Wednesday, May 11, 2005

My cousin Jerry would have been 34 today. I say “would have been” because 13 years ago he made the unfortunate decision to hang himself. The circumstances surrounding his death were controversial due to the fact that it occurred while he was in custody at the local jail following his arrest at the scene of a snowmobiling accident. I don’t recall the full story, but I suspect alcohol or drugs were involved.

Tragic as it was, when I was told of his death I wasn’t entirely surprised. Jerry was a bright kid, and a good guy at heart. However, as Uncle Fred often said, he was a product of his environment: the low income government housing projects in our hometown. As he entered adolescence, my cousin fell prey to the wayward lures of the projects, namely alcohol, drugs, and thievery. It wasn’t long before the happy-go-lucky kid I grew up with changed his whole persona, becoming nearly consumed by his demons, always looking for the next party, the next binge drinking session, the next hit of acid. After a while, I had to stop associating with him altogether. Fending off his relentless requests to pinch money to get bombed or high or both became exhausting, not to mention disheartening.

My last conversation with Jerry was a week before he died, while I was a freshman at university. He called to ask if he could visit me and check out the campus, more specifically, the campus party scene. I stonewalled, telling him my school was more of a cerebral place than an Animal House type of college. It was a white lie and he knew it, but he finally got the hint. For a while I felt badly about how we left things, especially in light of the event that followed.

It’s not much of a remembrance, I know. Just a few words to mark the occasion. Rest in peace, Jerry.

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