A Repeat....Because I'm Thinking About Him Today

I'm repeating this from 2008 because my brother's birthday was this month, and I've been thinking a lot about him.

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.


Addiction is such a terrible thing. Your brother will always live on in your heart and I hope that is some comfort to you.
3 doxies said…
'Scuze my french heres but shit, I am so sorry Ms. Barb. I am sorry your brother felt dis way bouts his life, sorry he had to endure so much pain and dat he felt hopeless and lost. What a tragedy and I wanna wrap my paws around you and tells you thank you fur tellin' dis very powerful, moving story. It may just help others.
Love ya girlfuriend!

I have only just started following your blog so don't feel like there is much to say, but couldn't read such a touching personal post and not reach out and say I hope your good memories give you comfort.
I hope that you find peace in the love that you and your brother had. Things like this make it very clear that we never can really know everything about another person.

Celebrate today the good things you and he shared, and the great memories you have of him. It will never take the pain away, but maybe it will always make you remember him with a smile.
Eartha Kitsch said…
God, honey. I'm so, so sorry. I wish that I had something really smart or helpful to say but I don't. I'm just really sorry for your loss.
my brother has motor neurone and has been poorly recently....
its weird where life takes a family eh?

houndstooth said…
I read your post and I'm sitting here in tears. I have a sister I love more than anything, but my relationship with her is so difficult. I'm starting to think she might be mentally ill. Nothing I do seems to work with her. I am so sorry that your brother left you this way!
Dolores said…
Oh goodness... one would never know the unhappiness your brother experienced by looking at his pictures. He was so handsome....addictions are so sad.

You certainly have some sweet memories of your life together, growing up.

My heart aches for what you've gone through. He was so thoughtful to leave a note to you.

Thanks for sharing...
I too am a new follower. Your story touched me deeply. Life is damn hard at the best of times. Even though your brother did say it had nothing to do with you moving, you still must have felt guilty. I have a brother with very similar problems. There's nothing my other brother and I can do to help him. He's in a world of his own. All we can do is love them.
Mine is no longer here to hug either.

(((Hugs to you)))
Anonymous said…
While I haven't personally dealt with addiction, I do have a mental illness and have put my family through hell with some of the stupid decisions I have made. I have had two suicide attempts when I have gotten really bad off and I can honestly say that at those times it never crossed my mind about how much my dumb decision would hurt my family, especially my sister who is my best friend. When I'm in my "right" mind, as I am most of the time, I know how bad it would hurt them. Thanks for letting me see this from the family's perspective.


P.S.--I'm a HAM radio operator and I can only imagine how funny it must have been for your brother to steal the tower and then put it up in his yard!! Well, maybe not funny at the time, but kind of funny now.
Ohman what a story. We are sorry lady for your loss. Momma misses her mom and Paw tremendously too. Crazy what life throws at ya...
Benny & Lily
Dear Barbara, I'm very sorry for your loss. And that's just not enough.

Mister D said…
Loss is a terrible thing, hope you are managing to keep going - he would want that.
From the photo it looks like he was a radio (ham) enthusiast, his voice and radio waves will be travelling outwards into the cosmos for millions of years. Take care.
Unknown said…
I understand your anger at your brother. I've felt it at someone who "left" suddenly.

A psychiatrist told me I wasn't really angry or hurt at the person but rather angry at my own inability to do anything to help them and hurt at my own loss.

Can't say that revelation changed my feelings any.

BrownDog's Momma
Sweet Barbara,
You have opened your heart to us and allowed us to listen to these words.. Heart felt words. Thank you for sharing these emotions. Thank you for letting us in. We are crying tears with you, that you and your family has had to live this heartache.
Addictions or illness's can cause so much devistation and hurt to familys.
Your words are from your heart, and I imagine tears fell as you wrote all this- reliving the feeling and anger..
I am so sorry, and we too - would like to throw our paws around your neck to love you. We sit beside you, and want to thank you again for trusting us with this heart felt sadness.
We love you
happileah said…
I'm so sorry, Barbara :(
Oskar said…
I'm so sorry to hear of this heart-breaking loss. Your post is a lovely tribute to your brother.

Nubbin wiggles & hugs,
Oskar & Pam
fromsophiesview 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".
This is his truth...this is what he wants for you...16 years and it's time to move on....I believe you have, even with an occasional twinge...that's OK...you wouldn't be human if you blanked it out completely...sending hug snuggles and nudges!
been trying to follow your blog but having problems officially logging on!
Breezy said…
Huge hugs.. you are in my thoughts/
OMH, we have so much in common. If only love could cure it all :(
He loved you, still does, is your gaurdian angel.
Shit happens, we carry buckets and mops.
My baby sister died due to alcohol abuse, as did my first husband. My mother's father was an alcoholic, as was my paternal grandfather. I realize I'm playing with genetic fire when I drink my glass of wine. I love how your brother had so much love for you that he left that note. Some things we get over, some things remain with us forever. Love you, my friend.
Jim said…
Barbara, I too lost a brother....he was 19, four years younger than me at the time. He ended his life because he couldn't cope here. I still miss him at times but have learned a lot through what happened. It gave me a 'kick' I needed to get on with my life. Sorry for your loss, he's be so proud proud of your survival.
laura linger said…
You might already know that I am bipolar.

I am suffering another relapse and I am just so very, very discouraged. Tired and just...discouraged.

Last night, when I was feeling particularly awful (my illness, when it's bad, actually manifests itself in flu-like symptoms on top of all of the mental anguish), I actually thought to myself, Maybe I Should Just End It All. No More Suffering.

I immediately dismissed the idea...I am cogent enough not to allow the illness to make me think like that. But still, there was a moment there when I considered it, and my history with this illness has me on a first-name basis with the reasons why people commit suicide.

Then I came here and read your tribute, and I want you to know that you really saved a life, because I know that suicide is never the answer, not just because it ends your life, but it forever changes for the worse those people you love who you leave behind.

I may feel sometimes like I am at the end of my rope with my bipolar disorder...but for your brother, and his memory, this Crazy Broad is going to tie a knot and hang on until things get better.


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