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My brother's journey


My baby brother and me

I remember the day my parents told me that Mom was expecting a baby. My parents sat my sister and I down at the kitchen table and my dad began what I was sure would be an extremely long-winded spiel. I knew what was going on the minute he started talking. I was 13-years-old and had been bugging my parents for a baby brother for years. The baby sister had proved to be a bit of a pain, so I thought a baby brother might work out a bit better. Always the drama queen, I fell theatrically to the floor, leaving my baffled sister to listen to the remainder of Dad’s speech.

I was thrilled when Andy was born. I loved helping Mom take care of him, and she often would let me rock him and sing to him. Everyone called me his “second mom”, and our relationship was more of a mother/son relationship due to the large age difference. From the beginning he was a very sensitive child, and his moods would change in the blink of an eye. When he was very little, he hated the wind – he would hold his breath when we took him out on a windy day (which is pretty much every day in Kansas). He didn’t like the grass touching his feet and bright light bothered him. He loved to play dress up and would stay in character for hours. One of his favorite characters was Luke Skywalker – if one of us would dare call him Andy while he was pretending to be Luke, he would shout “Me not Andy, me Luke!” Whenever my parents fought, he would cry. And if Mom wasn’t available, he would cling to me.

Like most teenagers, I had wanted to move out of my parents house the minute I turned 18, but decided to stay another year and attend the local community college, mostly because I didn’t want to leave my brother behind. When I did finally move out, I talked to Andy and Mom at least once a week. My mom always stressed the importance of staying in contact with Andy; she told me that I would have to make an extra effort to have a close relationship with him since he was so much younger, and I did. I came home whenever I could to spend time with him. He was so spoiled that he thought his birthday was a national holiday, so he was very put out the first time I had to miss it.

Andy the cowboy 

My brother and I were made of the same cloth; he really “got” me. I knew what he was feeling, and he knew what I was feeling – we didn’t need words. He loved babies and animals, and they loved him as well.  He was extremely intelligent, and loved to argue – especially since he was always right.

People often found Andy to be unfriendly, but the truth was that he was painfully shy; so much so that it was often difficult for him to force himself to talk to people. This was especially ironic since he ultimately excelled in sales. He always had a talent for business, and he liked to make money – these two qualities helped him get past the shyness and advance his career.

Although I kept in contact with my brother no matter where I lived, as he neared his teenage years he became more withdrawn and increasingly difficult to communicate with. He started experimenting with drugs in his early teens and getting in trouble at school. He had once excelled in Tae Kwon Do and team sports, but lost interest entirely and dropped out. His experimentation with drugs landed him in the hospital and in rehab on many occasions, in trouble with the law, and ultimately suspended from high school. These were difficult, troubled years for Andy and our family, culminating early one morning when he snuck out of the house, took my sister’s car, and had a devastating accident on a lonely country road. He went through the windshield, broke his neck, and got up and started walking. Two people stopped by and gave him a slurpy. He later told me that that slurpy was the most wonderful drink he’d ever had. He was convinced that these people had been angels, and that they had saved his life with a slurpy.

The Star Wars phase 

As soon as Andy recovered, he went to live with my sister and her husband in Albuquerque. His difficulties continued, however, so he moved to Los Angeles to live with me and my family. I was his last resort, and although he had a rough start in Los Angeles, he finally rose to the occasion and found a good job with room for advancement at The Daily News. He earned his GED and enrolled in college. He had also met his girlfriend by this time, and by 2005 they were the proud parents of 2 children. Andy had finally found happiness in love, family and work, and his self-confidence increased dramatically. He also turned to God around this time, joined a church with his family and was baptized.

My family and I moved to Fort Collins in 2004, and my brother and his family followed 3 years later. They stayed with me until Andy was hired at The Denver Post and moved into a house in Westminster. He loved Fort Collins and his ultimate goal was to eventually move here. It appeared that Andy had put all those troubled years behind him and moved on.

In March 2009, our mom was diagnosed with lung cancer, and we moved her to Colorado so she could live with Andy while she was receiving treatment at the nearby cancer hospital. Andy spent countless hours searching the internet and making calls to ensure that our mom was getting the best treatment possible, and that it would be paid for since she didn’t have insurance. As her health deteriorated, Andy doted on her more and more, doing everything he could to make her more comfortable. After Mom passed away on December 19th, we all tried to carry on as best as we could, but Andy was really struggling. We were all concerned because he couldn’t sleep and his health was deteriorating, but once he went back to work he seemed to improve. A little over a week after he had started back to work, however, he was home sick again. I had stopped by to see him the night he died and although he seemed energetic and positive, he was obviously very sick. I also noted that his pupils were like pinpricks, which made me wonder what drugs he was taking. Although Andy seemed to have it together, we were all aware that his flirtation with prescription drugs had never completely ended. He was convinced that he knew what he was doing and could handle it, and no amount of arguing could convince him otherwise. He was dead several hours later, almost exactly a month after the death of my mom, due to a combination of pneumonia and prescription medications. The drugs he was taking suppressed lung function, and he never even suspected that he had pneumonia.

I find it ironic that my brother survived so many close calls when he was younger, only to die in this needless manner at age 30. It has occurred to me that maybe Andy was spared so many years ago so he would be here to take care of Mom in her time of need. He felt so guilty about everything he had put Mom through, and he was given a chance to give back some of the love and support that she had given to him, to repay some of the debt that he felt he owed her. And even though I miss him every day, and want him back so badly, I’m so glad he was given that opportunity.

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