10:30 at night, my cell phone rang. It was mom. She never called that late. What’s wrong now? I answered with a terse hello.
Before I ever heard her words, I heard the strangeness of my mother’s voice as she told me, “Luke’s gone.” Instantly, I knew my younger brother was dead. The only question I asked her was how it happened.
I cried when my parents first brought him home from the hospital. I wanted to name him Harry, after my beloved pet doodle-bug. But my parents flatly refused because he had already been named after my two grandfathers. Just four years old, I had a tantrum.
I was DeeDee and he was Lukey-Bookey. We were peas and carrots, best buds, partners in crime. He followed me everywhere and copied me at every turn. Those were the golden days.
Our childhood endured stitches, stepping on nails, getting lost at the Zoo and a bad case of the chicken pox. All the normal stuff you’d expect two little kids to live through. Luke’s favorite pastime was to tattle on me. He was such a brat.
In our teenage years, our competition with each other was fierce. We fought, we bickered, we stayed loyal. A bully once made the mistake of picking on my brother, I tagged that kid’s left eye “Mad Big Sister” style. Luke was mine to torture and no one else’s.
I left home the day after I graduated from high school. I never looked back to make sure he was ok. We had gone our own directions. I was selfish and jealous. My brother was popular, in the Honor Society and the family favorite, he didn’t need me.
I didn’t know he was living this double life. I’m sure when he got to high school he knew he was gay, which was social suicide, so he said nothing and played straight. I lived far away, married and with a baby. So I never had reason to question the lack of girls in his life.
As time passed and we only saw each other at holidays, I figured it out on my own. I didn’t care, I only wanted to see him happy. But Luke was being elusive, he chose to live in seclusion. We never spoke of what was going on in his life.
My mother didn’t tell anyone at first. I think because she didn’t really notice what he was doing. There was always a good credible reason as to why he needed to “borrow” money. My brother could expertly craft a money request and the lender would end up thinking it was Luke who was doing them the favor.
By the time the rest of family knew Luke was begging for money, he got arrested for a DWI. It was a horrible ordeal for my parents and a huge embarrassment for my brother. About this time is when his drug use became known and all the pieces to his dangerous puzzle fell into place.
The life of a drug addict
I understood, then, the why; his cryptic nature was to hide the fact that he was deep into drug addiction and had been since high school. He lost his job, his apartment and almost his car but my parents stepped in and saved it. He found a new, less desirable place to live, but began to lean on my mother’s generous nature for help finding a better one as soon as she could afford it. Who was this guy?
I had my own demons to battle. I couldn’t cope with crappy marriage number two much less a drug-dependent brother who by then had shut me out of his life completely. My parents, who had divorced years earlier, had major disagreements with each other on how to handle Luke. The only thing we all knew to be true was that my brother was slipping away from us.
My mother had to work that day, but he kept calling her. He finally left a voice message. He needed an iron for his dress clothes he was to wear that Monday for his DWI court date. When she didn’t respond to that, he left another message. That one was full of venom and disrespect. She called me, very upset, that Luke once again was being mean and unreasonable. I wanted to strangle that asshole!
The next day, my mother called me again. She was beside herself because Luke sent her a text at 3 am telling her he was in Houston. She tried and tried but could not get him back on the phone. He was going to miss his Monday court date. What an idiot, I knew this would happen.
He was only 39
I couldn’t look at him, just lying there in that box. I picked it out. The coffin. When I finally mustered up the courage, I didn’t see some drunken drug addict, I only saw my little brother. It was Lukey-Bookey. There were so many questions, so many words left unsaid. Too many words that were said and no way for anyone to get absolution.
Three months later, we got the autopsy report. He did not overdose like we all thought. Acute pneumonia was the cause of death. He didn’t have any illegal drugs in his system nor any other fatal diseases. The medical examiner also found blockage in his arteries, he was a heavy smoker.
My mother firmly believes that the autocorrect on his cell phone changed his misspelled word of Heaven to Houston as he was dying. This only deepened her sorrow. Even though I was there when they lowered him into the ground, he didn’t seem dead to me. He was just being a brat and missing yet another family gathering.
Hey Lukey-Bookey, it’s me DeeDee, I’ll look for you when I get to Houston