One of my very first memories was being in my backyard with my brother Chuck on the 4th of July. I was probably 3 or 4 at the time. He was setting off fireworks. Chuck was a tall, strong, young man; very handsome and someone I looked up to. He was my hero. We used to laugh a lot – that kind of deep belly laugh that takes your breath away. Chuckie was lighting this small black tab sort of thing that grew into a snake of ash. As I think of it now it reminds me of something the Weasley twins might sell in their magic shop near Hogwart’s Castle. I watched fascinated as the little column of ash formed up on top of itself. When it was done growing Chuckie told me to touch it. When I did, it disintegrated and a breeze came and turned it into a hundred ashes against the concrete. My brother, then about 14 I guess, was already dabbling in drugs and alcohol; an addiction that would consume him. He continued to burn during his own dark journey and when he was in his early 40’s he disintegrated. My sister and mother took his ashes to the mountains and spread them to the wind. Like that little snake that grew and disappeared into ashes, he too is a distant memory.
I often wonder and worry how lives can get so off track. My sisters and I never dabbled in drugs, although we all have our own demons of sorts. I worry that my boys can make one or two wrong decisions and dark paths will open to them that might tempt them to delve into immediate gratification or “feel good” moments. My mom had to watch her son die. It isn’t supposed to happen that way. I suspect that feeling of helplessness is something we as parents have to give ourselves up to when we’ve done all we can do. I’m hopeful that Chuck’s darkness passed with him. It is a part of our family legacy that we simple don’t need to continue forward.