One year to the day, that’s how meticulous he was. Yet, he did it…He killed himself. He was just my nephew. It’s okay, my brother had two. Myself, I had one. A daughter named Kara, she’s the one who picked him up. Exactly one year ago, not today mind you but not long ago. December 10th, 2013 to be exact. My brother called a couple of days before and told me his youngest boy, Gary, had gone through a divorce and was needing some help.
My brother at 58 has taken care of the folks pretty much after his divorce. My dad is in his 70’s now and mom just passed away which became more relevant to this story than I could have ever imagined. They live in a government assisted living facility and Gary being 33 would not be allowed to stay there. Plus my mother was months from needing hospice care, bed ridden, covered in sores. My father and brother fed her, cleaned her, a gruesome task for anyone that’s familiar with someone passing of old age. They managed to stay employed, manage a household, pay the bills and took care of her the best they could till she died on December 2nd, 2014. I told my brother I’d be honored.
I wanted nothing more than to have my nephew come live with me. I was there for his birth and spent his first years with him. Then my brother got a divorce. Gary grew up, finding friends and influences. Disconnected from me he had his own life, we saw each other on a rare holiday my parents prepared but as they got older the frequency slowed. That was okay, I had Facebook. When my brother told me Gary had gone through a divorce I was actually surprised he didn’t know already. I thought it’d already happened. Gary’s status had changed to single like 8 months ago. I thought that part was over. Goddamn I was wrong. Gary was three months behind on rent and had to be gone by midnight.
It was the night of my company Christmas party, I called and told them I wouldn’t make it. My brother gave us Gary’s number. His phone was off but he could text with an app, finding him was difficult. Kara did though and something I never expected to happen in my life just did. My nephew who had drifted away and I thought would only be a stranger that I once knew as a child was now a permanent part of my life. I knew it, it would take him a year or so to get back on his feet. The rest of time he would be dependent on me, I was fine with that. My daughter and her boyfriend had done it for years. I love every minute of it. I’m an enabler you see, if they are dependent on me then they’re less likely to leave me. Don’t get me wrong, I’m passive aggressive. An artist and an atheist and on the verge of being a vegan. My blog has been focused on slut shaming, equal rights, knowledge and humor in the situation for 3 yrs strong. My family was home.
The night Kara and her boyfriend got back with Gary I took this picture and uploaded it to Facebook followed by something sappy. I had gone through some bad holidays in the past years, now I had something to look forward to, I had Gary.
It didn’t take long to discover he was still a Jones and in more ways than I could imagine. Not only did he have his fathers mannerisms down pat, he was also scientific. He had remembered everything I had told him when he was little. A devout atheist he knew more about evolution than me. He knew more about atheism than me. He taught me more than I knew, I was so proud that with so little contact over time, he had figured it out all by himself. He was a Carl Sagan, Neil Degrasse Tyson, Bill Nye leave women alone Star Wars geek person. He could have been raised by me and I wouldn’t have known the difference. I was flabbergasted. How could this boy, part of my family, who’d barely known me be so much like me?
It was Christmas! We bought more presents than we should have and had the best Christmas we could have. All was merry and right with the world in the first time for along time.
That’s when it started, that’s when he began painting. Gary painted religiously, at first in the living room. That’s where he slept. When Kara and her boyfriend moved out and began their journey on their own Gary got his own room finally. Gary being here had a lot to do with that. We were crowded, everybody felt it. Yet it was okay, it was time and Gary being here suddenly made sense. He was the prompter to push my child along into the world. She was going to be just fine, I’ve never been as proud as I am of my own daughter. He needed help now and I thought I was the answer, I was wrong.
Gary painted and painted, stressed over child support, searching for a job he felt hopeless and impatient. Most of those feeling were unwarranted. Kara’s boyfriend got him a job within the first month. He moved up to a better job that Kara got him and then eventually found his own job. Paying better and doing what he was comfortable with. By the next Christmas they would slow down though. There would be a problem with that for Gary.
Gary couldn’t be what his dad had been, not able to be there. He needed to be a dad or not. He kept most of that hidden.
I got home from work just like usual. That’s what I do everyday. Come home from work. It was always cool at first. Gary and Shannon would take turns telling me about the last eight hours. No big deal, I get it. We all did. Gary made friends, the people he worked with, my daughters friends. Her boyfriends friends.
They played Magic the Gathering and kept me up till 4am. That’s when I get up and go to work. I didn’t say much I was just glad to have them. But like I said, it was crowded and Kara and her boyfriend needed space and Gary needed a room of his own. So it happened, Kara moved out and Gary had his own room. Straight across from mine the same old thing began again. As soon as I got home I had about five minutes of peace. Then one of them would come in. Usually Shannon, just trying to feel me out, see how I’m doing. I’m a pacifist so Bam! Guess what the hell happened during the last eight hours where I work at. Gary stood by chomping at the bit, waiting to tell me about his day. When he couldn’t stand it any longer he let go. They both told me different stories simultaneously while I “listened”, I work too. It was exhausting at times but at least they where hungry enough for attention to make me apart of their lives and I secretly loved it.
“The warehouse I work has an in house minister. Why does the company I work for need someone to pray for me?” He was soon arguing with the company minister about religion and philosophy. Gary didn’t like religion and blamed it for his divorce. He blamed most of the worlds problems on religion. They’re lack of understanding astronomy, evolution and basic chemistry. All the while something else worse had happened. His ex-wife had returned to her childhood upbringing. Born as a Jehovah Witness she slowly returned to her childhood upbringing. Just what he needed, his perfect job was Christian. His ex-wife and only love was an extremist Christian. His children would be raised Christian.
In that summer his dad came to visit. He sensed Gary desperation and felt guilty not being able to do more. He gave Gary a hundred dollars every couple of weeks then began sending me a hundred dollars when he could for helping to take care of his son. I hadn’t got to see my brother in seven years, I was over come with joy. I had a blast having my brother here and took plenty of pictures. One of them I printed, framed and stuck on the mantle. I noticed the day I printed it but it didn’t click until he did it. I told my daughter to go get the picture, the center piece if the mantle now, and look at it. The coroner hadn’t arrived yet so he was still in the car. She saw what I did.
Everybody’s smiling for the first Jones Family photo in a decade. Gary wasn’t. He was hiding everything the whole time. I was just glad to have him in my life and he didn’t want to live.
As fall came Kara and her boyfriend had their new apartment and new jobs. Gary’s original friends had different hours than his new job. Magic the Gathering was a rare thing for them now, so Gary painted more and more. He called his kids frequently and we had the same routine. I came home, Shannon and Gary would tell me about their day. We had dinner, shared videos. Gary wanted to do another You Tube video, we’d done one when he when he first got here. A talk show format I wasn’t happy with. We never did because I couldn’t find time for a script. We had plenty of time for that once we have a clear direction of what we’re doing. Wrong. His birthday came and I bought him a cake with a few small gifts. Acrylic paint stuff, a pallet some tiny canvas’s and easels. He’d deleted his real Facebook sometime before Kara picked him up. Realizing how much he needed it for communication with us and his new friends he made a new one. Kyle Blank was his name. At his first job someone who would eventually become his friend couldn’t remember his name and said he looked like a Kyle. I discovered at the funeral the people at his new dream job new him as Kyle. I’d never known that. On his birthday cake I had written “Happy Birthday Kyle!”
I found out because the only person we had to ask to minister the services was his company minister. He didn’t see that coming! I know him enough to tell you that. I used to paint with oils and pastels. I drew a lot. Gary had all the opposite abilities I had with art and worked in acrylics. I suck at it but I’m not going to let all this paint go to waste. So on top of trying to finish a book and work on several websites and go to work, I’ll paint. That’s what Gary did and this what he painted while he was here.
As Christmas approached I felt blessed. We had a nice Thanksgiving, Kara brought a girl Gary had spent a weekend with before. She was interested in pursuing a relationship, patiently. Giving him more time than he deserved. We began to harass him about it even trying to figure out why she wasn’t good enough for him. She was pretty, smart and independent, what was wrong with her. Time to move on dude. Yea, he didn’t.
My mother passed away rather expectantly on December the 5th of 2014. Gary had remarked on her getting close and requiring Hospice care. “Everybody’s got to go sometime.” He seemed a little cold and indifferent. He couldn’t go to the funeral because he was to new at his job and couldn’t risk it he told us. When we got back from the funeral he wasn’t here. We’d been trying to text him letting him know we were 3hrs. away and 2hrs, away he never answered. Shortly after he got home he was with the girl who’d been patiently pursuing him. She new he was home alone and thought there was an opportunity to bypass his excuses. She asked him to stay the night with her. A blatant last chance. Gary replied, “I’m in the middle of something.”
When he saw us he seemed agitated and thought we would have been home sooner. He said he needed to take her to the store and home, he’d probably be back after we got to sleep. We had just made a 500 mile round trip to my moms funeral, we we’re exhausted. When I got home Shannons car was there. Gary used it to get back forth to work, Gary wasn’t. Shannon said she was worried. I told her it was alright and that he had probably been picked up by a new friend from his dream job. Having fun and doing what a 34yr old single man should be doing. Maybe he went to her house. That’s what I truly hoped.
My ride to work arrived the next morning and I was a few feet from him. We didn’t know. It was before sunrise and cold. About dawn Shannon called me and told me she was scared, his backpack was in his room and he never left without it. I didn’t know how true that was, I work everyday and Shannon spends 24/7 with him. I took her word and tried to comfort her. She said she had called everybody he knew and they hadn’t seen him. I told her, “Let me see what I can find out.” We hung up.
A coworker was standing in front of me at the time. My nearest confidant I told him, “My nephews missing. He didn’t take Shannons car to work and nobody that knows him has seen him.”
He paused and thought. Then asked me, “Has anyone looked in the car?”
“Maybe he got drunk or came home to late and was embarrassed.” He continued.
“He doesn’t drink,” I said. “He’s gone and come at 4am before, that’s not it.” Then my phone rang back. It was Shannon.
“Gary’s in my car. He’s dead.” Shannon said.
Gary stuck a hose on a canister on helium. Put a turkey roasting bag over his head using a large rubber band. Locked himself inside Shannons car with the keys in his pocket, shoved the hose inside his suicide helmet and went to sleep laughing his fucking ass off! Not mockingly or sadistically, apparently that’s what helium does. It’s like laughing gas at the dentist. He had no fear of punishment or retribution, he just didn’t want to live if he couldn’t have things his way. That wasn’t what the universe wanted Gary. This is all I have felt of you. Except my memories and they to will pass away till death in time. At least for now someone else will know what happened to Gary.
When everybody had come and gone. The funeral was over and it was just me and Shannon. Something that hadn’t happened in almost seven years. We noticed something. The self portrait of Gary had been changed.
Gary Lee Jones December 10th 2014