How Repeated Abuse Resulted in the Untimely Death of a Really Good Man: The Truth About Growing Up in the Sticks, Part V
One Man’s Tale of Coming-of-Age in a Dysfunctional Family in the South.
Sean was a good guy; a decent guy. His heart was always in the right place. His life ended entirely too soon.
(Note from the author: I got to know Sean when the kids were still little. Out of my in-laws’ three boys, Sean and Johnny might have passed for twins, had the age difference not been so great. Working at the hospital, I was able to go and visit Sean when he was up there being treated treated for cirrhosis of the liver and hepatitis. That was how I met my two nieces. Sean was in and out of the hospital for a while. During one “out of the hospital” phase, Johnny and I took him with us to the local speedway with the kids to watch the races and grill what still, to this day, are known as Johnny’s Race Wings. I remember, on the ride home, a Neil Young song played on the radio. Sean loved Neil Young, as did I. “Harvest Moon” was my favorite album, and Sean was fond of it, too. We discussed the works of Mr. Neil Young all the way home that night, Johnny driving and the kids conked out in the back seat. To this day, when I hear a Neil Young song, I get a little sad, thinking of Sean.)
Sean has been gone just over ten years, and many of us have still, yet, to get over it.
Johnny’s earliest memories of Sean were of Sean being in his room, listening to Peter Frampton and Three Dog Night. Johnny would sit on Sean’s bed, until the old man came up with something else for Sean to do around the property.
That outhouse that Johnny blew up? Sean dug the hole for that. Johnny remembers all the dirt that came flying out of that hole. It was nearly six feet deep, and he remembers barely seeing Sean’s head above it. When Johnny asked him what he was doing, Sean simply answered, “Some of the old man’s shit.”
The old man had it in for Sean bad, and to this day, Johnny doesn’t know why. He remembers his dad making an example of Sean, repeatedly, in front of the neighbors’ kids.
When Johnny was little, one of his sisters took care of him on the school bus and after she graduated, Sean assumed that role. The rough kids were always at the back of the bus and Sean made sure Johnny was back there with him, ensuring that the youngest boy wasn’t picked on.
Upon returning home from school, the old man always had a to-do list for Sean, in addition to everyone’s regular chores. Rather than letting Sean use the actual faucet? The old man had Sean use the old hand pump out back, and Sean would carry buckets back and forth to water all the vegitation on the property. Johnny tried to help him when he could, if he was able.
While his other brother was too busy for Johnny, Sean would find time to play catch with him after his additional list was completed. Sean also taught Johnny how to make his first potato gun out of old-style beer cans. On one occasion, Johnny was with Sean and his friend when they put some kind of ball into the gun and fired it off. Danged if that ball didn’t go in through the window of a mobile home and out through the back wall. All Johnny remembers after that were the three of them running like hell. To this day, Johnny laughs about it, still. He’s laughing about it now.
Then there was the time Sean drug Johnny to the roof of the two-story barn, gave him an umbrella and told him he’d float down like Mary Poppins. Sean gave him a shove, and guess what? Johnny didn’t float, but on the bright side? Johnny only got the wind knocked out of him. (And thank goodness, because God forbid there be a hospital bill!)
When Sean graduated, he made tracks for anywhere that wasn’t his parents’ home. Having gone through more abuse than most of his siblings, Sean turned to drug use. Johnny and his sisters assumed this was to help kill the residual pain left over from the public and continued beatings he experienced. All Sean ever wanted was to have the old man’s approval, yet he was never able to achieve that, even until the day he died at age 50.
That drug use pulled Sean down a seedy path, and while many of the details are unknown, the rumors still abound, but Sean always tried to look out for Johnny.
When Johnny dropped out of school at the age of sixteen, Sean, who was eight years older and working for a local electrical company, got Johnny a job with the same company. The two of them would hang out and play pool after work. Sean was pretty good and was on a team, and won a lot of tournaments. To this day, Johnny wears Sean’s pool tee-shirt.
As time passed, Sean went his way, got married and had a son, and Johnny went to work at the hospital. Sean’s son actually went to school with my eldest son, and he’d ask my son if he knew the story about how Uncle Johnny blew up the outhouse, or how he’d hit the old man in the back with a dart. My son would come home and ask his step-dad about the stories his step-cousin told him. Needless to say, there were a lot of laughs.
Until a year or so ago, Johnny and I kept a vegetable garden and we grew okra. Sean loved boiled okra, so Johnny would make a pot and carry it over to him after Sean got sick. Those were some of the last good times that they shared.
There are so many memories, still unshared, that Johnny carries with him. They come out in fits and spurts.
In fact, while writing this, Johnny recalled the one day where he was driving, Sean in the passenger seat, and there was a bicyclist riding on the side of the road. As they drove past, Sean had his window down and hollered his famous yell. Apparently, this scared the hell out of the cyclist, because when Johnny looked in the rearview mirror, all he saw were bike tires, ass and feet flying across the ditch. Yes, it’s wrong to laugh at another’s mishaps, but it is still one of Johnny’s good memories of his deceased brother, so you can’t fine too much fault in that.
To be continued…
Julie Cusimano Wall is the author of Random Musings From a Type-A Workaholic, a contributor at “The Ascent,” Central Transport Supervisor at a local hospital, Neither Left- nor Right-Leaning, tender-hearted and an extremely outspoken advocate for people that don’t get to experience privilege.