It is a little more socially difficult
for a kid when they grow up with “less” than the people around
them. My father had gotten hurt on the job when I was about three. He
worked for the union and decided to fight for the lawsuit; that became
his full time job. My mother, who was a “stay at home mom”
had to go back to work – However, she had been homeschooling and
with the five of us kids for so long, that she didn’t have any “job
skills” – she managed to find a job for minimum wage and started
there. We moved around a lot. It was stressful.
I always managed to fit in with my peers, but it was not the same thing
for my little brother, Stephen. He was picked on a lot. We were poor and
we felt we weren’t good enough for the teachers, the kids, or the
The night it happened I was in the back room doing my homework and I heard
a “bang” – not a loud bang; just a “bang”.
I went into the bedroom and through the crack in the door to the bathroom
I saw my brother lying there. There he was with my father’s hand
gun on the floor next to him, in a puddle of his own blood. He had taken
the clip out, but there was still one in the chamber already loaded. I
don’t think he knew how to empty the chamber, but he did put the
gun to his temple and pull the trigger while he looked in the mirror.
While I don’t know if he intended to take his own life, I do have
to question why he put that gun to his head to “play” with
it. The bullet went through one temple and out the other side into the
wall. I was 15 years old.
I froze. My mother rushed in past me and held him until the ambulance
got there. We spent three days at the Children’s Hospital in Oakland
before my parents decided they had to pull the plug. It was two weeks
before his 11th birthday. I will never forget the little white casket
that held my little brother.
When I returned from the hospital with my parents, I immediately went
to find my girlfriend. She was at the school. But there were issues I
didn’t know about and I was asked to leave the school property.
About a week later I had a sheriff come and tell me that there were about
40 parents so “concerned” that they were calling the school
and saying that I should be on 24 hour surveillance and should not be
allowed anywhere near the school. Apparently they thought I had planted
pipe bombs and I was running around with guns. I pointed out to the sheriff
that they had already confiscated all the guns of my fathers’, I
didn’t own any and we were not in Littleton Colorado (The horrible
school massacre had just happened there).
I just wanted to be around people, That is all I wanted. The images were
burned in my brain and I wanted somebody, anybody to distract me from
that. I tried to go back to school, but people would say to me, “Why
are you here? You should be taking time”. Eventually I got back
into school, but, on account of the false rumors, the teachers were afraid
of me. It is impossible to learn under those circumstances. I finally
went to the continuation school with Larry Allen. Larry has known me since
I was a kid. He didn’t treat me any different than any other student.
With his help, I graduated a year early.
I partied a lot. Every damn day. For years. It really slowed my life down.
I couldn’t get the image of seeing my brother lying there out of
my head. I was just going to numb it out. Just have “fun”,
or so I thought. But eventually we all have to deal with our pain no matter
what. My girlfriend and I wound up homeless.
I had to do something else and I knew it.
I quit drinking. I quit weed. I cleaned my act up. I realized I had thrown
away years that I wished I could get back.
I needed a job. Badly. The thing I have learned from my impoverished upbringing
is the value of hard work–nobody owes you a cent. You have to take
what you can get when you can get it and show pride in what you do, no
matter what it is or seemingly how little. I took the job at the recycling
I started at minimum wage.
That was two and half years ago –Today I am living with my little
family in Concord. I have a company truck, an expense account, a house,
and if I stay with it, I will move from supervisor to area manager, and
make really, really good money. If I had been too proud to work for minimum
wage, this would never have happened.
What I would say to someone else in my shoes:
Take it one day at a time, don’t lose yourself to partying or drugs,
really work hard, (things will always get better if you work hard) If
you make the right decisions it will make you happy; it will make the
people around you happy. You don’t want to be destructive –I
was destructive for a long while after Stephen – just numb it out,
forget about it - but it really made things harder in the long run. Ultimately,
it doesn’t work. You are going to have to deal with it, no matter
what; eventually you ARE going to have to deal with it. The best thing
you can do is see your goal for the future, decide what kind of life you
want to have for yourself, and what kind of people you want around you.
When you have done that you can start making decisions every day to move
forward to your goal and that will make your life so much better.
I am 28 now. I have learned to love other things, simple things, happy
things, that I never saw coming. I love gardening, I love my family –
I have two children and we have a good life. One I have made for us because
I was brave enough to keep going. You will never forget something like
that, but over time it gets less painful, and, if you allow it to happen,
life will filter in happy memories to help buffer out the sad ones.