One would think being first is a good thing. For this past year, first has been a series of painful moments for this family. Today…July 5, marks the first anniversary of the death of my brother Ron.

Our family has spent the last year with all the “firsts”. The first day, the first week and month. His first birthday, our birthdays, the holiday season, Valentine’s Day, St.Patrick’s Day, Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. These were all the first times we did not have him with us. Some of these days were more painful and difficult than others. These days affected each of us in our own way. And then there were the days with no specific meaning, just a day the reality of his loss snuck up on us and whacked us in the head.

On the 4th of July last year, I was spending the night with my bff MC at her home in Worcester. She had suffered her own devastating loss in February of last year. In the 6 or so weeks prior to the 4th, I had not spoken to Ron. Our last conversation prior to the 4th had not gone well. He was in a drug rage, out of control, unable to be rational, nasty. I ended that conversation. I was not interested in dealing with this behavior. So on the evening of the 4th, around 730-ish, my phone rang and the caller ID indicated it was him. I hesitated for a moment…what would this conversation be like? But I answered anyway.

He sounded wonderful. Really wonderful. I was so surprised…but happy. We did not discuss our last conversation. This family is GREAT at avoidance. Anyway, he was calling to ask me to come to NH in late July to photograph an event at Epping Speedway. Our cousin John was coming from New Mexico for this event. I told Ron I was not sure what I would do. For me, being in the blazing hot sun at a race track for a day was not appealing. I hate the heat! But he was persistent and it was clear he really wanted me to come. I still would not commit but I said I would consider it and decide when it got closer. We didn’t have much more to say…because yeah, avoidance. But the call ended the way all of his calls did with him saying “love you”. I never said it back to him. It wasn’t my thing…still isn’t. But I don’t feel bad because I know he knew I loved him…and always would. I am glad I answered that call.

He died in the wee hours of the morning on July 5. I think as a family, we always knew this was how it would end. I think we all felt a considerable amount of anger at some of the circumstances surrounding his death. The Covid pandemic did him no favors. As a person in recovery, he relied on his meetings and connections with the recovery community. Covid took those connections away and isolated him. He was also dealing with a lung cancer diagnosis and subsequent treatment. He was in remission. But most difficult was his penchant for surrounding himself with less than desirable folks who used him for money and drugs. And in turn, he used them. It was a recipe for disaster. His story is no different than so many addicts…and his end was also no different.

He was a son, a brother, a father, a grandfather, a recovery Dad, a cousin, an asshole, a friend, a biker, a lover, a sentimentalist and a phenomenal breakfast cook. He was many things. But most of all, he was ours. And we miss him.

It is July 5th…the end of the first’s.

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