I’ve been thinking about how to put this week into words. Honestly, I don’t think I can do that with any grace, but I am going to try. On Sunday afternoon, my friend Scot Squires passed away. He was 49 years old, and he was living his life the way that people who “live to the fullest” tend to do. Everything Scot did, he took to the limit. Sometimes it was advocating for public education, and for teachers in this city to have access to books, supplies, or continuing education. Sometimes he was extreme in his opinions of things. Some of the most challenging conversations I’ve ever had were with Scot. He wouldn’t back down when he had strong opinions, and he challenged me to think in different ways about everything from curriculum, or education reform, charter schools, or plagiarism, and maybe even to why Maker’s Mark was the best bourbon out there (the jury may now forever be out on that one). Scot would tell you how he felt, and he didn’t care if you disagreed with him – you could always still end the night as pals, even if you called each other names while you fought about the state of education. He was just that kind of friend.
Scot loved Kansas City. He loved traveling, too. He ADORED his only child, Stella. Stella was the light in Scot’s eyes. Stella hung the moon for Scot, and he never let her, or anyone else, forget that she was the reason for everything he did. Everything. This is the part I can’t write about. My best friend lost her dad when she was 12 years old, just like sweet Stella, and I keep thinking about that time, and about all the ways that people have tried to keep her dad’s memory alive over the years. You can keep memory alive, but you can never replace a dad. My whole being hurts for Stella right now.
Scot was a runner. He wasn’t the guy you’d think would collapse and die from a heart attack on an early spring day. When my friend Ted called me Sunday night to give me the news, I couldn’t even wrap my head around what he was trying to tell me. I still can’t. How can someone so seemingly healthy and full of life just leave it so quickly? I’ve lost a lot of people in my life, but I’ve never lost a close friend. And here’s where I’m struggling. There are people in my life who are rotting away, wasting precious space with a life unlived and unexamined, and taking for granted how precious life can be. Why should Stella get the rest of her life without her dad, who doted on her and who cared about her, and who would do ANYTHING for her, all the while other people who don’t give a shit about life still manage to be here taking up space? I think this is what hurts the most about Scot’s passing. So unnecessary. So unfair.
I have memories of my friend Scot that I will hold dear. The time we were at a writing project retreat and Scot jumped into the pool wearing a fluffy white bathrobe. The time Scot called me from the Birmingham Airport – I had already made it home to KC, but his flight was delayed – and he told me about the book he’d picked up and read in one sitting. It was Tanner Colby’s Some of my Best Friends are Black, and we continue to use that book with teachers all over this city as a platform to talk about race and class in Kansas City. Scot was so excited about that. Scot and I explored the National Civil Rights Institute in Birmingham together, and stood in silence together, shoulder to shoulder, outside of the 16th Street Baptist Church. There was the time he encouraged me and my friend Katie (on that same Birmingham trip) to get on an empty trolley with him and take it for a spin. We didn’t, and in turn, no one got arrested…that time. Once, at a writing project gathering that happened to be on the anniversary of 9/11, Scot sat next to me and helped me through a poem I wouldn’t have been able to write without that encouragement. The time Scot and I took the girls to Brush Creek in KC to see the “Water Fire” boats, and he talked me through what the first year of divorced life might be like. Scot had been there, and was such a support for me during that time. Mostly, in all things, he made me laugh, which was usually exactly what I needed.
In December, Scot and Stella were walking on the Plaza when they came across a crime scene outside of the public library. Someone had been shot there, and he quickly ushered Stella away. Later, though, he made a point of taking her back there, and they walked to the library – only days later. He said that he wanted Stel to know that, “1. there are WAY more good people in the world than bad and we are safe to walk wherever we want. And, 2. Nothing, and I mean NOTHING will keep us from a new batch of library books.” This is pure Scot. Funny, and real, and honest, and willing to keep going back to something even when it’s scary or threatening. Thursday night, Scot texted me asking to meet out on Saturday to watch a friend’s band. I quickly texted back that I had the girls that night, and, I said…”next time!” Sigh. What I wouldn’t give now to have a next time.