Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Sean's Funeral

I just made it home from my nephew Sean's funeral. It went pretty well, considering it was my ex's side of the family who don't do funerals very well. It was a weird kind of deja vue, arriving at the funeral home for the service, because the place is so damn familiar. We have all been there together for many, many services over the past 20 years or so. One of the last ones was six years ago, today, for Andrew.

That fact made today especially hard on me, my girls, Bill, and anyone else who realized it. It was an ironic twist that landed Sean's funeral date on this day. My nephew Russell, who was left to plan everything, realized it after he had finalized all the arrangements, but there wasn't really anything he could do about it.

Bill said to me after the service, "It's just a thought. Let is go." I had, I thought, but it wasn't gone. It was just ironic.

There were lots of little ironies in this day. A little boy and his young mother were sitting in the same pew as we chose. The little boy looked at us and said, "Hi! I'm Kameron." Kameron, Sean's son Kameron? Oh yeah. Fine place to finally meet him. I lost it then. I was sitting there, feeding a bottle to my own little grandson, and thinking how this little boy would never really know much about his daddy. He might learn, someday, that his daddy was addicted to heroin and died by a drug overdose. I hope that doesn't define his daddy for him, because Sean was a sweet and fun boy. He just had a lot of pain to try to mask.

I was sitting in the pew behind my ex, on opposite ends. It wasn't intentional. We could have sat together and been just fine. My ex-sister-in-law who had been married to Bill's brother Don was sitting in the pew behind Don, too, on opposite ends. I wonder if that was planned or accidental? Anyway, we were all here, together, so to speak, for Sean. For the two remaining brothers, Russell and Cody. Just like old times, only completely different. No one would be hanging out at my house, drinking beer and barbecuing.

I saw a lot of ex-relatives that I hadn't seen since the last funeral. We decided we all had to stop meeting like this. Maybe the new generation of kids will start planning an annual barbecue so they can get together on happier circumstances. 

The service was actually pleasant, especially when compared to Sean's father Gary's funeral, or his mother Rollynn's. Both were so unbearable it was awful, because the priest that was sent over to do the service was a nut case. Russell was going to have the same one do this service, but he wasn't available. I guess he didn't remember how insane it was.  At least this person kept things in a good perspective.

I saw my niece from my side of the family there, along with her cousin who had once dated Sean. There were several of Sean's former girlfriends at the service. Anyway, small town. Everyone is related by one degree or another.

My oldest daughter was hoping to escape right after the service without having to deal with anyone. It was really a hard day for her. But it didn't quite work out that way. We visited with family and friends on the way out, and in the parking lot. Then my youngest daughter and her husband whom I had ridden with took me to my car and I headed home. I thought of Sean's little sons and started crying again.

As I got to the top of the grade, I thought about the photos my son had taken from the top, up the fire road. I wondered if I could drive up there? I pulled over and turned up the road. After a few feet, I could see the road was rutted with deep crevices that my car could negiotiate. I couldn't turn around, so I had to back down the hill. I turned to maybe go down the fire road heading south, but then I saw a "youth" in that roadway and decided not to drive by him. He just didn't look like a real good citizen. Foiled, I turned around again and got back on the highway.

Well, damn it! If I couldn't walk in Andrew's shoes today, I would at least cook a good piece of tri-tip for dinner and have a beer at home. Andrew would have like that.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

More Grief

My nephew Sean died last week on a heroin overdose. It was April 1. His service will be held on April 15, a significant date because that is the day my son Andrew died in the hospital.

I am not sure how I feel about that date. Here at home, I am kind of indifferent about it and the upcoming service, but I know when the day gets here and I go through the group grieving process with the rest of the family, it will be much more real and difficult.

Like Andrew, Sean made a lot of friends in life. He was almost always smiling and happy, so it seemed. He liked to joke around, be active and light up a room. Unfortunately, he also liked to get high and escape all those painful memories that had taken over his life. A lot of his "friends" have been in jail, served time for petty drugs or burglary to get drugs, and some worse. All of these kids know each other, gotten high together, and they what each one has been involved with. They have gotten busted together, been to court and rehab together, achieved sobriety and washed it all away with another high down the road. 

Sean's father died when Sean was only 15 years old in a sudden traffic accident on his way to work, then his mother passed away eight years later from multiple internal failures probably steming from her alcohol and painkiller abuse. There was a lot of alcohol and substance abuse involved in their lives, and that pattern has been passed on to the kids. Even though Sean was the middle child with two brothers, he felt lonely and totally abandoned by his parents. They all do. Each one sought out coping mechanisms, but it seems that the older brother is managing to move on and live life in the most adaptive manner. He is married and has a good job and a wonderful wife. The youngest brother is still trying to find his way and has moved out of state with his girlfriend's family. We are all still waiting to see how that plays out.

I just know that the grief of Sean's passing is widespread among his friends and family, and that it just adds another layer of pain on top of the grief the surviving two brothers and the rest of the family will have to bear. How we all do it is a very individual thing.

Not looking forward to the 15th even more this year.


Sometimes you just have to write it down right away, like right now. This is not about my son, Andrew, but it relates in a way. Writing it right this minute is risky, because I am at work, at my desk, facing the holding cells, but I want to remember my thought that are racing around in my head at this moment.
She’s back. It’s my older sister’s best friend from high school, and back then they called her, "Weasel". I am not sure where that came from, but it was her nickname. My sister's partner-in-crime, so to speak. They pushed the limits of what a kid should experience in high school, and in many ways, broke down barriers and helped set boundaries for me. I had a pretty good idea going in to high school what I could and couldn’t get away with, things I might get “killed” for by my Dad, and things that he could be reasonable about.
But this is killing me, seeing her like this at my workplace, the County jail. “Mary” is killing herself, slowly. So slowly its rather incredible. You don’t realize how much a human being can take. But she is taking and taking and taking. She is living on the streets, getting arrested every week and now every few days for being “Drunk in Public”, a high-crime in our parts. She looks bad, but oddly, not as bad as one would expect.
When I was 12, I worshipped her. She was an awesome horsewoman, and had her horse trained to follow her voice commands. She would say, “Load up,” and the horse would walk right in to the horse trailer. I had a rough, green-broke filly that I was trying to train to be a good gymkhana horse, even though I was a fish out of water. She traded me horses for a few months and spent some time training my horse while I got to ride her awesome horse, Brandy.
So when I see her in jail, sleeping off a drunk, it breaks my heart. As I see her come in time after time, it kills me…slowly. Obviously not literally, like she is killing herself, but it hurts. I wish there was something I could do, but at this point she doesn’t recognize me, I don’t have to interact with her, and its best to keep it that way. When an inmate discovers they know you, they talk about you to other inmates, they yell directly at you, they may bring up something hurtful or embarrassing from your past history with them…and that’s never a good thing. It would leave me vunerable. She had once posted something on my sister’s Facebook page about “who does she think she is?”, insinuating my sister had no business trying to run her business of healing therapies, trying to project a healthy and happy lifestyle. No matter how well a person is doing in recovery, this stuff brings you down a notch, sometimes all the way down.
I saw her on the street one day when I was out riding my bike. It was at a street corner about a block down from the Homeless Day Center. I had to stop for a red light, and she was stopped there, too. We were within arms reach of one another. I so wanted to say something, but, again, its not a good idea. I just gave her a smile like I would most anyone. She commented something to the effect, “Yes, I wait for green lights, too. Funny, huh, a homeless person waiting for a light to change.” I said something like that would be the logical thing to do, then the light did change and I pedaled ahead. Conflicted. But I keep on going. Sometimes that is all you can do, kind of like my own sister’s journey. She made the decision to get sober 25 years ago, and she has been living her life, going through her own struggles, but she is fighting to stay sober and live the best life she possibly can. She is a good and happy person. So to see this person left behind, hurts.
I always come back to Andrew in my thoughts of these people on the streets. He was so vunerable. The precarious bond of trust we had could have been severed at any time, and he would have been out on the streets with his increasing paranoia, victim of the harshness of that life. I am ever thankful that he didn’t end up on the streets, homeless. We took care of him the best we could and kept him safe from that, until he had enough and ended it. It could have, would have, gotten much worse. I need to remind myself of that. But it is still depressing.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Happy Birthday, Andrew! 30th!!!

So what would have been Andrew's 30th birthday arrived on Sunday. What a milestone. I really wonder how my boy would have been at 30? Better off? Worse? Things we will never know the answer to.

I watched some of his friends celebrate their 30th birthdays via Facebook. One of his friends, Deney, posted a nice acknowledgement of this marker year and how it felt to receive birthday wishes from so many people in his life via Facebook: friends, parents of friends, business associates, classmates, etc.

Actually, I will just quote to you what Deney wrote:

"I am feeling very blessed to have gotten to know so many wonderful people over these past thirty years! I feel that my 30's are going to be a pivotal point in my life and I can't wait to see what the future holds. Embrace life to the fullest everyday. Thank you for the birthday wishes and I hope that everyone has a great 2013!" -- Deney

Okay, so I can't help feel a bit envious. I wish my son could have had a day like that. I wish we could have shared it with him.
I remember my 30th birthday. My sister and sister-in-law made sure it was a big deal by arranging a wine tasting tour via limousine service. A coworker who was turning 21 went along with us, and a few more friends. I laugh about it, remembering what a wine-wuss I was in those days...I only tasted the whites and roses. I watched in awe as my sister-in-law tasted all the reds, too. Nowadays I am much more of a wine afficianado, so I actually prefer reds to whites.
I wanted my girls to come over and have dinner or something with us. For some reason my youngest wasn't up for it, and then my older daughter was trying to make plans for a date with a new friend. I figured, we can celebrate Andrew's birthday anytime, but I wanted my daughter to go on her date and have a good time. Move on! Embrace life!!! We could all meet up the following day, I reasoned. Still, I felt a little lost.
So I spent the day cooking a Portuguese dish from a recipe I found online, incorporating my farmer's market bounty of vegetables, something Andrew would have appreciated very much with his healthy-style of eating. I made a Portuguese Feijoada with Accompaniments: rice, collard greens and vinaigrette. The base of the stew was bacon and ham hocks with black beans--Andrew loved black beans! The vinaigrette was more of a salsa with vinegar, and it was delicious! I think Andrew would have loved this meal. I also made his favorite chocolate mayonnaise cake.
The meal was shared with my husband, my stepson and my brother who came over to visit. I had cooked the collard greens a couple of minutes too long so they were slightly scorched, but no one really minded. All in all, it was a small feast.
The next day I got ahold of the girls to figure out our plans. I got the hint they didn't want to drive over, so we loaded up and headed their direction, with a spaghetti casserole and the cake in tow. We ended up at my younger daughter's new place and had a very nice dinner, visiting and catching up on all the details of the older daughter's date and all. We mentioned Andrew briefly, but no one even brought up that it was his 30th birthday. We didn't light candles or sing. When it got time for cake, I cut into a very, very dense chocolate cake. It was almost like fudge. What did I screw up? I made it from memory, so I probably forgot a key ingredient...I went back through it in my head. Oh well, I will have to call my mother-in-law and ask her what I forgot. We all had a piece of cake and trashed the rest.
Life isn't perfect. We all keep on going anyway. Maybe this year is pivotal for all of us--maybe we are moving on.

Saturday, December 22, 2012

An Act of Kindness

Just watched this video...of course, thinking of Andrew. But on UTube there was a gun-control commercial at the beginning that is what really gets to me. A bunch of celebrities urging us to action regarding gun laws. I don't think it will address the root cause. I mean, yes, irresponsible people should not have access to guns. But if that is their weapon of choice, they will get it. or build a bomb. or start a fire. or poison someone.

We had to take guns away from Andrew one day. Actually, his step-mother-aunt and his cousin did it. I don't know what he intended to do that day, but he was in a manic stage and had a gun. His cousin got the gun. His aunt took the guns to another house so Andrew couldn't get them. He got through his phase and calmed down eventually. We should have called Mental Health that day...

What scares me is some of the people I have seen in our jail. One kid, under treatment but off his meds, killed two people in a random house around Christmas time. Another kid, off his meds, hacked up his step-brother. I am sure that they were out of their minds at the time, and when properly medicated, seem to be normal, friendly young men. Sort know they are not normal. They will also be spending the rest of their days in Mental Health facilities. Andrew saw 4 days of that...and it was enough. Its no way to live.

Andrew knew he was not normal, and didn't think he could ever become completely normal again. He could try medication. He could try therapy and reprogram his thoughts. But he would never be normal, never feel right. That he knew. He also knew it could get much, much worse. I think that is why he decided to end it. He did it for us, so that we would not have to go through a much greater tragedy.

The gift is that we get to remember him as a handsome, healthy-looking young man with many talents, instead of broken and deplorable after having done something horrendous. He was outgoing and friendly, with a tender side for everyone. He slipped into darkness more often, but usually pulled himself out for a while longer. We always thought he could pull himself out, with our help. It must have taken monumental strength and resolve every time to do it, and I think it just wore him down.

I feel so sorry for the young children and victims of the Sandy Hook tragedy. I wish the killer had been stopped, helped, put away from society before people were harmed. Its just so extremely hard to know when that point actually arrives, especially with an ongoing illness such as mental disability. What Andrew did was an extreme act of kindness to his family and everyone who loved him. An Act of Kindness. Pass it on.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Blue Christmas


I've talked about this before, but Christmas 2008 was the last time I saw Andrew in person. He had been spending most of his time in his bedroom, not coming out and interacting with anyone. He was withdrawing from us all. But he was reading his Bible, so I felt it would be okay.
I took him a bag of groceries items, stuff he could barbecue, etc., but he didn't want it. I left it anyway. I didn't have a clue how to approach him in this kind of mood. In hindsight, I guess we could have had him 5150'd, but the damage might not have been worth it. We were all working hard to build Andrew's trust in us and didn't want to cut that cord.
Anyway, I do get Blue at Christmas time without my wonderful son. I know he is in a better place and is without any more pain. But I still miss him so much. So do my girls, and all of the family.
Merry Christmas in Heaven, Andrew.

The Musician is David Potter, a school mate of mine from Atascadero. He's a professional singer!

Monday, November 19, 2012

Over You

Missing my boy tonight. I know I am not the only one who misses Andrew. My sister shared his senior picture on Facebook this week, commenting that she was really missing him that day, very strongly. It reminded me that I was not the only one who did. 

Lee and I watched The Voice singing competition show tonight with the top ten finalists. The last girl sang "Over You", son written by Blake Shelton and performed by his wife Miranda Lambert, that is about when his older brother died suddenly. This young, aspiring artist, Cassadee, sang it tonight with such was very beautiful and it made me cry.

Blake was explaining in an interview I had seen that his brother, who was about 10 years older than he, died in a car accident and Blake started playing his brother's record albums over and over after that. It just connected with me because when Andrew died, he had a lot of stuff...trucks (3 of them), TV, stereo, furniture, clothes, jet skis, tools, etc., that family members all wanted to hang to for some memory of him. I had to kind of step back from it all and I let my daughters decided what to do with his things. But I did hang on to his ipod, which my husband uses in his car every day. Lee swears some days Andrew just takes control of the song choices and sets a mood.

Losing Andrew has been so hard on all of us, but especially for his sisters. He was their hero. "How Dare You?", lyrics in Blake's song, resonate here with them, especially. How dare you go away, Andrew?
Jayne and Becca probably think those words every day. 

"Over You"

Weather man said it’s gonna snow
By now I should be used to the cold
Mid-February shouldn’t be so scary
It was only December
I still remember the presents, the tree, you and me

But you went away
How dare you?
I miss you
They say I’ll be OK
But I’m not going to ever get over you

Living alone here in this place
I think of you, and I’m not afraid
Your favorite records make me feel better
Cause you sing along
With every song
I know you didn’t mean to give them to me

But you went away
How dare you?
I miss you
They say I’ll be OK
But I’m not going to ever get over you

It really sinks in, you know, when I see it in stone

Cause you went away,
How dare you?
I miss you
They say I’ll be OK
But I’m not going to ever get over you