Thursday, March 29, 2007

Uncle Randy

The day my daughter Jolie was born one of the happiest people at the hospital was her Uncle Randy. He took that baby girl in his arms and promised to love her forever and ever. His partner Don promised to teach her to fold napkins a dozen ways for the perfect dinner party.

Uncle Randy kept his promise. He was devoted to Jolie and spoiled her in ways that her father and I couldn’t. He gave her sweet and thoughtful gifts, the kind of gifts that encouraged her to be the best she could be, like swimming lessons, guitar lessons, books, and music. Jolie adored her Uncle; it was fun to watch the two of them together. Randy would have made a great father.

Randy and Don were together a little over 15 years. I can’t say exactly what ended their relationship, but their Newport Beach gay lifestyle involved a lot of alcohol so it was probably the same story we all hear in the “rooms”. Don died shortly after the break up; he struck his head on a toilet seat and bled to death presumably while in a black out.

Randy always lived alone after that. He had a few friends, but no one that he ever got close to. Jolie was his weekend companion, confidant and shining star. She would spend the night; they would get movies and a pizza. Sometimes they went to LA to the theatre. They just hung out, the way you do with people you love. That was the weekends. During the week Randy was lonely, remorseful, bitter and isolated, and so he drank.

Jolie knew he had a problem. I knew he had a problem. I did nothing. He was so intensely private. I had ten years of sobriety at the time but I didn’t know how to reach across that gulf.

In July of 2003 Randy reached a new low. He led Jolie to believe he may traveling for awhile. He put his truck in his garage, and his gun in his mouth.

Two months passed by before Jolie and her father found Randy’s body. Two months of Jolie calling, and emailing, and driving by his house. It ended when she finally went into his backyard and saw through the window that the house was swarming with flies, and she knew she had to call me, and the police. I say “it ended” but of course it will never end for Jolie. The trauma of that day…. sights, smell, shock and loss changed her forever. Randy’ s alcoholism and despair claimed two victims that day.

The picture above is Jolie and Uncle Randy at her high school graduation in 2001. He is just as proud as he was on the day she was born. She has decorated her shoes to look like ruby red slippers. She believes at this point in her life that she can click her heels three times and go anywhere.

After Randy’s suicide Jolie suffered in a way that was almost unbearable for me to watch. I struggled to find a balance between helping her, and letting go enough to let her grieve in her own way. She dealt with her pain exactly the way I did when I was young. She drank, she got stoned, she dropped out of college, she got into self loathing and she got angry. I watched her walk the dark hallways of her own heart and mind and slowly self destruct. Finally in April last year she said “enough”.

Jolie took a 30 day sobriety chip at one of my meetings, and then left So California in May 2006. So I’m coming up on the one year anniversary of her decision to leave home. She moved north to Washington state and lives with her dad now. I think her prayers are for peace and understanding, for herself and others. She wants to fall in love. She wants to trust. She wants to believe in herself and the possibilities of the ruby red slippers. She still doesn’t drink, and she’s ready to go back to school. I miss her every day, but understand her choice and I think it’s the right one for her. I think California smells like death to her, and the air in Washington is so sweet.