I spent the last days of our summer break in Washington with my parents, my oldest brother Danny, and my youngest brother Nathan. We were there for my older brother Randy's funeral. I could never describe how sad that experience was for us. And I don't use the word sad because of my lack of vocabulary. It is the word that keeps coming to my mind and coming out of my mouth. This experience has been so deeply sad.
Randy's funeral went very smoothly. My dad did most of the planning, and he was very pleased afterward. We didn't know what to expect since we didn't really know anyone there except Randy's wife and son. My dad was the only assigned speaker and then time was open to anyone who wanted to say something. Several people got up and said very nice things about Randy. We learned new things about his life in Washington, and people we didn't know made sure to stop and tell us something about Randy in their life. The funeral was nice- and yet still soo sad. My brother was only 38. The older I get, the younger I realize everyone else is. I remember when my dad turned 40. We took 40 black balloons to his office. I thought he was so old. My brother, Danny, turned 40 last year though, and I think he is so young. In fact, my parents are in their 60's now, and I still think they are young. 38 is way too young.
My brother was always Mr. Cool. He was sort of an 80's Fonzee. Although, in high school, he often got into trouble and made my parents crazy. When I was growing up, I thought Randy was cool. He played the guitar in some bands, lifted weights, had pretty girlfriends, and had Billy Idol hair. He was a tough guy, but also spent his time at home cuddling with our fluffy cat. As my family was going through some of Randy's things, we realized that he still had many of the same hobbies, likes, and habits at the age of 38. He still loved his guitar, his cats (and his dog- who attended the funeral), some of his art hobbies, his collections, the same music, and he was still meticulous with his projects.
I didn't think Randy was perfect. He often made me mad. He exhausted my parent's patience, yelled at me when I practiced piano (I wasn't very good,) and tried to get out of every church or family event that he could. But I still thought he was cool, and I wanted him to be the one that drove me to church or a friend's house, and I wanted him to be around me. When I was a freshman in high school, Randy was a freshman at FJC. But his girlfriend, Jennifer, was a senior at my school. I loved her and we called each other "sister." I think I liked that Randy had to be a little closer to me since his girlfriend liked me- and she let me "come in" when Randy said "stay out."
The last several years, Randy has lived in Washington state in a small farming type of town where his wife is from. It's not really a destination place. My first visit there was for the funeral. My brother was terrible at keeping in touch with his family. And I am not the greatest either (unless you are my mom, who hears from me too often.) My parents would complain that it took Randy a month to return their calls. So I usually only talked to him when I was at my parents house. That wasn't very often. So in the more recent part of Randy's life, I didn't know him very well, anymore.
I learned more about him while I was in Washington. His wife opened up to us about the problems he had- we never knew the extent of his problems. We drove to the different homes he'd lived in. We drove by the golf course he use to play at and the homes he helped build. We spent some time looking through Randy's wood shop that he had in his backyard. This was his profession and his favorite hobby. Most of this touring around was led by my parents who had visited him 2 weeks before. That was the sad part. I wanted Randy to be the one to show me around his wood shop, and the projects he had worked on. That's where I realized that whether Randy was good at keeping in touch or not, it was my own mistake and regret that I hadn't been there before to get the tour from him.
As far as Randy's problems, we believe the biggest contributors to his death were alcohol and prescription drugs. He told my parents that he was sober and going to AA meetings. What we found out later is that he went to only a couple meetings and was still drinking. We also found that the pain medications he was getting for his kidney complications had gotten out of control. As a family, we are so sad that we weren't aware of his addictions. My dad said he would have put him on a plane back to Phoenix, put him in a clinic or something, and sent him back to his family in Washington after he got cleaned up.
Unfortunately, life could be full of would-haves, should-haves, and if-I'd-only-knowns. But we just do the best we know how because that's all we can do, and then we learn from our experiences. I have learned a lot from this one. I'm confident that Randy never doubted being loved by his family. That gives me some peace of mind. I'm also confident that I'll see Randy again. I know exactly how it will happen. He will put one arm around me and say, "Hey little sis."