Illinois Wesleyan University alum Dave Kindred is a legendary sportswriter. But Kindred said he didn't write about sports as much as he wrote about people.
Kindred's latest work is a stark departure from the work that encapsulated most of his career, but it is about some of the people dearest to him.
“I loved him in ways that I never loved anybody,” Kindred said of his relationship with grandson Jared, the subject of Kindred’s new memoir titled "Leave Out The Tragic Parts."
Kindred tells the story of his grandson’s struggle with addiction and how substance abuse cost him his life at age 25.
“It’s an important book in the sense that he didn’t choose to be addicted. Addicted chose him,” he said.
Kindred said he was close with his grandson when he was a young kid. Jared and his parents lived next door.
Kindred said his grandson likely turned to alcohol in his early teens after his parents divorced and Kindred rarely heard from him after high school. He learned that Jared was train-hopping around the country and staying "wherever he could sleep."
Kindred said it took years to write the book because it took time to connect with people who knew Jared and could share their stories. Jared died in January 2014.
Kindred said one of Jared’s acquaintances said Jared lived “in the underbelly of America that people don’t know exists.”
Kindred said a friend remarked after seeing a picture of Jared on the road, they would cross the street to avoid approaching someone who looked like that.
“I said, ‘You’d be making a big mistake. He’s a sweetheart. What you have to do is ignore the dirt, ignore the grease and the grime, ignore the scars -- real and imagined -- and see under there that there’s a human being,’” Kindred recalled.
Kindred said Jared knew he needed help even as he resisted, recalling Jared’s mom took him to the beach and had him write a word in the sand that he’d like washed away from his life when the tide came.
Jared wrote “Booze” in the sand.
“That told her, told me, he understood the problem, but he couldn’t do anything about it,” Kindred explained.
Kindred said everyone was too slow to see the signs that Jared needed help.
“I think the important thing is intervention, you have to recognize a problem and you have to deal with it immediately,” Kindred said. “Don’t say, ‘We’ll deal with that later, he’ll be ok, it’s just a phase.’ It’s not just a phase."
Kindred said he wrote the book as a way to process his grief, though he said reliving the tragedy wasn’t cathartic in the way he had hoped.
“I couldn’t not write the book,” Kindred said.
Kindred, who now lives in Carlock, said he's writing a book his wife Cheryl’s struggles following her stroke five years ago and how his appreciation for the girls basketball team at Morton High School has provided an escape from that darkness. Cheryl lives at a nursing home in Morton.
Kindred said the story will soon be the subject of a feature on CBS’ "60 Minutes."