My friend's father killed himself
two years ago.
He was a doctor. They had three children; my friend James was the oldest. We were
freshmen, and his brothers were in sixth and seventh grade. They were a close family.
Excruciatingly close. The local paper ran articles about the doctor and his wife
with headlines like "Couple Still In Love After All These Years." Money was no object; he
had cashed out on a lucrative medical venture in accident therapy. They owned a house on
Cape Cod and a miniature mansion back home.
By all rights, they were the ideal family. He had worked his way up to the top through
business savvy and intelligence, and was an instant success by his fortieth birthday, a local
celebrity. They never wanted for anything. They lived in the suburbs, apparently happy as
clams. He raced model cars and played Magic with his kids.
But one day I came to school, and James wasn't there. Everybody looked somber. When they
told me that the doctor had died, it sounded like a joke. Nobody saw it coming. The funeral
was that day, so I called my mother and got out of school. Fifty other people were in line for
We went home to change into funeral-type clothes and made phone calls. We
were told to check the newspaper. The headline? "Under charges of rape, local doctor commits
suicide." It turns out that the police were investigating him for sexually abusing women while
they were under anesthesia. This was the third such investigation.
He had told his family that they were going to go lay low at the Cape house for awhile. He
just needed to pack some things. He then drove across the state line, took painkillers, and
slit his wrists in a hotel room. They didn't find him there for a full day and a half.
I can only imagine the shit James went through, although I saw him that night. The whole
experience seemed to have been nearly a relief for him; one got the feeling that trying to get
through the whole mess had been quite a strain on the family. It might have almost been
easier now that he was finally gone.
He was dead, and the impact was felt all over town. It was revealed that the ancient local
pharmacy had filled prescriptions he'd written himself, for anesthetics; this is a major
violation of the law. They promptly closed their doors and were never seen again. My
friend's mother got funny looks all over town for months, and nearly moved away. She's
still dealing with posthumous lawsuits.
If there's an American Dream, it's what they're doing now. The family is actually more
cohesive; they feel united against the eyes of the town. They've banded together to carve out
a healthy existence for themselves. A lot of people wouldn't have made it out.