Monday, April 18, 2011

I've been wanting to write this...

April 18th was my brother Ric's birthday. He somehow managed 53 of them, before his, his what?-alcoholism, mental illness, poverty, loneliness, shame-killed him in August of 2008. The medical examiner found blood in his brain and blamed his death on a "brain bleed.” He ran out of gas a block from his trailer, and fell when he got out of his car. We know this because someone in his neighborhood saw him get up and limp to his place. I don't want to call it his home. Crash pad will do.

A cop I called opened the door, because we hadn't heard from him in weeks, because we were pretty sure he was on another binge, because I couldn't stand waiting and not knowing. Once the cop and I got inside, I only got a glimpse of my brother before broad shoulders blocked me from going any closer. He'd been dead a day before we found him. I called my brother Drago, and he and our neighbor Ben came right away. Drago stayed for the coroner and all that followed that day. Ben drove me home, because no one thought I should drive.

Ric’s life had been full once; a wife, two kids, a renovated Victorian on a quiet street only a few blocks from the bay.
Ric had a day job that he was good at that paid the bills, and nights he played drums. The best drummer in the Panhandle, they said. All the music people around here knew him. A lot of people loved him, too, because he was easy-going, funny, liked almost everybody. His hair turned gray early and he wore it in a long pony-tail. Tall, lanky, always in a t-shirt or layered up with flannel if the calendar said it was winter, he looked like a rocker, but not fierce-kind. He sang, too, but drums were his thing.

It took about fifteen years before alcohol stripped everything, even music,(the shakes) away. I don't know how he lasted that long. Blackouts, fights, hellish weeks of sobering up and making a stab at normal life, and eventually, another binge. About a month before he died, he got himself together and spent a weekend in Pensacola with his daughter and grand-daughter. The visit was good and I was so glad he'd been able to do that. I think he was ashamed, though, that he'd had to take a bus-six hours each way. A car would have gotten him back and forth in two.
Of course, by then shame was a constant, unless he was drunk enough to pass out.

During our twenties, Ric and I lived in Albuquerque. For a year or so we shared an adobe place in Old Town. My favorite thing was to go to "Okies," on Rt.66, when Ric's band was playing. I'd usually drink too much and my brother and his wife would make sure I got home okay, because neither one of them were in to getting smashed. God, or something-I sure as hell don't know-brought me to a time when I couldn't keep going with Johnny Walker Red and I quit drinking. That was almost thirty years ago for me, but my little brother never could stay stopped and I don't think he minded dying a bit. Ric's okay now. Peaceful, looking out for the rest of us, telling jokes, playing drums, himself again.


Karen said...

I remember a conversation I had with him a few years before he passed on. He was having a bad night and he called my moms house for one reason or another and I was there. I tried, like the stupid non-alchoholic to reason with him and give him advice... but I didn't have the experience of being where he was and so I really didn't have a clue, did I? He was such a big hearted old soul - we all loved him and our hearts broke every time he would fall because we knew what a wonderful person he was despite his constant companion.

Martin heavisides said...

I read this in the Zoe office and followed the link to the photo, so decided I'd leave my comment here. Very moving tribute, Nonnie. I'm sure you miss him.

Karen said...

NanaDiana said...

Hi Nonnie-
You don't know me but I followed the link from Karen's blog to find you.

My heart aches for you. There is nothing worse than standing by and watching someone become paralyzed by their need/want/desire for alcohol. There is so much shame in living with that pain...and most people still do not believe that it is an illness that defies treatment in many, many cases.

I work in a medical setting and see people like Rick on a daily basis. The "good old boys" that everyone loves, that others smile about because they are funny (drunks)...and yet they feel a bit superior to that person because HE has a PROBLEM. They don't understand that he cannot just put the bottle down and walk away. Addiciton is a horrible thing- it takes your spirit, it takes your family, your job and yes, finally, your life.

I try to treat these poor souls gently because they are human just like I am...they feel, they hurt, they cry for help..and yet, they just can't seem to accept what is given to them.

Alcohol has touched our family in a deep and personal way. I understand. I understand that you are feeling sad, and angry, and even a bit guilty because you keep thinking "What could I have done?" The answer is nothing. There is nothing you could do. Rick was in God's hands and God saw fit to end his suffering and take him home. I believe that he is beyond all pain and addiction now~safe in a place where he knows only joy and is drunk on the sweetness of the beyond.

As I said, you don't know me...and I tend to make light of just about everything...I can see the humor in just about every situation so this is a deviation from my usual writing style. I just wanted you to know that you are not alone. I understand. God bless you~ Diana

Nancy said...

Visiting you from Karen's blog. She wrote a very lovely post about your brother and about you.

I hope writing about this experience has helped you. My post on my blog tomorrow is about my dad who passed from Alzheimers in 2007.

Take care.

bichonpawz said...

My prayers are with you and your family. Having a sister who is an is so very painful. I agree...your brother is at peace now.

Ms. A said...

God bless Ric and those he left behind. (((Hug)))

Marie said...

What a soul! I'm glad to meet him, now, through your eyes, Nonnie. Nice to see his photo. Not a bit as I might have expected him to be.

Thanks for sharing.



from my front porch... said...

Thank you for sharing this today. It may be the most important thing you ever publish on this blog. Someone who needed to read this today probably did...
I emailed Karen this a.m. and she was going to forward it to you.
xo, misha

Anonymous said...

"himself again"-wish i knew more about who that self was so i could feel that too.but i know he is part of the big wheel and thats all any of us can know for .r