I remember uncle Tommy as a violent man. Drunk and angry, as if the world was responsible for his downfalls. As if the world owed him something. He made bad choices all throughout his life, and even on the brink of death he continued to self indulge.
Tommy only had two loves in his life. The bottle, and a ’64 Impala. My brother Chris and I loved riding around in that thing. “Sue-Ellen” he called her. Sure, it was exuberant and self-absorbed, but I think everyone can agree that when people look at you with awe, it feels good. Chris would lean back, hang his arm over the side of the door, hoot’n and holler’n at all the ladies. I always cowered in the back, embarrassed. Uncle Tommy loved that car more than any human being. Every dime went into her, and the dimes that didn’t – you know where they went.
Everyone has to find their own path in life. Chris and I were no different. I wanted to get out of the terrible neighbourhood where we grew up. I wanted to be someone. I had aspirations of attending university, hopefully on a scholarship. I enjoyed reading, learning, writing, and networking. People, I enjoyed people.
Chris decided the quick way out, was the easier, better option. Always having problem with the law, he was sent to live with our other uncle, Rick, who I’m pretty sure wasn’t our uncle. We just called him that. Why the court decided he was better than Tommy, I’m not sure. Uncle Tommy always stunk of booze, but was Rick’s environment much better?
Chris graduated from juvenile detention with his eyes set on prison. Picked up soon after his release for dealing blow, he was sentenced to 6 years in a federal institution. He would have a criminal record forever, and his life would never be the same. This was hard for my brother to accept. He became bitter, violent, and heavily racist. His mind was fighting a war his body couldn’t cope with.
A few years into Chris’ sentence, Uncle Tommy passed away. Chris, was pushed over the edge. Within days of Tommy passing, my brother tried to take his own life. A guard caught him, and he was transferred to psych. He had it hard for the remainder of his sentence, but his botched attempt seemed to open his eyes. We had weekly correspondence, and I got to know Chris as I knew him as a child. The crazy, angry, lunatic adult seemed to have died on that cold concrete floor, while my brother remained alive.
Still, he was suffering. It would take time, but I was there for him. After all, we only had each other left.
I agreed to pick him up on the morning of his release – 9:00AM sharp. I wanted to be a few minutes late. I hate to make a pompous entrance.
I saw Chris standing in front of the gate, his clothes now too small for his frame. I rolled up on 3 wheels, his favourite song playing. I dropped the frame hard, bounced it about like raindrops on a lake, and I got to see my brothers face light up. Probably the first time he has smiled in almost a decade.
Tommy may have been an asshole, but leaving me his pride and joy meant everything. It was better than getting a hug from the man. His soul and his heart was this car. Now my brother and I could start a new, together again.