This is my brother, Tom–a 100% board-certified goof. He’s bright as hell, as goofs can be, but crazy nonetheless. Virtually any piece of good news would set him off into these frenzies of celebration: a date with a pretty young woman or scoring some tickets to a RATT concert or acing a final exam he totally forgot to study for. This night’s celebration, however, was exceptional by any standard.
Tom loves jokes, likes to hear them, tell them and especially write them. His dream is to be a comedy writer and he’ll spend days trying out his jokes on me. Honestly, it wears me out. After I hear a different joke every five minutes all day for three weeks you can’t pay me enough to laugh. He mails them out to every comedian, every television show he can think of and then sits vigil by our empty mailbox.
Anyway, to get back to the photograph, I took it the afternoon he got a phone call from Saturday Night Live. Yes, THE Saturday Night live show in New York City–they wanted to use some of his material, work it into a skit involving Dan Ackroyd and Bill Murray. Tom let out a Whoop! and ran up to the attic to get the Santa Claus hat then cranked up his favorite RATT album (“Out of the Cellar”) and started singing. It was quite a sight. Mom and Dad came down the basement to see what racket was all about and the three of us just stood there watching Tom.
I’m told that in the Sufi Muslim tradition there are dervishes, or believers, who perform whirling dances as part of a ceremony to bring them closer to God. Well, we’re not Muslim. In fact, we don’t attend any church at all but at times like this I think Tom is feeling the joy of life more than many who sit silently in Sunday pews. That night we went upstairs to bed and left him singing and dancing to the throbbing music below.
Story by Will Conway
Wow… look at that smile.
Never has there ever been a better “before” photo. This was before his arms turned to bruised messes and his cheeks sunk in. Oh, how I miss that full, full face. He looks happy, right? Healthy, at minimum.
Had I known this winter would be our last, I would have made more time. I would have reminded him that I loved him, that mom and dad loved him, that he did not have to head to New York to chase his crazy dream of becoming a magician. He could have stayed right here, with me, where it was safe.
Maybe if I had stopped harping on him for two seconds. If I had just let him make his own choices or create his own life, he would have called me. Had he known that my love was not dependent on his success, he would have called.
Addicts relapse all the time, but he had never been addicted to drugs before. He obsessed over sports and things with wheels, sometimes women, but heroin? How could we have known?
I cannot imagine him with a lighter and a spoon… I had never even seen him sit still before. Someone must have helped him. He found someone who did not judge his decisions, who probably made him feel more adequate than I ever had, and they killed him.
I spend a lot of time trying to remember the last day he was still him. I want so badly to remember the last time I told him I loved him. Nobody really knows when he started using, but I will never forget the day he stopped.
February 17, 1989. RIP, brother.
Story by Kendra Penningroth
Oh yeah, this is my first high school boyfriend, Sam Kelly. We dated for quite some time, this must’ve been sometime in the winter of senior year. My friends thought it was so weird that we were together, like, he wasn’t my usual type at all. He liked old guitars, and hated school, and listened to songs of bands whose names I’d never heard of.
I remember I made him stay inside and watch Halloween movies all October with me, all the stupid kid ones. He begged me to watch the scary ones, but eventually, he caved and watched Hocus Pocus and baked those little cookies with the tiny ghosts on them and he wouldn’t admit it to his friends, but he loved it because he loved being with me.
It was even his idea to spend December doing the same thing, with the Pillsbury cookies and the holiday kids movies. We were playing that Mariah Carey Christmas song everyone likes, and he grabbed my hat and started scream-singing it. He was jumping on the tables and dancing like an idiot. He grabbed the camera and tickled me until I couldn’t breathe.
He drove me home in his beat up old truck and we stopped on the side of the road before he got to my house. He asked me if we were gonna stick it out and stay together even after I left for college next fall. I told him I didn’t know and that it would be really hard since I was going so far away and I wasn’t gonna be home very often. He didn’t cry but he looked like he was going too. Didn’t matter anyway, I cried enough for both of us that night after I got home.
Stuff ended pretty quickly after that — I don’t know why we ever thought we had a shot. Maybe we could have if I had cared enough to try and hold stuff together and put in as much effort as he was. I haven’t seen him since graduation, but that doesn’t mean I don’t’ wonder where he is from time to time.
Story by Sara Kay