What was it like to be you?

September is National Suicide Prevention Awareness Month

What was it like to be you? Since you can’t tell me, I’ll tell you what it was like to be me. I’ll start with the Port Road house. Those three years were good, sad, tumultuous, and life-changing. I was a prepubescent busy-body, and you were a restless, afro-wearing high school sophomore. Many indelible memories, too many to fit into one paragraph. Was it you who shielded me from the turmoil going on in the house; sitting with me in the bedroom while the commotion was happening? I know those were tough times. One afternoon, you’d had enough and ran out of the house wearing only a white undershirt and pants; you didn’t bother to put on shoes or a shirt – Linda driving around to find you. What was it like to be you as a teenager?

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At 18 you left for the army. Where else were you to go? We all went our separate ways. There was a picture you sent mama while at Fort Ord basic training – you looked happy. I still see it in my mind’s eye. I’ll never forget my late-night journey on the Greyhound Bus to watch you graduate. We stopped at terminals to pick up passengers along the way. The terminals were dirty and intimidating; red-eye travelers, drunkards, and downright sketchy folks looking for something to do. Didn’t bother me much because I was thinking about you the entire time and was looking forward to seeing you. What was it like to be you as a young man?

Years later, I visited you and Cynthia in Tacoma. It was generous of you to pay for my airplane ticket. Maybe that was your way of staying in touch with me. I had a fun time with both of you, especially when you took me to the teen disco nightclub – I thought I was cool hanging out with eighteen year old party-goers. What was it like to be you as an adult?

I have fond memories of the many visits you made to my family in San Jose; your wife, kids, and mother-in-law in tow. Let’s not forget the way you skillfully packed everyone and everything in that old Ford Taurus. Who knew you could get that much stuff into one car. The sounds that thing made as you put it in reverse, slowly backing out of our driveway; we teased you, saying the Titanic probably made the same moaning and creaking sounds as she was sinking. You didn’t care … it was all good. One thing was for sure  you didn’t care what people thought of you. I admire that. What was it like to be you as a father?

Your speech to mama and papa at their 50th wedding anniversary was touching. Those words came from deep in your soul. You articulated beautifully your appreciation and gratitude for their unconditional love, support, and acceptance. They were listening. What was it like to be you as a son?

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I think about you. Sometimes my thoughts go back in time when we were young and other times it’s memories of us with our families; you with your kids, and me with mine. That day in December, 2004, was a moment in time. It doesn’t define who you are to me. Instead, I choose to embrace our times together with deep affection.

I wish you had reached out to one of us. If you were standing here, I would say, “I noticed you, you were a good person and a good brother.”