I’m really enjoying being involved in this blog hopping hosted by guru Sarah at thatspaceinbetween. This week we are talking about remembering so I have dug this older post out for that.
I was melancholy this morning, knowing what was ahead of me. Knowing that it was time to write this post. Sitting on the train, Offspring blearing in my ears and that old familiar shadow on my soul. I remember.
I was 21 at the time.
It was a warm day. The old daily depressing grind at Coles distribution centre was over for another shift. I arrived at the old Riverton Hotel, a rough old place, the kind of place where I once saw a dog chained to a pillar inside. But it was my place, and Thursday nights were awesome nights, skimpies, beer, pool and friends.
I ordered a beer and my mate Sully walked in with a couple of other lads. We weren’t the best of mates then, we knew each other and were friendly, but not the friends we are now. We laughed and joked and settled in for the nights merriment when I got the phone call.
“Excuse me sir are you Rory?”
“You have a call.”
The call was made to the actual pub and one of the staff had come to get me. My father was on the line.
“Rory, you need to come home, Adam has been in an accident.”
“Is he ok?”
“We don’t know Rory, your mother has gone to the hospital.”
“Ok I’m coming now.”
I hung up the phone and at that moment a sweeping dread fell over me, I knew it in my heart that we were going to lose him.
I told Sully and he offered me a ride home. As we walked outside, Adrian, one of Adam’s very best friends and subsequently one of mine had arrived in the car park.
He told me that he had been following Alex, another close friend. Adam was in the passenger seat. Alex had gone to turn right on Burrendah boulevard through an orange light. A car had sped up to get through the lights from the other direction and t-boned Alex’s vehicle, Adam’s side had taken the full impact.
Adrian is an honest person, he is a real man, from a strong family. His brother Leon is my best friend. But Leon is a mixed bag. Sometimes a man, a lot of the time a menace, an enigma if you like, but the kind of bloke who’d have your back in any situation and a very funny and giving person at his best.
Adrian looked at me with his hard brown eyes, and I saw the sorrow in them, what it cost him when he delivered the words.
“it doesn’t look good Rosco.” he said using a nickname I had grown fond of.
I nodded and we went back home. Sully and I in his car, Adrian in tow. The trip was short. We arrived and more of our friends were there. I can’t remember exactly who. I know that Leon was there, Adrian, Sully, and a few others.
We walked inside as dad opened the door. Robyn and Shane were in the house. I’m not sure where Kelly was, she was living with granny.
I registered nothing, my mind was all white noise, my eyes full of worried faces. But we didn’t have to wait long. Two officers arrived at the front door and after a brief exchange with dad he told us the news, Adam was gone. 18 years old, his whole life ahead of him. Gone.
The best way to explain the feeling, complete and utter numbness. Robyn sobbed in my arms as I held her tight. But at that very moment my entire being was captured, encased in concrete, switched off and dead to the world I had known and loved, the world I now hated.
I cursed god. Raised a Christian, I was betrayed, we were betrayed, he had betrayed us all. This god, this almighty protector, each and every word I was ever told about him, a lie. My mother and father had brought us out here to Australia from Trinidad. Dad was a bank manager in Trinidad and a very well respected man. But with no university certificate, all his experience meant nothing here. He slaved his days away stacking boxes at Coles, already 60 years old he killed his body every day for us, to give us a better life, a better future. This was his repayment.
We drove to Fremantle hospital. I can’t remember who was with me, only Leon, a sense of him by my side. Maybe it was dad who drove, maybe Robyn was there and Shane too, grief and shock has wiped that memory away from me. We collected mum. They had told her Adam had been taken to Fremantle but he wasn’t there. This woman, my whole world, the heart of my heart had been sent to the wrong place to be with her son. I remember when I saw her, how strong she was, how brave.
We ended up at Charlie Gardener Hospital. Everyone was there then, joined together for the most impossible sadness I have ever known. The sight of Amanda was my only solace. We viewed the body of our beloved Adam. I released my tears at that point, and held on to the shell that was once my brother. I held him and cried until dad gently dragged me away. But those tears I shed weren’t real, nothing was real. The world was an abyss. A cold, dull, numb abyss. At that point nothing and no one meant anything anymore. My grief was so profound, so total and complete that it removed any ability of me to feel.
As we drove home, we talked, filled silences even found room to laugh. That night dad and I shared a drink and somehow told each other we would get through it. The house was full of people, or should I say, holograms. Walking, talking, moving holograms in the most hateful and merciless video game I’d ever played.
The weeks that followed were a blur. Alcohol abuse almost every night with my friends, mixed with cake, cookies and baked dishes from the full house of visitors during the day. There was the funeral, and a very big wake. Adam was dearly loved by so many and one thing I will say, that was a good night.
But soon the everyday visits faded, the hectic pace slowed and emptiness took its full grip.
I still went to preseason training and it was the toughest one I had ever done. At least the physical pain of it helped me feel something. In fact that was the one of the best seasons of my life. I won the fairest and best for Swan United that season and was selected for the state team in my first senior year of the West Australian Premier Football League.
But through it all I was falling. My heart was lead and I just didn’t care enough. Sure I still loved. I loved my mum and dad, Kelly, Robyn and Shane. My half siblings, Debbie, Denise, Roger and Richard. My friends. And I loved Amanda. My light. My worlds brightest light.
But I was a shell. On the outside, a facade, a play, a horrible fake performance.
It’s the regret that gets you when someone you love is snatched away like that. The guilt. The wave of endless memories of the times that you let that person down. And I had let Adam down so many times. Failed to back him up so many times. My little brother. My ward. Our lives together as brothers were close, we lived in the same room every day, and we did so much for each other, were so much of each other. But the regret pulls you below those memories like a vest of concrete, and that vest weighs on your chest every day, heavier than the entire world, fastening you tight to the bottom of an ocean of sorrow.
And I had lost the laughter. Adam was a natural leader. He was cool, a rebel. He was intensely loyal and he fought for what he believed in.
But above all he was funny. He was just so damn funny. The kind of person who would make you so angry that you were about to kill him but then he’d say something that just made you burst out laughing.
When we were kids we smoked a bit of weed. One day I came home to find the last few buds in my little bag replaced with an I.O.U note. I was cursing him and laughing all at the same time. Another time he had made me really angry and I pushed him against a wall really hard. He responded with a Lawrence Fishburne line from Boyz n the Hood. “Oh you bad now huh?” We both almost fell over in stitches, the fight forgotten.
This was the kind of laughter I lived with every day. Gone.
The years that followed were a vicious cycle for me. A good spell, then a bad one. I was up and down like a yoyo. I fell heavily into addiction. Not the kind that is constant but the kind that comes in waves. Weeks lost in self abuse followed by a rise and fight. I’d try for a while, or at least tell myself that, and I’d go well for a couple weeks. Months even. But I’d always fall back again.
And all along one person carried me. Amanda carried me. Time after time after time, I’d let her down. Time after time she’d forgiven me, picked me up, comforted me, waited for me, loved me.
For ten years she was the only person who truly knew me, who saw me for what I was at my lowest points. And she stuck by me. She should have left, she should have walked away. I had no right to a person of her calibre. The woman is a warrior, a powerfully courageous fighter who’s stamina knows no bounds. No one else knew, they only saw what I let them see. I was a damn good liar and everyone was sold. But she saw it all and finally 10 years later she dragged me out of that hole back to my family, cringing in the light. She saw me through my lowest ever point and out the other side. I found life again through her strength. Through her will to fight, to fight for me.
3 years on from that breakthrough it’s been put to paper. I sit here healthy, stronger and happier. We have two beautiful daughters and a good life. A life with a purpose greater than my own, full of challenges and accomplishments. I see Adam in all of my brothers and sisters especially Shane. Nine years my junior Shane is just as cool, just as funny and gives me that same chagrined smile. The one that says you certainly aren’t cool bro, you are embarrassing, but I still love you.
But I still feel the absence of Adam every day. I miss him with every breath and I fear. I fear loss so greatly. I am so scared of the inevitable moment, either well in the future or just around the corner, where time will come to claim its due and rip another loved one from my life. I feel it looming in the background, waiting to strike. It’s a sickness inside of me, an old skin I can’t shed. It’s my “dark passenger”.
So how will I deal with it when the time comes? I don’t know, I will only know once I’m in it. But what I do know is this…
I will make the most of every minute that I have with the people I love. Every single second with these people is a blessing bestowed upon me.
I will give them every part of myself right to the deepest core.
I will tell them and show them how much they mean to me, in some form or another, every single day.
I will contribute to their lives. I will not be shy about it, nor shy away from it.
And if I slip up, I will reset the very next morning. It will be my purpose, my cause.
So when those days come, and once again the world is covered in shadow. Maybe the happiness we shared and the fullness of love we knew might be a different kind of ocean. One of peace in which regret is the sand that sits at the bottom. And the fond memories, my boat, journeying swiftly over the surface, carrying me back to the loved ones who remain, to the break in the clouds, and to the warmth of the rising sun.
For all my loved ones…