I just got back from attending a Viewing with Pete, a Viewing of a nineteen-year-old boy we knew. The body in the camo casket didn't look like the boy we knew, because that boy had blown his face off with a shot gun Friday night. They'd put the face back together again as best they could, but Andrew was gone.
I texted Ryan saying "Andrew's Viewing is from 5-7."
I hated that. "Andrew's Viewing."
As though it were Andrew's jacket, Andrew's new truck, Andrew's little sister.
He worked with us at Bully's until about a week ago. He was a good boy, a good worker. I remember when he first started, several months back, as dish washer. Every time I would tell him how to do something, he'd apologize with serious big blue eyes, as though he were afraid he was in trouble. Before too long he warmed up, and his impish, impetuous, hot-headed self came out. Hot headed and tough, all boy, who yet loved country music and claimed his little sister as his best friend. I could never be angry at him, with that impish face. When I would bring him dishes at the last minute when he'd thought he was about done he'd suddenly exclaim Dammit, Jaralei! Half exasperated, but half being funny because he knew it always made me laugh, every single time.
Andrew. The boy who would always drink a big glass of chocolate milk every morning upon arriving at work, and a cookies and cream Big Train in the afternoon, and he wanted me to make it 'runny'. Why did he like it runny? Who likes it that way?? I don't know. But Andrew did.
He'd come back while I was baking or roasting and sit on the burlap coffee sacks, and we'd talk about his weekend camping or fishing trips, or country music, about which we almost always agreed. Or he'd wander back and ask What are you baking for me today? Tonight, at the viewing, they played the song Dirt Road Anthem by Jason Aldean. "I can't believe they're playing this," I whispered to Pete. "Andrew hated this song. Does no one know he hated this song??"
One day we were chatting through the window to the kitchen, kitchen staff and front house staff, and Aida said "Shut the front door!" and I'll always remember Andrew's face, the taken aback expression and the way he burst into laughter, exclaiming I thought she was really going to say it!!
His Dad was at the Viewing, of course, crying, accepting hugs. I wanted to grab him and shove his face into the mess that was Andrew all over his garage floor, like a bad dog who's pissed on the floor. Look at this! I want to say. Look at what you've done! Look at this mess! Look at your boy! YOU did this! When Andrew was eleven his parent's split. His Mom was a meth addict, and his Dad was an abusive drunk. The sister and brother chose to go with their Mom, who was trying to clean up, while Andrew - the oldest - chose to stay with his Dad, his logic being that his Mom would never really disown him. So in choosing to stay with Dad he was somehow able to keep them both.
The family came into Bully's the other day to use the back tea room. Lots of family from out of town for the funeral, all, ironically with Bible names: Leah, Naomi, Elizabeth, Abel. What are you doing here? I wanted to scream at them. Where were you when Andrew was being beaten by his inebriated Dad? Where were you when his Mom was strung out on meth? Where were you last week when his Dad kicked him out then called the cops when he tried to get his stuff from his room and had him arrested for breaking and entering? NOW you show up?
The obituary sweetly named Andrew's father as his best friend.
"Bullshit!" I exclaimed.
Pete more diplomatically called it Family Mythology.
It's not one of those senseless, faultless situations. Yes, a decision was made. But it's not one of those situations where you can look the parents in the eye and say "There was nothing more you could've done. At the end of the day you did your best and he had to make a decision." It's their fault. They did this. They made this life, this boy, then they ruined it, then they took it away. Live with that. But they won't. They won't see their part in it.
His fifteen year old meth addict brother was taken from treatment for the event of his big brother's funeral. I remember when Amos came into Bully's one day, reappearing after having disappeared for three days and going back to his meth friends. Andrew stormed out front upon hearing his brother was there, "Come!" he exclaimed in quiet fierceness, leading Amos to the back parking lot where he told him what's what. The father figure big brother. One look at that little boy's shattered, tortured eyes now and I can't help but wonder what will become of him. If Andrew, the strong one, couldn't make it...
It just makes me so angry. And sad. It's pathetic. No one saw it coming. Andrew was always pleasant at work. He might share his troubles, but he was able to be oK, positive and interactive. It made you think he could cope, that he was strong enough to make it through, make it out.
The boy wasn't perfect, heavens no the boy had his issues. But he was perfectly Andrew. He wasn't even working for us anymore, he quit a week ago, unexpectedly. So, essentially, he was already out of my life. But it still hits me hard, I still find myself crying at random times. I can't get him off my mind. Maybe he was out of my life, but that doesn't mean I wanted him to be out of life. I wanted to at least know Andrew was carrying on, being Andrew. With his impish grin and hot headedness, his love of country music and his hick love for that truck of his. He was getting out, you know. He was heading off in a couple of weeks to travel the country working on oil rigs. He was so excited about that. About getting away.
Dammit, Andrew! Why couldn't you just hold out another week or two?? You almost made it, kid!
He was only 19. Putting that shot gun to his chin was the last decision he ever made, and it was a bad one. You're supposed to be able to look back at the bad decisions of your youth and say Yeah, that was stupid. Don't follow in my footsteps, what an idiot I was back then. Boy did I get lucky! But he didn't. Andrew didn't get lucky. He doesn't get to look back at his poor decisions and pass on the wisdom he learned through it all. It's all over. That was his last impetuous decision he got to make. It cost everything. Took everything. WHY, Andrew?? You had so much that could have been. You had so much left. He wasn't one of those hopeless cases, you know? He had heart, and soul. He was going to make it, despite it all. He was going to be alright. He'd come out on top.
Except he didn't.
He could have. Despite it all.
But not now.
He was there, laughing in the kitchen. Hanging out on the burlap sacks. Having wet towel fights. Chopping peppers. He was there - living, being. And now he's not. And it's not OK.