It has been a long time since I have seen you. It was right before your sisters sent you off to yet another stint at rehab. About a year and a half ago. I don’t think you lasted there for even 24 hours before you were arrested again.
You were such a sweet boy, though you could be full of yourself. I remember you toting around a King Jame’s Bible and quoting it like a little preacher. You were like a funny little old man.
I also remember bribing you to do well at school when you stayed with me for a couple of weeks. When you did surprisingly well, I took you for your reward at Fun Station, the local Chuckie Cheese-type hangout for kids. You had a blast. You were thrilled to stand in line to turn in your tickets for a prize. I had such fun watching you pick it out. I gave you my tickets, of course, so you could get something better. I have no clue what you got, after all these years, but remember how your eyes shone with pride.
Your first arrest was due to a mobile meth lab at 18. I was so angry that you were producing a substance that ruins lives. You told me your “friend”, of whom I know nothing but he was an older guy, mentored you. You could have said no. You could have said no so many times. You were smart, even though you made a lot of dumb decisions.
Almost all of your adult life was spent in jail. I am not sure you knew how to function outside. I am sure it was scary and intimidating. How does one rebuild a normal life after living such a sheltered life? How does one make decisioms when do many have been made for them? I suspect there was a feeling that you had messed up your life and couldn’t recover, though you hid it with bravado and never talked about it to me on a deep level. I always tried to convey that you could turn it around and there were many who would help you.
You had lots of bad tattoos, but one of your first, a Celtic cross, was simply beautiful. It has remained one of my favorite tattoos I have ever seen. Getting a tattoo is something I had on my wish list for this year, at age 60, and I always thought that could be what I choose.
Inside jail you had your “brothers” and you all stood for things I detest. I know there is a jail culture that you must assimilate to, but I hate the way you did it. Your “brothers” cared nothing about what was good for you and and didn’t support you to live a better life. You were soldiers on the same side in a war fought for no good reason.
Your sisters, on the other hand, were always there for you. They wanted you healthy and in their lives. The rest of your family, too.
You were quite open when you talked to me. I believe most of it was true, even though drugs users are typically liars. It had little sugar coating. I hope some if the stories were exaggerated, but I don’t believe they were.
The last time I saw you, you were not using. Your eyes were clear. You were engaged and charming. You never failed to tell me how much you loved me. I never failed to try to talk some sense into you.
Before dinner we had gone to the local park with a duck pond and just walked around. I saw a Mylar balloon with a string in the pond and wanted to get it out of the water so the ducks wouldn’t be choked by the string. You fished it out for me and found a trash can to deposit it in. You also wanted to protect the ducks, and probably protect your aunt from slipping in the muddy water.
You listened to me, indulgent, but I could see you were not truly listening. You thought I was innocent and you knew more about the world than me. That was not the case in the remotest sense.
You knew little about the world. You wanted easy, though I know you had it in you to work hard and well. You limited your circle to those who thought like you and lived like you and told you how great you were. I love variety in my life, and truthtellers, and as a result my world is big. I am no innocent, but work to live a life that is good and true.
I made a decision long ago I would never be an enabler. I broke that rule a bit with you, but never extensively. I didn’t want to be around you much. I know lecturing addicts is futile, yet that was my compulsion.
The one time I had hope was when you worked on a horse farms. When it was you and the animals, you had a level of peace. Yet you always turned back to drugs. When you said that you lost your job because you were sick and couldn’t work, I knew the real story. Most did.
You only asked me for money once, by text. My response was “I can’t. I love you.”
You responded, “I understand. I love you, too, Aunt Kim.”
I believe you really did understand and I believe you loved me. I sure loved you.
I understand you died with others, due to fentanyl-laced pot. I grieve the loss of you, but there is a side of me that hopes you went peacefully. I was always afraid your life or your freedom would end in violence. I’m at least glad that did not come true. Or maybe it did. What is more violent than someone lacing drugs?
Now you are gone and I no longer fear a violent end. I hope my mind is full of the good memories and thoughts of who you were. I want to remember those most.
Still, I hope someone reads your story and changes their path. There is so much good that needs to be done in this world.
I will miss you, but truth is I have already missed you for way too long. You’re in God’s hands. I know God loved you and knew the pain deep in your soul. I trust that pain, and your addiction, is now healed amd you can feel the good things.