Sleeper.

I see the familiar namesake,

it’s held close to the core of my being,

I feel the familiar heartache,

as I walk closer to this namesake I see;

there are feelings tugging inside of me,

laughter – tears – pure tragedy,

I whisper hello and sit down beside,

the headstone I’m reading with pride;

I hate to come to this place of despair,

but long to somehow feel somewhat near,

to the brother I once buried here,

to the one who’s death lingers so vividly,

imparted onto the soul of me,

imprinted into my darkest memories,

impressed upon my happiest childhood scenes;

and here, is where you now remain,

a headstone lettered by your name,

without mention of what your life could’ve been,

without question that you’ll stay in this place;

I see a young smile, missing front teeth,

a 5th grader with double-scraped knees,

a handsome teenager too timid to speak,

my fiercest protector on the neighborhood streets,

but the thing I can’t shake from my mind,

is how you opted to leave me wondering why,

cursing myself through the sleepless nights,

for the way you ended your tender life.

 

Topsoil.

There is an ugly secret
In the form of topsoil
Piled upon the surface
At the site of your burial
Whenever I’m here I see it
As if I fall under a spell
I still can’t fully believe it
Despite what history must tell
It’s a very heavy mystery
So long later down the line
A burden shouldered perpetually
After a decade’s worth of time
I remember standing for hours
In that place right over there
Torrential rain and thunder showers
Soaked clothes and soggy hair
But I could never bring myself
To go from this place easily
And every time I’d finally go
The loss of you felt new to me
I carry your secrets
Kept as my own still
I harbour your worries
And I always will.

Cruel and Hard Truths.

Life is cruel in this way; I know…we each play the worst of mind games with ourselves throughout its course of time with us; we each self-fulfill handfuls of silent prophesies made; we each destroy what we love and strive hard to perfect. We each suffer the toxic illness known as The Self; and, we each inevitably become something that we never wanted to be. We each take it all for granted, every last bit of it…and we each remain blind to the ways in which The Self evolves the victim into the victimizer in order to survive another year here.
We pretend that the ways we “grow” to become better with age aren’t full-blown warped to the core: better hunters, gatherers, collectors, owners, and so on… we pretend that Life and its tragedies do not mar us; that these things don’t mold us into creatures much like everyone else – rendering indifference and ambiguity in the most raw manifestations…we pretend that we know…anything about anything at all…but, we are each just as vulnerable and naïve as the other.
I have spent my own years alive in doing these things; wasted all of the meaningful and important formidable times of my youth in believing.
I carried it around with me like a sales kiosk in a mall: always there and open to sell – but never paid much attention to by anyone who matters. I kept telling myself things that were totally fabricated just to drag myself through to the other side of another New Year’s celebration or birthday party; basically been lying to myself about very important elements in Life for as long as I have been an adult; because if I hadn’t, I would have seen the folly of my own existence with clarity early on and likely just pulled the plug. Had I been enlightened throughout the years of my youth as I have become since that time, I truly might have beat my little brother in the race to commit suicide. It is because of the knowledge I have collected as an adult, as a mom, and as a grown up human being, that I can fully comprehend (and thoroughly forgive) my brother for his decision to end his own life so young and tragically.
JJ had never been able to feed himself such lies about his own existence and what it all lead up to for him; he had never been able to convince himself that our Mom actually did love him, or that his very being was not unwanted or regrettable, in reality – not any more than any of the rest of us, at least. He somehow managed to make it all the way to age 19 without any self-comforting delusions before finally allowing the ton of bricks to land on him (a feat that often leaves me dumbfounded, in its own right); he accepted his own reality as it had seemed to have come to him during infancy and just kept on until he had enough and ceased to move on.
These days, given all that’s happened with my own irreparably damaged child, it’s so much easier for me to understand where he was coming from and how he had reached that point; experience has helped me to recognize things as they are/were when it comes to the choice he made to kill himself like he did – he always used to ask me things at night when we were falling asleep like,
“Do you think that when Mama does come back, she will still remember me?”
or
“What did I do to make Mama go?”
As the youngest and the last to be born to our often violent, highly unstable and ever-intoxicated mother, of course he took her absence very personally from the moment he became aware of it. I, on the other hand, did not seem to be affected so much by it back in those days; at least, not in any apparent or obvious way. I used to feel puzzled by his constant neediness for her, the incessant questioning and quizzing about her nature and/or appearance, and most memorably: this urgency that seemed to be hardwired into his heart and brain to reunite with her before he lost the chance. During our childhood, all JJ ever wanted for Christmas was our mom to come…he never stopped crying for her at night when he had nightmares or when he was injured at play; he never stopped dreaming like little Orphan Annie about the sun coming up tomorrow and finally shining onto his face. He also never stopped being disappointed and heartbroken; his entire world must have felt like it was on hold all the time; his little face would just light right up when he thought he saw her, or heard her voice – even if he heard someone else say er name out loud…he just wanted her so badly.
“Mama’s not gone, J…she’s just away ‘til she gets better.”
I used to say this to him often, as it had repeatedly been said to me by my older brothers or dad; I never believed in my heart that she would be coming back, though – not sure why – but, I never held on to that notion at all.
Last night I was reading through some old family stuff and something seemed to drop into my heart like a fucking lead ball from out of nowhere:
Although I might not have been at all aware of it (or affected by it in the same ways as it affected JJ), these abandonment issues I harbor did not show up in my adult life; they have been there always – and have been warped and shaped over time and by my own experiences with my mom, my late dad, and late little brother. I thought last night for some reason about my mother passing away, and how that would leave me feeling, all things considered. I can say that the emotional tidal wave that followed such thoughts was quite surprising and unexpected for me, as I failed to form the attachments to her that are necessary to feel such emotional lows…or, so I thought. Then, the thought struck me of how it would be between my step-dad and me if my mom were to pass away before him; and, I was truly terrified beyond words by the possibility of that tie being severed completely through her death.
In short, it occurred to me last night just how much I have allowed myself to bond to my recovering and medicated mother in the years I’ve been trying, despite my own inability to perceive such things as they present themselves from one day to the next. I’ve always held so much resentment and blame and anger towards her as a result of JJ’s suicide that I guess I didn’t even notice those things as they began to fade and be replaced by forgiveness and understanding; Life is cruel that way…

Ah The Webs We Weave

PTSD: (Post Traumatic Stress Disorder)

Noun:

An anxiety disorder associated with serious traumatic events and characterized by such symptoms as (but not limited to):

Survivor guilt,

Reliving the trauma in dreams,

Numbness and lack of involvement with reality,

Recurrent mood-altering thoughts and/or images; or

the recurrent and persistent memories and recollections of a traumatic event or experience.

 

ImageGiven an anticipated “predisposition” of mental instability attached to my very existence, since birth (my mother was a severely unstable, drug-addicted, drunken Shawnee Native American who was also still, an untreated schizophrenic when she gave birth to me in 1979), I believe my father and clan of brothers expected a mental instability just as severe from me someday. I have somehow always harbored – what was for a long time: an unidentified – fear of growing up into a schizophrenic drunk, just like the estranged and elusive Mom from my childhood days.

During preadolescence, I used to pattern-dream (a Shawnee term used to describe the attachment of one’s sub-consciousness to another’s through dream scape – away from the waking world of reality as we know it) about my scary and unpredictable mother often:

I was always a baby again – literally a yearling – wearing a soggy diaper, behind the lovingly hand-crafted bars of a wooden crib – alone in an unfamiliar room; and I am crying my lil’ heart out for someone to open the door and come pick me up, to hear me. Nobody would come for what felt like days, maybe weeks – to me, to a youngster ‘s warped perception of time…until SHE opens the door and stands there in the shadow cast by the hallway ceiling bulb – its greyness seeming to wash out any color as it beams down around her like a canister of smoke; I begin to cry again – loudly and more boisterously as to be noticed by her, I’m unafraid of her presence in the dream; I see her as my “savior” in my current-day recollections of its detail, I want her to come in and pick me up – I want her to hold me and clean me up and spend time with me. I don’t want to be alone and crying in this room any longer and she is my ticket out of there. I start screaming her “Mama…Mama!”, and I swallow small gulps of my own snot and tears in the process, I’m so desperate to catch her attention. “Mommy!”…she turns to her left and leaves without a care in the world.

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It was also during preadolescence, I should note, that my father decided to confide the truth behind the obvious strain in their relationship that went beyond the differences they blamed for their divorce: the fact that my mother had tried to “smother” me with my own pillow when I was an infant, still in a crib. Needless to say, this spun my world around a few times before throwing it off kilter for a few rounds, too; I was really caught off guard by this confession by my Dad, it explained so many countless mundane mysteries of my entire life – this horrible little secret of theirs. Who else knew? He said only “the older boys”, meaning my older “set” of brothers (typically referred to as “the Originals” in my writing), and my Papa (my Dad’s father) knew about the incident.

Um…okay, so you mean my Mom’s not only crazy as Hell, but she actually tried to “off” me when I was too little to defend myself?!…God damn, that was an eye opener for me at age eleven…it hurt deeply to learn, and never quite let life feel the same again after knowing this fact.

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It wasn’t until I was at least sixteen, and still trying desperately in vain to keep my baby brother (who later committed suicide) from falling mentally apart as a result of the same kind of schizophrenia that afflicts my mother, that the question hit me like a ton of bricks:

 

Why in the Hell did my father get my mother pregnant and have yet – ANOTHER – child, with a woman who had been put in psychiatric detention and “treated” for the attempted smothering of the most recent child that she bore him?

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Of course, my father had passed away by that time, as the story goes; and I never got the answer from HIS mouth on that lingering query of mine. I have come to harbor rather strong beliefs about the intrinsic “rights” of certain women to bear children; I do not believe it is fair for those who are historically mentally unstable to pro-create as freely as those who have not shown any repeated inconsistencies in sound thinking and behaviors. Such instances create humans like me, or my late, little brother – or, the older one in my set of full-blooded siblings – we’re all challenged in some majorly handicapping way when it comes to social behaviors and/or mental illness. I’m still shocked that it was my baby brother and not me who ended up with schizophrenia as a very young adult.

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I waited…and waited…and waited – waited to one day wake up and be “crazy” like my mom or just downright miserable and confused, afraid and aimless like my little brother had become. My brother was the natural kicking post in my family (natural to the Originals, at least) because he was the last in line, of a long line of boys (with the one exception of me) who are Scandinavian and Native-American by heritage and behaved much like a clan of cavemen, given the absence of any adult female in our household. I was the only one there to protect my little brother for, well – forever, since I can remember remembering. I was the only buffer between them and him, and I innately sensed a dire need to execute my power in this position day and night, all the time. Despite my fond recollections surrounding my childhood, it was filled with the constant stress of worrying over my little brother’s well-being. This lasted until the moment he committed suicide in 1999, at age 19.

I begrudgingly buried JJ while I was still a domestic hostage to “the Ripper”, never really being able to openly or worthily mourn his tragic ending because “the Ripper” would become enraged by jealousy if I showed any sign of emotion for anyone other than Him. It was one of the very darkest periods of my existence, to my recollections…a very, very guilt-ridden and deeply sad time for me.

Sometimes still, I catch myself pondering different things that do not matter anymore anyway; I often wonder if JJ ever used to have recurring dreams about our Mom turning her back on him, also….

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IMPORTANT NOTE:
I am currently in my umpteenth attempt at making my own amends to, and forgiving past discrepancies of: my Shawnee, medicated, therapy-involved, clean and sober Mom.

Ripples.

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My family has struggled mightily with the suicide of our clan’s ‘youngest brother’, my one and only little brother: JJ (1981-1999).

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After learning of our brother’s tragic suicide and the horrid details surrounding his final hours alive, we, as a family – were forced to accept several realities that were likely the most unwelcome any of us had seen previously. Our departed sibling not only killed himself; he also killed a female police officer in the process.This was something that made the entire situation of his suicide, the aftermath, the social stigmas, the judgment of others, etc. – much, much more complicated.

My brother had been off of his medication for some time, and had been playing the cat and mouse with me as well; I had not been successful in locating him for several weeks (a task that was typically hard enough by itself, as I was still a hostage to The Ripper). His ex-girlfriend (who has become part of our family since that time) had just told him that she was pregnant with his child, despite their recent breakup; he was likely spinning out of control for many reasons, but this put him over the edge.

JJ never thought much of himself, in contrast to what he actually was…to me, at least.

ImageMe and JJ, back in the day

I can imagine that finding out he was not only going to become a father, but a father to a child he would undoubtedly anticipate being kept separate from, for whatever reasons (that’s just how he was); I can imagine how big of self-fulfilled Failure this made him perceive himself as having become rather quickly, as a result of these thoughts. He didn’t pick up his gun and just shoot himself, and that was it…

He found his way to his very best friend Jeremy’s house (Jeremy is the next best thing to a little brother for me – we all grew up together), and honks the horn out front. When Jeremy goes outside, he sees JJ in an unfamiliar truck and asks him wtf is going on; he says that JJ was in disarray emotionally, and he obviously needed some support. He gets in the truck, likely against his better judgment, and agrees to ride with JJ to “SouthWest for a while”. During the drive, the police take chase and JJ leads a high speed pursuit through the massive clusterfuck of the city’s expressways – picking up more and more units along the way, of course.

Inside the stolen truck, Jeremy is trying to calmly talk to him and get him to pull over so that they don’t get in any more trouble than they’ve already found – to no avail. JJ is beside himself; not making sense and very agitated; Jeremy feels afraid of him for the first time on all of their years together as friends. They wind down into the loading dock behind a Wal-Mart, where Jeremy assumes JJ will finally park the car and get out. Somehow, a police cruiser had slipped in behind them in the dock, against the roll up door, unseen by either of them. JJ is still talking gibberish and making no sense – completely embodying a maniac. They become surrounded by a barricade of police cars and trucks one by one as they arrive to the loading dock.

I’m very unclear of the details, and always have been; but right around this moment, my brother threw the truck in reverse and floored it – smashing backwards with the force of a jet plane – instantly crushing the police officer between her vehicle and the solid concrete wall to his rear-right hand side. Jeremy says that he realized at time what was happening, and began to holler at JJ to “Stop the truck! Stop the truck! Stop the truck!”, to which my brother’s immediate response was to abide by.

*Jeremy’s Version of the events that followed:

JJ turned around in his seat, after putting the truck in PARK, and realized in the most raw and surreal sense what had just occurred, though he was still “incoherent”, in comparison with his true nature. The reality set him off to a point beyond retrieval; and he withdrew a .357 handgun from inside of a small cooler in the back seat. At this point, Jeremy is very afraid for his life, somehow – which tells me beyond the shadow of any doubt: the severity of JJ’s temperament and agitation, as they grew up like brothers together. Jeremy says something like,

“Dude, what the fuck are you gonna do? Shoot the rest of ‘em, now?”

He remembers the look on JJs face then: betrayal – like, ‘How could you say that to me?’. Before there was even time for another word between them, and amongst the background of megaphone voices, sirens and a helicopter overhead, JJ put the gun upward to his chin, and fired. TWICE. The coroner later described how a person often has all kinds of reflexive mechanisms that fire after a brain trauma like a fatal gunshot wound; they explained this as having been a reflex in his finger to pull the trigger again, merely reflexively, in death. But in the cab of the truck, in the moment, Jeremy was riddled right alongside of my brother’s body by the barrage of gunfire that immediately followed in response to the discharge of a firearm inside of the vehicle that just run over an officer.

In Jeremy’s mind, in the moment, he was shot by the second bullet that JJ fired at himself. He survived his tragic injuries: 8 gunshot wounds, 2 that should have been fatal. He swam for a long time in the states between awareness and hopelessness, in a hospital bed, for nearly a year. The most painful aspect of the entire thing for him was his perception of who had put him there, and how. It was over two years before I actually saw him face to face afterward, as my own traumatic injury happened within a few months of my brother’s suicide (and Jeremy’s traumatic injury). When I did see him, he was awkward and stand-offish, which I thought I understood already, being empathic.

Finally, he asked me “Why?”

“Huh?”

He wanted to know why JJ had shot them, both of them, in the truck that day…

I was dumbfounded, needless to say…my heart ripped from my chest cavity all over again, sensing the horrible struggles that Jeremy had been swallowing in regard to believing he had been shot nearly to death by his very best friend on Earth; I found no words to offer him through my stunned affect.

“JJ would never have shot you…” I managed to whisper through my disbelief. “Nobody has bothered to tell you that, Jeremy?”

He collapsed with relief, as if he had been hoping my response would be exactly what I had said, and cried – he said, “Nobody needed to bother to tell me…”

It’s only now, since Jeremy’s passing recently, years and years after this conversation…that I think I finally understand what he meant by that, in its intended context. Days when I am yelling at my JJ’s twin sons (Jeremy and Joshua), as they run amok everywhere and back…the “Hellions”, reborn and growing old together once more. JJ and Jeremy REALLY were closer than brothers.

I miss you guys.

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