One week ago I learned that Scott Meadowcroft, my friend, killed himself. The news hurt in ways I wouldn’t have expected – it brought up memories, regrets, frustrations, worries, and seemingly unfounded sobs. Task-driven as usual, I pondered how to respond to the news, how to reach out to his daughter, his twin, his mom, his little kid son. American culture is notorious for dealing only with the short term effects of grief, of demanding that we move on with our lives immediately after the funeral. I want to counter our culture. I was moved by the remembrances left on Facebook but those are also fleeting…so I post this blog.
I met Scott the first meal I had in central Oregon this summer on an Outward Bound base – May 11. I began to know him in early June, happening to witness the photo shoot of his newest birthday suit Speedo. Scott wasn’t an open book, especially about his life before Outward Bound. I got hints that he’d experience with substance abuse, perhaps even gang-related, that he’d lived on streets, and he’d broken promises, burned bridges, hurt people. I know he didn’t create a stable family and struggled with romantic relationships. When I knew him, he drank too much, he was addicted to cigarettes, and he seemed to attract fights in town. He was a rough-and-tumble character.
Having studied at Cordon Bleu, Scott spent time working Chicago’s fine dining scene, garnering honors as an excellent sous-chef and slowly making his name known. He was passionate about culinary arts, food presented correctly and tasting just so, believing food preparation to be his only laudable skill. Proud to have studied butchering, he cooked for base camp in Oregon while simultaneously working with his twin brother (still in Chicago) on their sausage business. In his stories he was a teacher, and I learned to put vanilla and salt in frosting, that lemons could pickle, and how to make salmon canapé in under 20 minutes while finessing a meal to serve 175 in a kitchen built to serve only 30.
Fully aware of his track record of building unstable relationships, he believed almost viciously that a man was worth nothing if he gave up fatherhood, so he wanted desperately for his children, Riley and Jude, to know that he loved them. He made very clear that he was proud of Riley. Scott felt strong bonds with his family, even if his lifestyle didn’t show it: stories of his mother’s strong character, expectations of dressing to the nines, the fun of pranking with his twin and cousin, the anticipation of creating more trouble, and even how Riley showed the family predilection toward making trouble. Even as he dreaded returning to Chicago for another winter, he looked forward to spending time at their cabin on the shores of Lake Michigan, where his love of cooking meets a love of wilderness and sparks fly.
Scott helped me in intangible ways. My partner hated living in the Oregon desert and felt outcasted from Outward Bound society. Scott similarly didn’t fit in, and spending time together became the highlight of both of their days. Scott’s strong stance on fatherhood crashed into our lives two months after my partner’s long-estranged father died. After my partner moved to Minnesota and I finished out my internship, Scott hung out with me, watching movies, eating ice cream, going climbing, to plug both our lonelinesses. He was a strong cord in the rope tying me to the Oregon base.
I looked forward to spending time with him in Chicago, seeing the city from his perspective, meeting the characters I only knew from stories. My partner and I had promised to visit him this winter and hadn’t yet found the money to do so. I kept in touch via picture messages and small text conversations. Call it surviver’s guilt or whatever, but I do feel responsible in some small part for failing as part of his support network. At least I feel responsible for not doing more. I wanted to visit him on base next winter, when he hoped to have the job of base caretaker.
Every conversation I had with Scott returned to a set of themes: food, black powder firearms, family, classic rock trivia, WWII history, Chicago, and Outward Bound. Stories of traveling abroad into concentration camps and the arms of Fascist revolts in Italy melted into stories of meeting famous musical persons in Chicago bars and stories of the latest culinary innovations. Somewhere in the intersection of a cursing wrestler who idolized Jerry Garcia, made art with balsamic vinegar reductions for hungry critics and unaware outdoor educators, hunted desert rattlesnake with black powder pistols engraved with Civil War navy scenes, and shared a love of his daughter with the homeless girl in Bend and the youth of Odin Falls was the complex human named Scott Meadowcroft.
Love and hugs.