“So it is that we can seldom help anybody. Either we don’t know what part to give or maybe we don’t like to give any part of ourselves. Then, more often than not, the part that is needed is not wanted. And even more often, we do not have the part that is needed.”—Norman Maclean, A River Runs Through It
I attended Delta High School’s homecoming game Friday night and a wonderful moment happened for me. My friend Aaron Kathrein asked me if I realized who was playing nose tackle for the Delta defense. I didn’t grab a roster so he had to point out that it was Jeffrey Griffith.
I’ve been involved with the youth tackle football league in Delta for over 15 years. I have two sons who I coached in the league for four of those years and was coaxed by Aaron to coach another year in 2014 when his son Ezra played. I’m glad I did.
The kids that played in the league in 2014 are now juniors and sophomores for the Delta Panthers. A team that has dominated each of its opponents this year.
I enjoyed all of the boys who played on the 2014 Thundercats and to see them as young adults, now after leaving the state for the past three years, is exciting.
Griffith was a bundle of energy and emotion. He didn’t wear his emotions on his sleeve; he wore them all over his body. Extremely happy when things went his way, and sometimes inconsolable when they didn’t. My “Don’t let your highs get too high and lows get too low” speech was tailor-made for him. He was undersized to say the least. When he made a tackle, he would have no fear launching himself into kids twice his size. He was my Rudy.
I made my way to the sideline to say hello, and when I grabbed him by the shoulder pads and turned him around, his response was priceless. “Oh my god! I have missed you so much! I’m so happy you’re here!” he said hugging me with tears in his eyes. I told him how proud I was of him. Then walked away on a cloud, so happy I was able to impact him in such a way.
Life being what it is, would deliver me a reality check by Sunday afternoon.
My niece Alex is what they call a traveler. Drifting from town to town, city to city with no ambition but to see what’s out there.
The first time she ran away, she was either 10 or 11. Sleeping on a friend’s parents’ couch for a couple of nights while our family frantically tried to find her. The older she became the further away she would drift. Starting with neighboring towns then to other states.
She was hopping freight trains before she was 16. Banding with other travelers, she would roam to the major cities across this country. By this time, she was no longer running away but was running to the next adventure. We didn’t understand it. We wanted her to come home, but she was having no part of it.
She had taught herself how to play guitar, and she could carry a tune. She played on the streets for money learned where the free meals were through the travelers’ network. Known as “Iggy” to her street people, she drank more than her little body could handle, and I’m sure abused other substances.
As a family, we knew this wasn’t a life that would last long, and this past Sunday we received the call we were expecting. Alex had collapsed at a home in Pittsburg and didn’t recover.
She was raised by my parents until she was 5 and then by my Dad after my mom passed. Dad adored her and would legally adopt her. He would wonder out loud if someone else should have taken over her parenting duties when she began to disappear, but Alex was going to do what she wanted. No one was going to stop her.
As I grieve her passing, I struggle with how I had such an impact on one child while having no impact on her. My grief is more frustration than anything.
As the condolences began to appear on her Facebook page, and there is quite a few, I began to understand the impact this little drifter had on other people’s lives. It’s not for me to understand what drove her to it, I just have to accept that it was what she wanted. She knew what the price would be.
My daughter, Victoria, posted a picture of Alex when she was 2 sitting on my parents’ bed with her stuffed animals and touching her knee with a pink flower the caption reads “Rest easy girl.” That’s the child I grieve for in this somber time.
Alexandria Marie “Iggy” Anderson passed away Sunday, Sept. 29. Five days before she would have celebrated her 26th birthday. She leaves behind a network of traveling friends and a large grieving family. She was preceded in death by her loving grandparents, Jerry and Ingrid Anderson.
Rest easy indeed.
Dennis Anderson is group publisher for Wick Communications, Alaska and Colorado. He can be reached by email at email@example.com.