Donny

Donny was my little brother. He was my very first best friend ever. We were three years apart and even though he was younger than I was, somewhere around the early teens, he shot up sky high and bulked up and was never really considered my “little” brother. He was quite BIGGER than I was.

Donny

I remember standing in the garage and watching the car drive up as baby Donny was brought home from the hospital. It was a cloudy day. Momma unwrapped the blanket around him in the little kitchen that we had so I could see him and told me “He’s your baby. You need to help me take care of him”.  I believed her. He was my baby and I did do everything in my power to take care of him. I was three years old.

He woke from his nap in his crib crying and I ran to comfort him. I had to be first. I slipped on the little rug while running to him and broke my front tooth. I had to take care of him.

20130219-232720.jpg

I remember his hot wheels everywhere and his eyes when he saw that he got a “Big Wheel” for Christmas.  From the moment he woke in the morning to sunset, he peddled up and down the drive way across the street to the Snodgrass’s drive way and back. Back and forth all day long. I can still hear the sound of the plastic wheels on the concrete and then the street and back onto the concrete. Zoom zoom zoom he went. China (pronounced Chee-nah) and Grandma would sit on the porch across the street and yell out “Donito! Not so fast!” and so I would run right by him to make sure cars wouldn’t drive over him. I had to take care of him.

He was pretty good at going to bed on time. I wasn’t. But even staying up late wouldn’t stop me from waking up early to watch Saturday morning cartoons with him. They were the same cartoons over and over again… until we heard “Lolly lolly lolly get your adverbs here” – there was something about school house rock that we loved. And even at such a young age, I could recognize that learning was something he enjoyed. So off to Robert E. Lee Kindergarten I went. I would walk back home after school and try to remember everything that happened so that I could teach him what I learned. I had to take care of him.

He was a very fast learner. I read the Mother Goose book to him – which was HUGE to us at that time – until we got the Winnie the Pooh book. He ADORED the Winnie the Pooh stories. I remember plain as day sitting in the hall way right by the encyclopedias and he said straight out of the blue… “I’m going to name my son Christopher Robin!”  He would repeat that to me for years afterwards, even wore Winnie the Pooh ties while working for Mr. Hendrix’s law firm, until he really did have his first born and then we never spoke of it again.  His first son wasn’t named Christopher Robin. I felt it wasn’t my place to question, ask… anything. Something must have happened to take that wish away and if I pushed it, it may hurt him. And I didn’t want him to hurt.  I had to take care of him.

I remember back yard camp outs in the tent. Roasting S’mores at Bensten State park. Walking the senderos at the ranch. Throwing Doritos up at the seagulls outside the cabanas at the beach. We were always together doing silly things that I now cherish. We would walk to the corner convenience store by the University with a pocket full of quarters to play Space invaders or Tempest. We would walk home from St. Joseph’s school together and knew we’d get teased daily by three mean boys… that was until one day the biggest of the boys came over and pushed me saying “Buttercrust kid” (a common tease because of the blue plaid jumper I was required to wear that looked like the wrapper of Buttercrust bread). So here comes Donny with his hands on his hips right smack between us and says “Oh ya? We may be Buttercrust kids but that only means we got the DOUGH! So go away you TRASH!!!” And this is where the tables turned… he sure took care of them… and he took care of me.

I remember holding his hand at JC Penny when Momma couldn’t find “husky” pants for him. I felt bad because I teased him at first about being so chunky then saw the look of hurt on his face. I never said anything after that to him about his weight. I forgot I had to take care of him.

We were thick as thieves and each other’s biggest fans, I went to every piano recital, soccer game, band performance, half-time show and one act play that he was in. Although I missed his kindergarten performance of “I told the witch doctor”, he made sure that he performed it in front of me later that day just as he did for the crowd. But I remember going with him to all the rest and feeling so proud. He did the same for me. Even when he had mono! I remember teasing him about making out with Paul Alsbury since they both had mono at about the same time.  Pale and skinny, he still stood by me when I won Miss Edinburg.

I was always grounded and Donny didn’t have a car yet so we watched a lot of TV together. It started with Saturday morning cartoons and then expanded to include afterschool programs like “the Monkey’s”, “The little rascals” and “The Brady Bunch”. We could watch some shows over and over again like Godzilla vs. Mothra, Clash of the Titans, Excalibur and Saturday morning “Boo” shows like the Blob. The teen years came around and we found great escape in deep drama and comedy. Fletch,  Dead Poets Society, all of the brat pack movies, Ghostbusters, Monty Python’s the Holy Grail, Little Shop of Horrors and comedy concerts by Robin Williams, Bob Nelson, Eddie Murphy and of course, the all time funniest movie… Porky’s II. As we grew older, we couldn’t find the time to watch movies together but would discuss them regularly. The last one that we spoke about was instigated by Xavie because he teased me about secretly loving John Cusack. His brother and my brother both said that they love John Cusack, too. The following day, Donny quoted this from the movie Serendipity on his facebook: You know the Greeks didn’t write obituaries. They only asked one question after a man died: “Did he have passion?”

And so when we had bad days or needed to escape, we would call each other up and spew out quotes from movies randomly. Because these quotes have now become quite personal to me, I created his memorial video with the soundtrack of the movie Serendipity because of that last quote we spoke of. He did have passion.

I remember him skateboarding up and down the neighborhood all day long and I’d follow him on my 10-speed everywhere.  I had to take care of him. I remember the phone in the hall ringing nonstop. Always girls. I’d answer sweetly and then hand over the phone and give him the look.  He’d cock his head to the side and give me his famous “giggle” – which didn’t help the situation any when he wore that silly Goofy baseball hat, you know the one with the long black ears and the nose on the bridge of the cap?  Pre-teen acne, asthma, cartoon character wardrobe and STILL he was a charmer! I figured out very quickly that my distaste for some of those girls was not going to be tolerated by him. So if he was going to have his fun with them, I was going to have to stick by even closer to make sure his heart wouldn’t get broken. I had to take care of him.

So I went through them all with him… Tanya, Tina, Gena, Robin, Carrie, Cindy, Monette, Shari and many others I’m sure… they were all over with.  He sat with me with tears in his eyes.  “Sis,” he said, “I got a girl pregnant. I can’t tell Mom by myself. She’s going to kill me. Will you be there when I tell her?”

“Of course,” I replied. I had to take care of him.

That night changed us forever. We still remained close but his conversation seemed to be edited from that moment on.  We used to be able to say anything to each other. We had hit the point where neither of us were children anymore. I think he felt he had to play the part. He was a fabulous thespian. But I still felt I had to take care of him.

All our lives we got ourselves into trouble and successfully got each other out of it, too. We snuck out and into the house with devious little plans for years. Dad electrified my window… but not his 🙂  He would wait up for me and slide open the safe entry way so long as I told him everything about what I did, how I told off so-and-so (insert killer ex-boyfriend from the outskirts of hell’s name), what the DJ played, etc. And then I’d ask “who were you on the phone with all night tonight?” And “Do you like her?” and he’d tell me all about what they talked on the phone about. All the while, I would always find some little piece of stuffing poking out of his comforter and pick at it and pick at it until by the end of the conversation… all the bed stuffing was gone. He’d grab the stuffing and begin re-stuffing his comforter with a new topic which usually began with..”and then JP and Stacie got into a fight.”  We could say anything to each other.  I liked to take care of him.  It’s just what I did.

“Myssie, I’m at the island. I got a DWI and I can’t tell mom.”

“Myssie, will you help me host a graduation party? Not just any party… but one that will be talked about for years?”

“Oh yeah? How do you say Volkswagon in Spanish?”

“Myssie, can you take me home?”

“Can I stay with you?”

“Boogie wooogie wooogie! Booogie wooogie woooogie!”

“Sis, it’s time. Mom and dad are in New Mexico. I need you to meet us at the hospital now.”

“Myssie, can she borrow your wedding dress?”

“Sis, Marissa wants to move to San Antonio. I’m already up there so much. What do you think?”

“She thinks you hate her. I know it’s not you. She just wants more of your attention.”

“Hey sis, have you heard from mom yet?”

“Sis, I’m trying but I just can’t handle it all anymore.”

“Myss, I don’t know what to do.”

“This is my bed. I need to lay in it. I’ll make it right.”

“Hey sis, thank you for thinking of the boys and including them.”

“I love you with all my heart Sis – Please always remember that.”

“Love ya, girl.  You were my role model growing up, the supah-stah, and the coolest person I knew.  So I’ll ask you to not step back, to not shut up, and to always say what is on your mind, even if it offends the woman I’ve chosen to spend the rest of my life with.  You’re important to me, too.”

“We’ll go see Stevie Wonder! Me, you and Michael!”

He wanted a graduation party for him and his friends. And not just any graduation party… but a phenomenal one that would be talked about for years. He knew they were entering the next phase of their lives. And true to form, I was there from start to finish. I was the key master collecting EVERYONE’S car keys and making sure that if alcohol was snuck into those precious under-aged hooligans, there was absolutely no way they were sneaking out! It was a phenomenal party. I had to take care of him… and them.

I’m not quite sure which came first, my catching up with life, school, work, marriage, kids or his catching up with life, school, work, marriage or kids… but one night he called from an odd place – the parking lot of HEB. When I asked why he was pretending he was grocery shopping he said “Sis, Marissa listens in to all our conversations. She thinks you hate her and she’s always comparing Michael to Nico.”  He said, “She told me I needed to ‘cut the cord’ with Mom.” I wanted so badly to say something to make him feel better about the situation but I couldn’t find the words so I just sat there and listened to him for an hour and a half.  This was the beginning of his downward spiral. I tried to help but didn’t know how to, didn’t know what to say. I had to take care of him… but didn’t know how.

He kept saying he was going to “make it right”. He tried so hard to correct the mistakes that he made by doing the “right” thing.  All the dreams – the boyhood wishes – never had a chance.  What I don’t think he ever gave himself credit for was all the “right” things he was actually VERY good at.

He was an exceptional intellect, conversationalist, debater, thespian, musician, charmer, comedian, a master of Donkey Kong and, yes, by far the best brother any human being could ever dream of.

His emails to me and several of his friends over his last few living months included reference of the poem by Samuel Taylor Coleridge, The Rime of the Ancient Mariner (1798). It was particularly dark and eerie and was tell-tale of how his life was overflowing with guilt, fear, depression and was too much for him to handle alone.

In the poem, an albatross starts to follow a ship — being followed by an albatross was generally considered an omen of good luck. However, the titular mariner shoots the albatross with a crossbow, which is regarded as an act that will curse the ship (which indeed suffers terrible mishaps). To punish him, his companions induce him to wear the dead albatross around his neck indefinitely (until they all die from the curse, as it happens). Thus the albatross can be both an omen of good or bad luck, as well as a metaphor for a burden to be carried (as penance).

The symbolism used in the Coleridge poem is its highlight. For example:

Ah ! well a-day ! what evil looks
Had I from old and young !
Instead of the cross, the Albatross
About my neck was hung.

The Wednesday evening before his death was said by his close friends to be one of the happiest they had seen him recently.

I didn’t realize until after his funeral just how much he looked up to me. Hundreds of people came up to me and told me great tales and each said how he spoke of me… people I never met, co-workers from years past or people he went to school with. One letter in particular hit me hard. Her name was Sylvia. She had gone to school with him and must have known him since grade school. In her letter, she shared that she had created a playlist on twitter that was dedicated to him. It had the songs that she said reminded her of him, songs that he played or talked about to her at no end. They were the Butthole Surfers – Bitchin Camaro, Trio – Da Da Da and so many more. See, these songs were not well known at that time. I had them in cassette versions and listened to them in my room with Donny after school or during the summer or while riding my bike on my Sony Walkman. Donny must have gone on endlessly to all his friends for them to remember those bands and songs 20-30 years later. I was flattered and honored.  I know I’m not depicting this section to the detail that it deserves and it is probably difficult for anyone else to truly understand what this part means to me… and I’m ok with that. Anyone else probably shouldn’t understand something so deep. I’ll keep all this close to my heart. It’s how I can  keep this part of us treasured. I have to take care of him.

I can’t help but wonder if I was blind to how he looked up to me, was he blind to how much I looked up to him? I should have told him that I admired him so. I should have.

The last couple of years of his life, I really have to thank technology for keeping us connected. Our banter back and forth on Facebook posts were filled with inside jokes, sarcasm and an obvious adoration for each other. Because it was a public easel, the topics were easy going and comical. Updates and photos of our children and parents and all our whereabouts were common. Our texts, voicemails and emails were quite different. Those were filled with concern, worries and personal conflicts that we leaned on each other for advice. But Facebook was different. It was a grand escape where we could banter back and forth on our children’s achievements, low-budget movies and politics. He was a master at incorporating sarcasm intellectually with truly profound nuggets of wisdom, music trivia and movie quotes.

At the time of his death Donny and his wife had already gone through the initial stages of divorce. However, his untimely loss of life nulled the procedure. She never had the close family upbringing or friendships that we had when we grew up so it was an expected act – although still deeply painful – to see her escape from feelings of sadness, anger, rejection, abandonment, guilt, etc. and take her two boys as far away as possible. Luckily she found happiness with a friend of Donny’s and are living in Louisiana now. (Update: they have since annulled the marriage and she is starting over again in a new location) Unfortunately, it’s been years since I have seen the boys and will likely never see them again.

I remember my Momma praying the rosary every day for her. In anger I remember snapping at her, “Why do you waste your prayers on her when you could be praying for your own health?”

Momma replied with such stoic grace “My faith sustains me. She has none. Everyday I pray that God softens her heart. This way, all our prayers will be answered.”

Momma was always right.

I don’t pray the rosary very often… not nearly as often as I should. A few years back I was given an ultimatum regarding religion and lost a battle but hope to win the war on my Catholic beliefs. However, when I DO pray, I purposely place an intention for Marissa’s heart to be softened just as Momma would pray for her. I do have faith that all will eventually come into place, that the boys will know that their father was a good man and that he was a brilliant, kind and generous man and loved them a hundred times more than he could provide for them.

Donny didn’t die because he had cancer. Donny died because with all that life dealt him… cancer was that last straw that broke the camel’s back. This is the part of cancer that no one speaks of – the pressure that is placed upon the cancer victim’s loved ones. It was just too much for him to handle with all the other pressures mounted on top of it.

I wish Heaven had Facebook.Image

I miss you so very very much. Boogie Woogie Woogie

 

 

My baby brother didn’t know how to handle all the stress that life shoved at him. When he was down, those whom he loved kicked him hardest. He turned to alcohol. And no one did anything about it. No one spoke.

His last few days, he played this song over and over again on his laptop. I live with regret now not speaking up for him when I had the chance. I tried to take him to a rehab center shortly before his death but was abruptly stopped. I should have stood up for him. I didn’t take care of him.

 

Subscribe in a reader

Advertisements

Leave a Reply. I enjoy reading your feedback. Your support fuels me.

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: