You can consider this a GTKY, a reflection on life, or a public service announcement, it matters little. What matters is the message….

Many, many moons ago, when I was say 17, I had a brother. He was the so-called “troubled child” in the family and growing up little was said in my presence about him. He was 13 years older than me and had spent his fair share of time in and out of the justice system. As a matter of fact, I can’t ever remember him spending an evening at home. Stealing cars, dealing pot, raising hell in the neighborhood, that was his gig. He started to run with the local chapter of Hell's Angels and things, well, let's just say that they didn’t turn out all that well. We finally started to get to know each other though random meetings on the streets of Brooklyn. It was cool.

Picture this. The year is 1976 and yours truly is having the time of his life. My brother was tooling around the neighborhood on an old bike made by the Indian Motorcycle Company that he had lovingly restored. (For any of you motorcycle enthusiasts out there, you know what a big deal that was). Anyway, he’d be wearing his colors and come roaring up the block and pull up to where me and my friends were hanging out. Sometimes he’d ask me if I wanted to go for a ride and you shoulda seen the look of envy on my friends faces as we took off. Usually the rides didn’t take us that far or go that long, maybe an hour or two at best. When we parted company, I was always given a little gift as a sign of our brotherhood.

I think it was in March of that year, my senior year in high school, that me and some of my friends decided to skip school, hang out at my house, and take advantage of one of my brothers aforementioned gifts. It was about noon and we weren’t there long when a knock came on the door. I just about freaked when I opened the door and there were two uniformed police standing in front of me.

I thought to myself, “Oh shit, I’m so fuckin’ busted.” So many thoughts crossed my mind in that nanosecond that I almost pissed my pants. Jail, school, job, future, parents, you name it, it went flying through my head.

It seems the cops weren’t there for me at all. I’ll try and reconstruct the dialogue as best I can.

Cop: “Your parents home?”

Borgo nervously : “No, officer.” (I was then and still am now scared shitless of the police).

Cop: ”Where are they?”

Borgo: “At work.”

Cop: “When they gonna be home?”

Borgo: “Around six.”

It’s at this point where I think the cop didn’t know what to do. He told me to stay where I was and went off to consult with his partner. Upon his return…

Cop: "You got a brother named (insert name here)?”

Borgo ”Yeah.”

Here’s when the panic really sets in. What the fuck did he do now? Did he get busted? Did he drop his bike and get himself hurt? Is he in jail? How come this shit always happens to me? Damn, damn, damn!

Cop: “He’s dead. You better call your parents.”

Borgo: “Wha?…Huh?…Who?….How?…”

Cop: “He killed himself a couple of blocks from here. You better call your parents.”

Shock. I didn’t know what the fuck to do. I called my sister, who lived four states away, and told her of the circumstances. Then I called my folks and broke the news. They came home and it was off to the morgue where both my father and I identified the body. A bullet to the head did the trick.

As it turns out, the reason my brother killed himself was over a forgeryrap. It seems he had forged a signature on a credit card in order to get gas for his bike. I think the bill was something like $7.00 or some shit like that. It didn’t matter, forgery was a federal offense and given his past record I think he was staring at a five to seven year sentence. He wasn’t going back…

Turns out the son of a bitch was married too. Nobody in my family, not even me, knew it until the day of the funeral. His wife produced the papers and was given the right to dispose of his body as she saw fit. Given my brothers lifestyle, it came as no surprise that he didn’t have a will. The funeral itself was odd to say the least. You had somber family members, friends and neighbors all dressed their Sunday best. Then you had some members of Hell's Angels, all of them in their colors, and a bunch of other assorted characters. To say it was weird would be a massive understatement.

So, what became of (insert name here). My brother's wife determined that he would be cremated. This didn’t raise too many hackles in my family until she revealed what she was going to do with the ashes. It seems that his ashes would be dipped in buckets of paint and applied to the motorcycles of those friends that he held so near and dear. Apparently, this was meant to signify that he “would be on the road forever.”

Why do I tell you all of this?

For starters, if there is such a thing as a defining moment in one's life, I think this one belonged to me.

My home life, not the best as it was, turned to shit. My father, a drinker to start with, turned deeper to the bottle. He started to compare me with my brother and it wasn’t long afterwards that he mentioned that he thought that I was “gonna turn out just like him.” My mother, always quiet, had even less to say. My friends, they tried their best but nobody knew what to do. Me, I was lookin’ for a way out. College, even though I managed a 1200 on the SATs, was out of the question. The funeral costs sucked most of that money away. I had no job either. Life fuckin’ sucked.

A couple of weeks later, I marched into a recruiting office and tried to join the Marines. Since I was still only seventeen I had to get my parents' permission. Hey, no problem there, I think they were happy to see me go. So happy in fact, that a week after I graduated high school and was off to Parris Island, my father didn’t even bother to get out of bed to wish me luck. I never went back. How I got to where I am today often times seems like a blur.

You’re probably still asking yourself, who cares, why the hell is he telling us this?

Well, I read a lot in the news today about depression and suicide and whenever I do, I can’t help but think of my brother. It’s going on damn near 30 years and I still can’t get it out of my head. Maybe I coulda done something, maybe, maybe maybe. One thing I know for sure, I’ll live with that doubt for as long as I’m around. If my brother was around today, I don’t even know if we’d have that much in common. I would have hoped he’d have changed his ways but I guess a tiger has to wear his stripes. Either way, I hope he found what he was looking for.

I’d leave him with this thought though. Never underestimate the impact you have on your fellow human beings. The life you're fucking with may not be your own. While I think I’m okay these days, I’m always left wondering what might have been.

Good night (insert name here)

Source: Life itself

I have two brothers, and though one is dead, I still say I have two. My mother's dead too. That doesn't mean I don't have a mother.

My brother who's still alive is four years older than me. The one who's dead was two years younger. That put us rather close together in comparison with my older brother, and we remained so until our teens, when we began to grow apart.

When we were young kids we would play on the swing set in our yard, imagining that the two empty swings that would move slightly as we powered our two held our invisible friends, an elephant and a lion. My mother would send us to buy her a pack of cigarettes - Benson and Hedges menthol 100s, I still remember the brand - and we would run from driveway to driveway, pretending we were being hotly pursued by spies and were barely escaping with our lives. On Sunday evenings when my father and older brother would watch Hockey Night in Canada and my mom would go upstairs to read, my brother and I had the cavernous darkened front hall to ourselves, and we'd invent wild adventures to amuse ourselves for hours. He was my best playmate.

We got in trouble too, of course, as kids will do. He got a toy tool set for Christmas one year, and in the spring we used his plastic saw to cut all the heads off my mother's tulips; she was furious and couldn't understand what possessed us to do such a thing. But usually it was him getting in trouble, not me, and my mother would break wooden spoons spanking him for doing some naughty thing or other. Once I took my mother's lipstick and wrote on the inside of the medicine cabinet door with it; she lined the two of us up and demanded to know who had done it. When I steadfastly refused to admit that it was me he finally confessed, and got double punished for messing with my mother's things and lying about it. I felt guilty about that for years.

When I was 8 and he was 6 my father left. He had been having an affair with the receptionist at his office - not the first of his dalliances, I learned later, and certainly not his last - and my mother found out. She was pretty devastated that when she confronted him he declined to make their marriage work and moved out.

That same year my brother started stealing money from my mother's purse and using it to buy cigarettes and candy and toys. The man at the drugstore told my mom about my brother's altered spending habits and she found his stash. She made him smoke two cigarettes in front of her, I guess to try to make him stop; I heard him crying and coughing in the living room and it was kind of scary. It was the first time I realized he had another life that didn't involve me, just as I had one with my new friends at school.

When I was 9 my mother had a birthday dinner at home; her boyfriend brought champagne and we kids were each given a small glass. I didn't like it, but my brother drank his glass and mine. I had a sleepover at my girlfriend's house that night, and when I got home in the morning there was a burned mattress on the front lawn. My brother had been playing with matches and lit his curtains on fire; his bed had caught fire too. A few days later a fireman came to our house and had a talk with my brother in the front room. That probably made him feel kind of important: I sure never had a fireman come to have a private talk with me. I was a good girl. My brother was well on the road to bad.

When I was 11 and he was 9 my mother decided to go to Ghana for two years with the Canadian University Service Overseas. She was tired of seeing my father and his new wife - the receptionist - around the small town where we lived, and she wanted to do something new and adventurous. My older brother, at 15, could not bear to leave his friends, so he went to live with my dad and stepmother while my younger brother and I accompanied my mom.

Life in Africa was very different from life in little Victoria, B.C., and my brother and I were thrown even more together. But by the time we reached our teens we were pretty much estranged. It wasn't an easy time for us: my mother was dying of cancer and could no longer care for us, so we went to live with my dad, just as his second marriage was splitting up. It's hard enough for any teen to feel secure and happy in their lives, it seems, but it was doubly so for us. Once or twice we'd make a good connection - he woke me up to watch the northern lights once, I remember - but mostly we didn't talk much at all. He was doing things I wanted no part of: drinking, stealing, making nooses and hanging them from his bedroom ceiling. I felt I didn't really know him at all any more, and after I moved out we hardly saw each other.

My brother was smart - we all were - but he couldn't write as easily or fluently as my older brother and I. My younger brother held his pen too tightly, pressed too hard on the paper, made holes. He didn't like reading, and it wasn't till he found The Lord of the Rings that he evinced any of the enthusiasm that my older brother and I felt for novels; he read that one book over and over again. But he had skills my older brother and I did not. He had an excellent spatial sense and could draw very well; he designed boats based on plans he found in my father's books. He could fix cars and other mechanical things, something that eluded us two. He was in some ways the smartest of us three, or at least he had a broader range of intelligence, and we envied him in a way. He'd probably be very surprised to hear that, but it's true.

My brother had lots of girlfriends - he was good-looking, and charming, and quirky - but he didn't treat them well. He'd screw around behind their backs, and leave them, young and pregnant, for someone new. He had two children that I know about, one with the woman he married. My sister-in-law is a big woman, inches taller than him at 6'2", and no shrinking violet, but he beat her, badly. When their son was just a few months old he beat her so severely that she feared for her life, and she grabbed the baby and ran. None of us saw him after that. He moved out east and we didn't keep track of him and were kind of glad, in a guilty sort of way, that he was out of our lives for the time being. We didn't want to deal with his mania, his crimes, his alcoholism, his jail terms. It had been 26 years, and we were tired of it, plain and simple.

One day my father got a phone call from a young woman who had been his girlfriend in Ontario. Did he know that his son was dead? He did not.

My brother had rented a basement apartment and gotten a job and a girlfriend, but when he beat her, she left him. He got another girlfriend - this one, the one on the phone - but she left him too, after a beating. I guess after that he gave up hope, and he hung himself. He was 27 years old.

I'm not ashamed to say I was relieved to learn that he had died. Not because I wanted him dead, but because it had been obvious for a long long time that this was not a good life for him. He had never been happy in his skin, never satisfied with this life. It was much more than a young man's angst: he believed nobody loved him, not really, and he did things all his life to make people angry with him, just to prove to himself that he was unlovable. He lied, he stole, he beat women; I heard he may have killed a man. He was consumed by a self-hatred that injured him and those around him, and he could not escape that vicious circle. I feel sad when I think of it, but glad that it is over for him.

I have two brothers, and though one of them is dead, he is still my brother. I miss my younger brother, but I'm glad that his difficult life has ended, and I hope he's happier now, wherever he is.

Death never has answers. It doesn't square with what you know or what you think you know. Death just happens. No answers for it, no one to ask about it. You never really get used to death, whether it be a loved one, a family friend or someone you didn't even know. About the best you can do is learn to tolerate it better.

Yet, death seems to have qualifications. By that I don't mean that you have to be dead to qualify, though that helps, but that we tend to feel a certain way when a certain set of circumstances concerning death and people we know comes into play. If your great grandmother who lived to 103 dies peacefully in her sleep, we seem to feel like she had a full life and it was her time to move into the world of shadows. If your father dies of a heart attack at the age of 70, well, it seems like that would be a similar, though slightly different story. If a child dies from a wreck involving a drunk driver, that is a different story, too.

All of these situations have the same outcome; the only difference is that the players in the play are different. In the great grandmother's case, there is the tendency to believe that she had a full life because she made it so far in age. About the father, it would be seen as regrettable (perhaps preventable?) and sad, but life would otherwise go on. About the child who dies from a wreck involving a drunk driver? Grief and sadness the likes of which people don't seem to have for the great grandmother, and only slightly have for the father.

I suspect that the main difference between all three had to do with the age and relation of the person to you. It makes sense-- we expect our parents to die before us and our parents expect their children to outlast them. Whenever the converse of what the natural order would otherwise dictate in an otherwise perfect world, well, expect everything to go screwy.

It's about the qualifications, you see.

***

Nick died a year ago, today. I've had a lot of time to think about the world as it is versus the world as it was. I've had some time, the only currency of distance in such a matter, to grieve and heal. I've gotten to watch my parents go through what can only be described, and accurately so, as a living hell. I myself have managed to get along as best as I could. I fumbled from time to time, like I imagine my parents have, only to come out on the other side of those mini-moments of reflection on a brothers voice and laughter, on the other side of the telephone to a silence unlike any I have ever perceived before or since. The times when I would recall a sound or a look or a conversation. Good stories. Bad ones, too.

Bad then good, so the saying goes. There was the time Grandma and Grandpa were over for dinner and Nick couldn't stay at the table. He had to keep going in and out of the house. It was odd, to say the least. What was worse was when Mom could smell gasoline on him. He had been huffing gasoline out in the garage. While my grandparents were at our table, my brother was off getting high. This, so far as I can figure, was the moment Nick's brain got some wires crossed. He was never the same after that.

Of course, there was the time he had been kicked out of the house, one of many, I must confess. When I got word about it, I went home and found him. He was staying with a family who took him in because my grandfather had been good to them, and they to him, and so it was just a thing that was done. His friends at the house were not exactly model citizens, as can be imagined. And so I knocked at the door and entered quite matter of factly. The friends tried to stall me, even stonewall me that he wasn't there. He was, of course. I found him, hung-over from a night of partying, just in the initial stages of waking up. He was rather shocked to see me. When one of his friends asked if he should stay, I told the "friend" with a sadly high horse sharpness that he should, "go mind your own fucking business, or your nose, or whatever it is the fuck you do. Get outta my sight".

As can be imagined, he left. Nick said I shouldn't treat people that way. I nearly jumped Nick then ("I'll do what I goddamn want..."), but decided the best of it. I told him to go home, mend fences, get clean. Mom and Dad have forgiveness in them. You just have to ask for it, and prove you are worth giving it to. No more lies. No more dope. That's the condition.

"Would that make you happy, Chase?"
"It isn't my happiness, or theirs, that concerns me at present."
"Are you saying I'm not happy?"
"Isn't that obvious?"
"I don't understand."
"You will. I promise. Just trust me. Get clean. I love you."
"I love you, too."

But with the bad comes the good. Nick was an excellent golfer, helping the school team to set a new record for combined score and outright winning some matches. Nick, much unlike myself, understood fishing in a way that is still quite lost to me. He was a Pisces, after all, so there could be something to being part fish himself. He once declared that, "A good day never ends", and I still believe that. Not just because he said it, but because it seems so obviously true.

Nick mowed the yard when I went to scout camp. He mowed the yard when I went to Philmont. Never a word to me about not wanting to do so.

More recently, when Nick came and stayed with me during a skeet tournament a couple of years ago is one of the best memories I have of him. We went to Bone's, a preeminent steakhouse in Atlanta and in the South in general. These girls came in, and so did their pimp. Nick, of course, thought the girls just liked him and that the fellow was awfully chatty. As soon as their attention was elsewhere, I nudged Nicholas and told him the score-- these were high class call girls. He, at first, wouldn't believe me. And then it sunk in. Afterwards, we called Mom and Dad on our way home and I told them Nick had nearly been abducted by high class call girls. Everyone, especially Nick, got a big laugh out of that one. We had a couple more laughs that night, too.

There was the time at our last Thanksgiving when he and I went bird hunting on Grandpa's farm. I beat him in the body count of those blackbirds, but he finally got the gist of wingshooting versus clay shooting. That said, he did wing a bird and it didn't fall dead from the sky like a bird would if it were hit solidly. He went over and found the bird where it landed and it was twitching with a broken wing. He couldn't bear the sight of it. But he couldn't finish the business he started with the bird, either. He was nearly in tears. He had such compassion for the creature that it nearly moved me.

I told him to turn away, I'd make the bird go away and be at peace. Like I had done so many times in the pigeon ring, I blasted the bird on the ground. No emotion, just the precision unafforded by any shotgun but delivered with the full force of not only natural selection but the best that Remington shells have to offer. He turned around and told me thank you. He told me that he wished he could be as "tough" (whatever that means, I thought to myself) as me.

"Oh, it isn't toughness, sport. It's doing the right thing. You meant to kill the bird, not wing it. It happens. You'll get better with practice."
"But what if I don't always kill the birds like you do? Will you come make it right?"
"I'll always be there."

We were covered in mud from going up and down the fence row. Our faces were red from the cold; our hands and ears were hurting. We smiled a lot that day. Laughter, too.

It's the last happy memory I have of he and I together.

***

My parents were the ones to discover Nick. He hadn't responded to repeated telephone calls. His first day and his last attempt, at school, was that day.

My parents drove up to Murfressboro to find out what was wrong. A locksmith had to let them in the apartment. Mother made father go in first and look. When he came back to the door, my mother asked him, "Is it bad?" And my father told her yes, it is bad. On the couch like he was taking a nap, was my brother. He was dead from an overdose of methadone and cocaine.

I was called shortly thereafter. I was at work, sitting in my office doing something on the computer. I was wearing my overalls and the phone buzzed in my breast pocket. I pulled it out and when I saw it was Dad calling, combined with the feeling that something was terribly, terribly wrong, I answered the phone.

Dad told me that something had happened. This has been the only time I could tell my father was actually shaken, perhaps even crying. I asked if it was Grandpa. He said no, it wasn't. I said, "It's Nick, isn't it?" He told me yes, it was, and that he was dead. I kept waiting for Dad to say it... it was hard to hear as I wanted it to be a terrible accident or anything else other than the final gavel in the natural selection court. I told him I was sorry and I that I would be home just as quick as I could be. He advised me that I should really try not to break any land speed records on my way there.

The trip that normally takes 2 hours and 30 minutes took me a little over 2 hours.

I had not smoked a cigarette in some time up to that point. I walked out, after placing the phone in my pocket, of my office to the main room of the store and asked Frank for a cigarette as I fiddled around for a lighter. I told him the news. He was literally shocked. Creig came over and I told him what was going on. I asked them both not to say anything to anyone until I was gone, which would be after I had that cigarette. I snubbed it out like an old pro and left work, not to return for some time.

***

There wasn't a lot of company that came by. By design, my parents wanted to grieve themselves and with only the closest of friends. Only one of Nick's friends ever told them how sorry they were. That person? The one I cussed out so long ago.

There was no funeral. No visitation. No funeral home full of the truly sad, those only coming because they had to show a face, the well wishers or those people who always seem to show up to a funeral because they enjoy them.

I have often thought what I would like to say to that last group is, "This is not your grave, but you are welcome in it," but that is unbecoming and ill fitting within my own self and my own demeanor. But sometimes, it does seem fitting, regardless of my personal predilections of avoiding being an ass in public.

Mother wouldn't have been able to tolerate a regular funeral. She was as sick as anyone could ever be, and the sad part is, is that it was a sickness of the heart. It is still broken something fierce. So is Daddy's (I only started calling him Daddy after Nick's death). I had pain, too. Brokenhearted, broken spirit, and just plain broken.

I did what any normal guy would do. I tried to drink and smoke the pain away. It didn't work, of course. I went to Vegas to a tradeshow that I was only really going to go to because Nick had expressed interest in being a partner with me in a business idea I had at the time. The entire time I was there, it felt false. I had come for the wrong reasons. My partner was gone.

I saw Elvis playing blackjack at the $50 dollar table. Apparently, I had just missed Santa Claus.

And if I had seen Santa, I would have asked him for my brother back.

***

I came back to Atlanta and tried to pick up the pieces of my life as they had once been. I went to work. I went shooting. I tapered off the drinking. And then the smoking. I began to notice girls again. But, life wasn't the same. I never really expected it to be.

A life looked at introspectively takes a strong mind and a sense of humor. A life looked at objectively leaves the observer with more questions than answers. The subject to be studied is no longer there, and even if it was, access to the matter to be reviewed wouldn't be.

Life is best reviewed in the stories we have. Animated memory. You have to think about a setting to jog the memory so that you can truly relive it. Life, so far as I can tell, is all about context. I think about these contexts when I think about him, like people do about their own dead grandmothers, fathers, mothers, sisters and brothers. I can't call up just the picture of his face without having to think about a time we were together. Sometimes, that can be painful. Sometimes, it is wonderfully pleasant.

Nick had a hard life. By that I do not mean that he had a bad childhood, went hungry, slept on street corners or anything like. What I am speaking to is a history of drug abuse which perhaps precipitated the feeling that he didn't belong in his own skin which in turn created the need to continue using drugs. It's hard to say now what was and what was not the case. Like I said, death doesn't give you any answers.

By extension, grief doesn't give you any answers, either. It does, after a time, lend itself to giving comfort. You can only suffer so much before things get better. But you have to get all that sickness, that despair, out of your life before you can mend. Grief helps to get all the heartbroken feelings out so that new feelings, whatever they may be, can grow. No one can tell you when that will be or how you will feel when you come out of it. And if someone tries to, then just ignore them. They don't know what they are talking about.

My love and affection has always been of the stronger sort. If I took a shine to you, well, then I would do anything for you. My family especially. But there aren't any more birds to kill, yards to be mowed, drinks to be shared, conversations over phones about things that mean nothing to everyone but to me and him. That's all gone. The love isn't; it burns brightly in my heart every day, because it is my family. I literally think about him every day. Sometimes I smile, sometimes I don't.

Mostly, I try smiling these days.

He left behind a niece, something I am trying to get a grip on if only because I have never been an uncle and I am not completely sure what to do at any given time anyway, let alone with a niece. I am hopeful she will like fishing, but I am told that is some time in the future when she can handle a fishing pole and learn some fundamentals. Hopefully, she has Nick's fishing gene in there somewhere, because I have a sneaking suspicion that it is going to be awfully boring with me, as I never seem to catch any fish.

While I have recovered as best as anyone can from something so personal, something that leaves such a bad taste in your mouth, I can't help but realize that he is gone, never to return. It is an omnipresent thought that never seems to quite go away completely. While I wish I could tell anyone who has had such a thing happen to them that I was just as well as I was before this happened, I couldn't do it in earnest. Not because I haven't made progress. And not because I am worse off than when it started. I am recovered as I mostly can be; I am whole. But it is a different worldview now, a different context, and so it would be like comparing apples to oranges from the past into the present. I make no illusions about that, and neither should anyone who has such a thing happen to them. I wish I had the magic words for myself or anyone else in such a trying time. I don't and no one does. I have just resolved myself to a very simple perspective that seems to work for me.

I try to tolerate his absence better than I did the day before.

And, so far, it's working.

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