It’s Memorial Day. A day to remember service men and women who lost their lives in the line of duty. As the daughter and granddaughter of servicemen, this day has a lot of meaning. I get it. It’s a day of counting blessings, saying a special prayer for loved ones, and remembering that we live in this society because of those sacrifices.
But today, this day, is something else. It is my brother Matt’s 43rd birthday. I don’t know if he’s alive. He’s a heroin addict. I know that a few months ago he missed a court date in Portland, because they called my ex-husband’s house and left a message looking for him. My ex wasn’t going to tell me. One of my sons heard the message and let me know. Unfortunately they didn’t catch if it was state, county or city court. I was unable to figure it out (easily–I confess to not doing more than making a couple of phone calls). So he must have been alive at least recently enough to have committed some infraction.
I still remember him as the impulsive little kid he was before puberty hit his brain chemistry and everything went to hell. Before his ADD and Reactive Attachment Disorder and general “follower” style personality got him in trouble with the law, before his first prison stint at 18, and before he took his first hit of heroin.
I used to be the link between Matt and the rest of the family. He had my phone number. And address. I would get letters from him when he was in prison, and therefore clean. I visited him if he was within a few hour drive. If you have never visited someone in prison, you have no idea how awful it is. But then, when I was at a really low and vulnerable place, right after I had left my marital home of 20 years, I let him detox with me. Twice. It did not go well. That’s an understatement. It was hellish. After I put him on a train, I ducked his calls. For a week or so, he was angry and called my phone every 15 minutes for several days straight. I knew he was using again. I turned off my phone. I still do not feel strong enough to see him. Even when he isn’t actively using, the life he has had to live because of his choices have made him manipulative and I cannot be around that.
But today, I remember the happy little boy. I hope and pray that sweet soul still lives. And I wish him happy birthday.