the way he died. The same is true for my Michael. I hate it but it is what it is. We are who we are because of our experiences–including our losses. People die every day at every age in many ways from miscarriage to old age. Suicide is one of those many ways. Death just happens. Give your high school bud a break will ya? The dude is dust! Let him rest in peace!!! Woot! (new word I learned today)

    0
  3. Not all teenagers are rebellious, lazy, and prone to haste. For parents to navigate through their childrens’ teenage years believing that would be a mistake.

    Every teenager is different from every other teenager. A parent’s approach to parenting needs to be tailored to the needs of the child, not the age.

    Good post. I don’t remember reading it, and I don’t like my other comment. Will you please delete it, or hide it?

    0

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.