Tuesday, March 17, 2009
Highs and Lows - Gaining L.A., Losing Mike
16 years ago today I was celebrating my first day in Los Angeles. I had pulled up 32 year old stakes and moved my whole life south. I was happy.
It didn't last long.
I got a call from my father. My brother had committed suicide.
The friend I had moved in with said he heard me scream and came running in the room. Whatever my father said after that is lost to me. The only thing I remember is my friend wrapping his arms around me tightly. Later he said that he thought if he could keep me from getting a really deep breath, I could regain my composure. In essence, he was suffocating me, but it worked.
I couldn't get a flight home for a few hours, so in my panicked worriedness, I asked my friend to take me to a priest. I'm not Catholic, but I was raised in a neighborhood full of them and I felt that if I could talk to one, all would be well. Ha. We stopped at the first church we could find and I went in, sobbing, obviously troubled. The priest was talking to someone. I walked up to him and asked to speak with him...and he blew me off!! Fortunately, this made me mad, and when I'm mad I'm rational.
We went back home and I packed. On the flight home, a man bought me a drink because he said I looked like I needed it. I did.
My brother was my rock, but he was messed up. He had been an alcoholic for as long as I could remember. He'd stop drinking, get the DT's something fierce - once he bloated up so badly I thought he would die. He saw "trains with spies" coming through the room. Regardless of how tortured his getting sober was, he always went back to the bottle.
He was 60% deaf in both ears, wore hearing aids. He always felt as an outsider, but had more friends than I could count. He was the smartest man anyone ever met. He could build intricate electronic equipment from the time he was 9 years old - no instructions, just from his head. He could build beautiful oak furniture. No plans. Just from imagination. I could look at him and he knew what I was thinking. From the time I was a kid, he always had me around, teaching me things, talking to me like an adult. We liked the same things, read the same books. He loved "Home Improvement" and cowboy stories.
But he was a scam artist. He once stole a 100 foot tower to use for his HAM radio operation - stole it and put it up in his backyard!! He made pirate cable TV boxes. He hacked my dad's credit. He had the biggest cojones, yet absolutely no self esteem. He thought he was worthless.
Three wives - the second one was so great, but he ran her off with his drinking; the other two were bad mistakes. The last girlfriend was great for him, until she got cancer. She died. He went off the deep end.
My smart, funny brother just couldn't cope with this world.
On the day I moved to L.A., he drove to the river, took his dead girlfriends morphine and fell asleep. A cop found him that afternoon. The only note he left was to me - I'll never forget it. It said "Sis, this had nothing to do with you; I've been planning it a long time. Make something of yourself in L.A. - Mike".
16 years later, I still grieve. I still miss him and I'm still angry at him for leaving me here. He had so much to offer and yet felt he had nothing to give. It changed me forever.
So, if you're mad at your brother or sister, go hug them anyway.
I wish I could.