Frank Carroll


We got the call no parent or grandparent ever wants to hear: our 15-year-old grandson had attempted suicide.

My mind flashed back to the many wonderful days camping and learning, my grandson following along, watching wood ants reduce firewood to powder. We both loved very sour candy. He shot 100 rounds of 20-gauge shells to get his merit badge in skeet. We lit fires and told stories that were meant to be told evermore until the last star died in the Milky Way.

My daughter made her husband call us. She could not. He is the best man I’ve ever known. We talked and cried and he reassured me, as best he could. My daughter was overcome by grief and too many hours without sleep.

My eldest granddaughter found her brother at 11:30 at night, thinking something was wrong because of how he sounded in the bathroom. She rushed upstairs to wake her mom. They got to my grandson in time, drove him to the hospital. He is still in ICU.

His Dad is in Texas on a business trip and was overcome by sadness and guilt. Why wasn’t he there? I told him he’s a good man and a good dad and he couldn’t have stopped it. My grandson poured refrigerated Vodka into water bottles and drank them and took a bottle of Ibuprofen. My former son-in-law and his mom are emptying the house of any alcohol or drugs.

The nurse at ICU asked my daughter if my son-in-law was some kind of first responder. Yes, she said. He’s a Hotshot Squad Boss. He spends eight months a year caring for 20 people who fight fire. Did you see “Only the Brave?” If not, you should. Brian is responsible for the well-being and safety of 20 people. He’s as tough as God ever made any man. There is no Marine who could touch him in guts and no priest who can match his empathy.

He’s so calm and so knowledgeable. Yes, my daughter said. He deals with trauma all the time. I can tell, said the nurse. He’s a hero. He is a hero. He puts others ahead of himself. He didn’t know his father. He is barely aware of his mother. He took on and raised eight brothers and sisters.

My grandson is OK this morning. He is eating and the drugs and alcohol are flushed from his body. He will get out of the hospital today and he’ll be OK, as long as he doesn’t drink and do drugs. He’s not naturally depressed. He lives in a community where children are privileged because their dads did OK in life.

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My grandson tries to keep up with the kids who have all the money and nice clothes. He can’t do it. He has a great family full of love and support, but he doesn’t have the designer shirts. He thinks that’s what life is about.

But when he looks at his bonus dad and his real dad, he has all the information he needs about what matters most — people willing to do and die for you.

I called both dads and told them how much I love them and how much they mean to me. I told them I’d do whatever I can to help.

In the end, alcohol and drugs are depressants and make people feel they could have, should have, would have done more. But that’s a lie. My grandson will rise like the Phoenix, and the world will open for him is my prayer.

Frank Carroll is a freelance writer and columnist. He can be reached by emailing or visiting

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