"No farewell words were spoken, no time to say goodbye. You were gone before we knew it, and only God knows why." Author Unknown
How do you write about a lifetime of pain that has burned your soul for over 50 years? How do you write as an adult about something that took place when you were just a child? How do you let go of those kinds of memories? I had an answer....write it down....Let it go!....Put it to bed. So write I am doing. On a bright, warm January 5th morning in South Florida in 1963 my life would be forever changed. I did not know it at the time but what appeared to be a normal Saturday on El Prado would become the biggest nightmare of my family's life. Christmas had been ten days earlier and I had gotten a turquoise Schwinn bike from Santa. It was beautiful and I wanted to ride it. My brother was playing in the backyard on a makeshift swing tied in the ficus tree. As I mounted my bike I heard my brother shout for me to stay and play with him.....but I had too many miles to ride and the breeze was beckoning me. I rode down my driveway into the street where all the neighborhood kids waited....on their new bikes. We put a lot of miles on those bikes. Later in the day I cut through my friend Carol's backyard to get to mine. Coming into my yard I noticed something very wrong....my brother was no longer swinging in the tree....he was hanging....like they did on the westerns we watched so often. I heard my mom cry out, saw a neighborhood boy at our backdoor....and ran...but not to my house...I ran back to Carol's house...I heard the ambulance sound, saw the firetrucks....saw Carol's dad walk my dad down to his house.....and tried to hide in the bushes to escape what was happening. That has always been my M.O. When I could not deal with something....I would flee. My dad came home from the hospital, took a power saw and cut down every ficus in our yard. The next few hours were so confusing for me. I did not understand why Dougie did not come home from the hospital with my parents. I did not understand why they cried so....or sat in stoney silence. I just knew whatever was wrong it was my fault. I know they meant well....but, people came up and said over and over...."I know how you feel." Did they? Someone came during the evening and took me away from my parents to spend the night with them. I know they meant well....but it was not what I needed. I needed to grieve with my parents....instead I wondered what was happening away from them. There was a visitation in Florida at Mizell Favell Zern funeral home. We, the family, we closed off in a partitioned room....but I could hear. I could hear the people on the other side of that partition crying....no crying is not a strong enough word....they were wailing. My mom was silent. The next day my brother's body was shipped to Alabama for burial and we drove the 600 miles to be with more family. The viewing in Alabama was at Radney Funeral Home. I remember the viewing. My Aunt MaeBelle made me touch my brother and kiss his cheek. I did not want to....and wish I hadn't. He was cold....icy cold. Again we were in a special place....and again I could hear the wailing of the people there. I was sick and really angry with God. God was punishing me. This was all my fault. I should have stayed and played with him. I should have never left him. I should have's ran rampant through my head. I looked over at my dad and saw a broken shell of a man. I looked at my mom and saw stoic. We buried Dougie at Hillview, stayed a few more days, and then we returned home. We returned home a remnant. Casseroles and cakes came. We ate very little. My mom even less. She spent her days sitting at the dining room table staring out the window, smoking cigarettes and playing Solitaire. She was there when I got up and she was there when I went to bed. Life went on....but my mom did not.
To Joey, With Love....WINNER!
6 months ago