You ever wake up anxious and wonder what the hell happened? It occurred to me upon further reflection that today is Easter and while the day itself fluxuates I will always associate Easter with loss. Sometimes you want to forget something, but for whatever reason your brain won’t let you. Not that I ever really forget, or that I didn’t know the day was coming, but in the fog of waking up, you don’t generally expect such intense feelings.
It’s been a minute since I’ve talked about my Uncle, but what the hell. For those who need it, a small warning that when talking about this, we’ll be dealing with suicide. So a heads up for those who cannot deal with that sort of thing for whatever reason, no judgement here, trust me.
For everyone else, the story is pretty simple. Unfortunately the facts are where things get tricky because there’s the “official” story, the story I was told, the story one of the people who was present told, and what I think happened based on all the above information. None if it makes this any easier and truthfully we all want answers when someone commits suicide, but there are no answers. There’s only a person shaped hole in your life that no amount of answers or understanding will ever fill. It’s been… wow just did the math, 16 years since all this happened and it’s weird how these things linger much longer than you would want.
People are complicated. We’re a little something different for everyone who we interact with. To the church my grandmother was a good woman. To me she was horribly (and EXTREMELY) physically, verbally, and mentally abusive. Most of my family was, most. The excuse my grandmother gave when I confronted her about it as she was nearing the end of her life, because only then could we talk about it, was that she was abused. Oh and she had no idea how to raise children, much less grandchildren, her words. Then again she said she beat me harder than my brother because, and I quote, “I could take it.” For those who are missing context, I bounced around a lot as a child, but a not insignificant portion of that time was living with her.
There was one exception to this family full of very shitty humans. That was my Uncle. Again, I make no claims as to who he was to others or the kind of life he lived. For the time I was living with my grandmother, he was living there too. A sad irony of life, for all the excuses everyone made about being a shitty person, he had a legitimate excuse to be angry or at the very least short tempered. He had lupus and it was, by all accounts, incredibly painful for him. He had trouble taking care of himself, much less the people around him, but he was there, I was there, we spent a lot of time together. Even if I only remember small portions of it.
He would have been unremarkable in my life if it weren’t for two small details. The first is that he never hit or raised his voice to me. The second was that no one else would when he was around either. So out of everyone he was the person I wanted to be as an adult and I still try to emulate the things I saw from him because he was the best example of what a decent person looked like to me growing up.
And around the time I got out of the service, he shot himself in the head.
That was probably blunter than I should put it, but I remember going to spend Easter with my family and my father, being the man he is, told me just as bluntly. In fact, he said it so nonchalantly that he may as well have been ordering food or talking about sports. And just like that the only person I looked up to was gone from my life. I’m not a religious person, but Easter hasn’t been the same since that day.
The controversy is how it happened. He had started getting back on his feet several years prior to that. He and his long time girlfriend had bought a home, he had a good job, and stable-ish (for the US) healthcare. Despite some serious health issues (heart issues caused by the lupus and back problems, because those run in the family), things were looking good at the time. But life can quickly go downhill as was the case.
The story is again somewhat of a mystery, but the general thing everyone agrees on. Namely, the ex of his girl friend, who had shared custody with the daughter they had together refused to leave the home for whatever reason (he was/is a cop too, go figure). My Uncle, who had been celebrating Easter with some drinks, as he was known to do, got his firearm and that’s where the stories start to diverge. The short version is there was an accidental discharge, the guy was not hit, but pretended to be dead for whatever reason. My Uncle, probably thinking he just killed a cop and was going to spend a large portion (if not all) of his life in prison went to the back room, and after several hours with police outside shot himself.
Now, was he in the right to eject someone forcibly from his home? I would argue yes, but maybe that’s my own bias. Do I think that’s the full story? Absolutely not because there are so many holes in it you couldn’t turn it into a direct-to-tv movie. But after >15 years, I’ve come to the sad conclusion that even if I had the detailed and fully accurate account of the events nothing would change. He would still be gone, the guy probably wouldn’t even get a slap on the wrist, and no matter how many questions I got answers to, my Uncle would still be gone.
So yeah, Easter kind of sucks. To this day I do not, and will not, own a firearm. I also don’t drink, anymore that is. So maybe my Uncle and I are not so similar as I would want to believe, but I do miss him and with all that I’m accomplishing lately, I do wish he could’ve been around to see it.
In the end he had every reason to be just as abusive as the rest of my family, if not more. No one would’ve stopped him and I’m sure several would’ve encouraged it. But that isn’t the type of person he was. While I agree hurting people often hurt people, I don’t think that being abused is a good excuse for abusing children, not that there is ever a good excuse.
I don’t think my Uncles death will ever stop hurting and in a lot of ways I don’t want it to. It’s a good reminder of the impact he had on my life. I just wish he could see me now.