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My Brother - How I Became An Only Child
My Brother, Richie
This page is about my brother, Richie.
October 16, 2012 will be 13 years since I last saw him breathe. Even then, it was ventilator assisted.
He was 29 years old when he left me here to be an only child.
In The Beginning
Richie was born December 7, 1969. I was 5 1/2 years old.
My mother had asked me several months before if I wanted a baby brother. I looked at her and very solemnly said "No, I want a big brother." She had laughed and told me this was impossible. So I requested a baby sister instead.
I have prayed to God for forgiveness ever since, for once my brother was born, I loved him immensely.
Richie was a beautiful, chubby cheeked, blond haired baby that everyone loved as soon as they laid eyes on him. What a beautiful, sweet child he was.
He was very loving and he called me "Sissy".
The Teenage Years
As he became a teenager his friends began getting into trouble. We lived on the "upper crust side of town" so we never thought he would even meet people he would get into trouble with. But as always, kids are dumped into public schools from all neighborhoods, good and bad. Some make their way out of the bad neighborhoods and become solid citizens. Some find their way into the "crack houses".
My mother bought her baby boy a brand new truck for his 16th birthday. She had it modified for him and bought him all kinds of gadgets for it. It was beautiful. He now had wheels...and freedom to go where he pleased without my parents or me knowing exactly where he was at any given time.
I won't go into details here out of respect for my family but it suffices to say things weren't turning out so well.
After several run ins with the local police over minor traffic violations he was on their radar and would not leave him alone when they saw him. It was harassment plain and simple.
Through The Adult Years
Life was hard for someone who didn't graduate high school and now had a record. He was only able to hold jobs for a short period of time due to harassment from the police and probation officers. Our family was even harassed.
I was now married with children. Richie lived with my family off and on through the years. He worked most of the time with my husband. We owned a flooring store and put him to work, training and honing his skills as an installer. He became rather good!
Richie met and eventually married his wife, Lisa. Young couples always go through rocky times and with the past still close on his heels things became even harder.
Lisa became pregnant, which was the dream they both had, but things turned sour. Again his past came back to haunt them.
Lisa's father felt it was time to take her home. He made her file for a divorce and made sure Richie's name was not on the birth certificate. This drove her into an unstable emotional state.
After the baby was born Richie attempted many times to see his daughter but was thwarted at every turn by Lisa's family. He eventually gave up after several years. However he never forgot his daughter or his love.
18 and Life
My brother's favorite song
The Phone Call
August 28, 1999, I was divorced and working outside the home. I got a call at work from my mother. She sounded so sad. Richie had been in an accident the night before. He had been a passenger in a truck that had flipped over and thrown him from the vehicle. Mom and Dad had been at the hospital all night with him. But I was not supposed to worry. How could I not?
I went and picked up my son who was 6 years old. When I told him we had to go to the hospital to see Uncle Richie, he became very upset and scared. They had always been very close. He knew Richie the moment he was born because Richie had talked and sung to him the whole time I was carrying him.
When we arrived at the hospital I found out that my brother was in ICU. Not worry? He was mangled. His skull had to be pieced back together and to have huge box staples to hold it together from the crown down. His teeth were broken and his lungs were bruised. There were glass cuts everywhere on his face and body. His face was so bruised I didn't even recognize him. I thought I was in the wrong room until I saw my mom.
Christopher, my son, was terrified until Richie called him over to the bedside and said "It's me, little Critter (my son's nickname)".
I can only tell you I was in a state of shock. My brother was a beautiful man. Women adored him. He was a sweet person and good to his friends and family.
Everyday after work, we made the trek to the hospital. He was in and out of ICU. He would stabilize and then drop. It was a constant state of flux.
He stayed in the hospital until Friday, October 8th, 1999. I got a call from him but was not at the house when the call came in. I called the hospital and he was no longer there. No one had a clue or wouldn't tell us anything about where he was.
It would be the last time I would hear my brother's voice.
My father got a call from Richie that night. The Atlanta, GA city police had come to the hospital and taken him out of ICU, which is illegal by the way, and taken him to jail. He was being held in a holding cell. They thought he was the driver of the vehicle in the accident, because the driver had been thrown also.
My brother had IVs in both arms and was released from the hospital to the police on the terms that he'd be given 9 more days on antibiotics. There is no need to go into more detail other than to say, he never got them. He pleaded for help and no one listened. He called my father, but the city and county had holds on him and could not be bonded out. The police chief was called and she did absolutely nothing. We were told that if he needed medication, he'd get it.
He did not. On Wednesday night, October 13th, my brother went into respiratory arrest while pleading for help. He then slipped into a coma and only then was he provided any medical attention and rushed to a hospital.
I stood at his side talking to him for hours on end, pleading with him not to leave me, pleading with him to come back. I begged God and raged at God. I screamed to Heaven for help. None came. I had lost faith in all humanity. I swore and cried and begged and pleaded. He never came out of the coma. On Friday evening, October 16th, 1999 my brother was pronounced brain dead. He was gone.
I lost my faith in God that day.
The world as I knew it was forever changed. I was now an only child.
After His Loss
In the months following his passing, there were legal battles fought and won. Cover ups were found and people went to jail and lost their jobs. Everyone involved was made to pay dearly. But he never came back. It never filled the void left in my heart and soul. Nothing ever will.
I didn't deal well with his loss. I found myself screaming at the top my lungs for him. I would scream his name in my sleep. I wouldn't even say his name around my parents. We didn't talk about him. The pain and anguish was like living in my own personal hell. I just wanted the world to leave me alone.
I went to work and came home, forgetting to eat, though I still took care of my son. It was surreal. I kept looking at the front door, waiting. Why didn't he come home? I kept his clothes washed and folded in his drawers. Some nights I thought I would hear him in the house, finally home. I would rush to the room but he was not there.
In October 2009 it will be 10 years since I've seen him breathe. I will have been an only child for 10 years. It has taken me all of this 10 years to find my way back to faith. Though it is still a hard road to travel, I can find some solace in the fact that he was never really happy here in this world and he is now with his Father.
Quoting fom Maya Angelou
In the instant that he is gone, we know nothing. No clocks can tell time. No oceans can rush our tides with the abrupt absence of our treasure.
Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone, piercingly alone.
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him.
He came to us from the creator, trailing creativity in abundance.
Despite the anguish, his life was sheathed in mother love, family love, and survived and did more than that.
He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style. We had him whether we know who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his.
We had him, beautiful, delighting our eyes.
Dealing With Grief
I never dealt with my grief. I kept it tucked in a corner until I was alone. Because of this it has taken me 10 years to bring it out into the open and talk about it. Don't do that to yourself. You can find help. There are organizations that have counseling for free. There are numerous self-help books, which I chose to ignore. There was nothing wrong with me. I refused to go through the stages. You have to. To be able to function normally again, you must go through the process.
I didn't want to cry. I've never been seen as an emotional person, always strong and able to handle anything. This? I did not handle it well. For your sake as well as your family, talk about it.
A Special Thank You To All
I want to say to a very warm, heartfelt thank you everyone who has read this lens. It doesn't matter whether you commented or not, I thank you for the time you took to read it. I know it was hard to read and yes, hard to write. This lens was an outlet for much of my grief and with two very strong and faithful friends, Drifter0658 and Heather426 , standing beside me and encouraging me, I was able to make it through the many, many 4ams it took to finish it. To you both, I love you.