Tuesday, February 18, 2014


My youngest brother died in mid-October 2007.  I think the 16th or 17th.  Since I'd been engulfed in the addiction myself for nearly 20 years, and probably attended over a thousand 12-Step meetings and heard a lot of tragic stories by then, I had some intuition since 2001 that Chris was going to die tragically.  He'd just lost his high-paying yuppie investment banker job due to the dot-com bust of 2000, and he couldn't handle what he thought was a failure, although all of his friends were laid off too.  He took it personally.  Chris was a somewhat moderate drinker until then, and was considered the "white sheep" of the family.  But he just gave up on life, and started to drink his days away.  I told his girlfriend in 2001 that it would likely be me who'd have to I.D. his body in some morgue.  Six years later, when he really did have to be I.D'd in a morgue, it had to be done through his dental records.  I'm really glad I didn't have to do it.

Anyway, my mom called me on a Wednesday afternoon and asked if Chris had called or contacted me.  Chris was missing since the night before.  I was living in Atlanta then, and was the only family member who treated Chris decently.  So my mom thought maybe he called or texted me.  The bartenders at the local bars told my brother or brother-in-law that Chris was in their bars and really drunk, could barely walk out.  He tried to charge some drinks to my cousin's tab at one bar and the bartender wouldn't allow this.  So he staggered out, and that was the last time anyone saw Chris alive.  It was maybe 9 pm on a Tuesday.

And yeah, when she told me he was missing, I knew he was dead.  And so, she called back on Friday, and Saturday, and talked to my wife, she was frantic by then, he was missing now for 4 days, and no emails or texts to anyone.

On Sunday afternoon, my other brother called and my wife answered, she told me it was my brother and he needed to talk to me "right now."  He simply told me, "Chris drowned."  And I wasn't too shocked, but in a curious way I was relieved.  I asked him "where?", and "how?"  He was floating in the river right by our town, 100 yards from this river park which had benches and where steamboats docked to unload tourists to our town.   The river park is a block from my parents' house front door.

I was relieved that he was found, because imagine if he simply went missing for a long time.  That would be hard to deal with, no closure, only uncertainty and anxiety every time the phone rings or someone knocks on the door.

And at this point in my life, I'd lost a few friends who died young, and my long experience with addiction I had expected Chris to die tragically, and I was somewhat prepared for it emotionally.  I didn't cry, and really, my feelings the entire next week were relief that Chris didn't die a violent, painful death.  And I could handle stoically going back to my hometown, the funeral, the cemetary, the day after all this.  Everyone else in the family were crying all the while.  I wondered during the funeral, were these real tears?  They really treated Chris like a dog, like a loser, for the past 6 years.  I treated him just the same as when he was the superstar at Georgetown University.  I really did.  And I had to do most of the "dirty work", had to be the one they called to drive him to the detox centers 2 or 3 times, the one they called when he came in and got into fist-fights with my dad.  The family just didn't want to deal with the issue.  I'm not complaining, I was just helping my brother out.
But I'll never forgive my brother, sister, parents, brother-in-law, cousins for treating Chris like a loser, an outcast, a pariah.  In the right setting, in a more normal family like the ones I saw so many times come to the rehabs to support their loved ones, instead of my pathetic dysfunctional family, Chris would have bounced back, and gotten back on his feet again. 
And this is largely the reason I don't have a family anymore.  We basically just told each other in 2011, my last visit to my hometown, that I will not be your brother or son anymore. It's a little more involved than that, what was said and done then, but the gist of it is that I don't have any family now other than my son.  But I have some of my friends who I consider my real brothers.
That's how I 'lost' my so-called family.  I don't miss them.  
And in 2011, I went back home, the first time really since October 2007 for Chris' funeral.  I went down to the river park with Chris last friend, a guy named Brian who was a recovering crack addict.  I needed to get some closure on the issue.  Brian and I discussed how Chris ended up in the river.  My opinion is that he fell in.  Brian thinks he jumped off the nearby bridge, suicide.  My family thinks he got in a fight with someone down there and they beat him up and pushed him in.  We'll never know for sure.  
That's how we lost Chris.  I really miss him...

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