Thursday, July 10, 2014

William Steven Mobley--my brother

Two nights ago my brother Steve took his own life. The last 24 hours have gone slower than any time I can remember. The grief is so different. As I sit with my family we are all playing in our heads the "what could have I done/done different to make things ok for him".

I don't want to delve into the details of my brother's life. Suffice it to say things were very hard for him on every conceivable level and he had crushing depression that made it just that much worse.

A healthier man might have made different choices. But he wasn't healthy in the way that leads to those kinds of choices. At the same time he didn't want to be helped. He put up with my meddling and went along with me because he loved me and it was probably easier than rejecting me outright. Just this action of trying to humor me shows great love. If he had any hope it failed him when he needed it most.

My sister is here. We had other plans for the week that brought her to town. We hover around our mother watching her face and try to contain her monstrous grief by holding her hands. My Mother's iron core falters visibly--she looks like a small, crushed thing. I hold her but lightly--she feels brittle and breakable right now.

A friend of Mom's comes by--he is an ex priest and grief counselor. He suggests that we have an informal sharing of memories when we are ready. Mom's eyes sweep the house. "I see these painted cabinets, this new floor--everything he ever fixed for me. That globe in the still has the card that says "I want to give you the world". I am surrounded by my memories of my son."

I want to blame some people. Understatement. I have real rage--the kind that lets you see what kind of monster lives inside yourself. The kind of rage that shouldn't be allowed near phones or have the keys to the car. I feel it rise up and subside. Its what happens between sobbing, doing mindless chores and staring at the wall.

Time has never moved so slowly.

I can write this but I don't really want to talk to anyone--I don't want to explain anything or tell the story of what I think happened, why he did what he did or to speculate on the dynamics that led to this.

I'm on the phone with people I never thought I'd have occasion to talk to--I forget to be gracious at times and forget that everyone is in their own vortex of pain.

The thought that rips me is that I believe my brother didn't think he mattered any more. He hurt so much. He couldn't do the things that brought him a sense of pride.

He was much more than the things he could do. He mattered. He was worth it.

My sister and I took a long walk this morning. We spoke of regular things and we spoke of our grief and we spoke about our brother. She then out of the blue she asked me "what is your best memory from childhood in summertime". I breathed in deeply. I could smell the cool, mineral smell of the percolation pond, the dry grasses and dust from the dirt path we walked. Life. This moment.

I remember my brother always had illegal firecrackers at the 4th of July. We blew up coffee cans and anything else we could find with M80s. I felt like such an adult when he gave me his cigarette butt to light the fuses. He always had a rich store of illicit fun to share. He could make anything and once showed me a rocket engine he built in the lab he worked in at Applied Materials. We once went swimming together in the dammed up creek behind Mom's house--his suntan oil made a huge rainbow film on the surface. He gave me a packet of Sen Sen and said it would kill alcohol breath. He could make really good soup and let me hang out at his apartment and play his electric guitar. When I had a new hobby he always had the perfect tool or gadget for it and would bring it over as a gift.

Wiring, plumbing, painting, drawing, carving, mechanics, electronics--he knew how to do it all. Any thing I needed help with he always seemed to know what to do--how to make things, fix things, enjoy things. He helped me fix my motorcycle more than once. But more importantly, if I was in trouble he was the one to call--he never asked questions and never judged.

He cared about details and tried to make his loved ones happy. When he stopped caring about those things and started faltering we all wondered "what happened to Steve". In hindsight I see he needed help. He wasn't going to "snap out of it" on his own. Acquiring that kind of lens that makes you wonder what you aren't seeing in people right now--and even so what are the right things to do if you see they need help.

I thought he could be fixed if we just tried the right things together. I don't know. I'm not ready to accept that what happened was inevitable. You hear stories about one person making a difference that changes everything. Its never just one thing or one person. Unless it is. I don't know.

Years ago when Steve got married I remember him saying from his hand written vows that he wanted his new life with his bride to be "free as the wind" (it was a hippy wedding, ok?). He wanted to just do what he wanted to do. Over the last few years he had less and less of that.

I miss you Steve.
His son will come sometime in the next couple of weeks. He, with the rest of us, will go scatter my brother's ashes along one of the roads Steve liked to ride his motorcycle along--shirtless, wearing flipflops and shorts and smoking a joint. That snap shot in time a picture of being "free as the wind". 

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