I was lucky enough to be born and raised in Pembroke back in the 80s (no specific year, lest I show my real age), but through family pictures, I remember it as quiet, quaint, and scenic. Over the course of my life, much has changed in my hometown – some for the good, some for the bad. My parents moved to Pembroke to escape the hustle and bussle of Quincy and absolutely fell in love with a house on West Elm Street, close to the Hanover line, by Ludham’s Ford. What a few decades have changed is remarkable.
I graduated from Silver Lake in the early 2000s and within two years, Pembroke and Silver Lake went through their divorce, which cost my town $2 million dollars in what I affectionately considered the alimony from a bad break-up. The old school on 27 became the Pembroke Community Middle School, the old Silver Lake Jr. High on Learning Lane now houses all of Pembroke’s rambunctious teenagers somehow. But it’s the change in perception of the town itself that concerns me.
Heroin is taking a stronghold with the younger kids in town and making its way up to the people in their 40s. When I read about a group of 14 year olds being busted a few years back with hypodermic needles and heroin, I honestly thought there was a mistake. Maybe it was a 24 year old. Nope…not by a long shot.
I grew up playing basketball with kids I grew up with in town – some of which continued to play throughout high school and some moved away to play for their own respective colleges across the country. Unfortunately, I’d also notice some of my peers that, within just a few years of graduation, had gone from athletic and charming, to drug-addled and anti-social. The entire paradigm shifted with the induction of hard drugs to 02359. We went from sneaking beers in our high school years to a group of delinquents that chewed pain pills like Skittles. We watched as Pembroke Center underwent the same superficial changes or “improvements” as they were considered that Pembroke’s inhabitants underwent, albeit the one that people went through was heartbreaking.
I don’t intend to solely shine a light on Pembroke because this epidemic is spreading throughout the entire South Shore, but I want to speak about what I know. I know that I’ve lost close friends to drugs, to drunk driving, to accidents.
Close to fifteen people I’ve grown up with and went to school with stopped breathing long before their time because of the effects of drugs and alcohol. Many more will never be fortunate enough to escape the grasps of dope, of pills, of addiction. Faces grown accustomed to become strangers in the shadows; not just physically, but mentally, emotionally – they become shells of their former selves. The damage done to loved ones manifests itself in sleepless nights, anxiety, tears, sweat, fear and agony.
One of my favorite movies, A Bronx Tale, warns that the “saddest thing in the world is wasted talent.” Well, I fell into the category of wasted talent, but for different reasons. Not for drugs or alcohol, but my attitude. Both fortunately and unfortunately for me, my attitude is my addiction. But I’m getting better each day – I wish those that I came up with would realize their addictions and get the help they need. Before we lay another to rest because of something that could have been helped…and not hidden.