|my grandma, brother bobo, and moma|
I received the call from my brother, Kevin on Sunday, December 1, 2013 at 10:04 am PST..."Bobo died this morning," he said. I couldn't really detect grief in his voice, but perhaps there was a sorrow that could only be his and no one else's. Certainly not mine. I was to come to that later, but not in the way that may be expected by most.
We continued to talk briefly about the scant details of our brother's death. Bobo--our nickname for Ozell, although I couldn't tell you why he came to be called this--made his transition from this life into the next (I strongly believe that our bodies perish, but our spirits linger, sometimes searching and finding another host, but can also remain in limbo when they've left this life unresolved) inside the cold and sterile walls of a prison hospital in Joliet, Illinois. There was the question of whether or not his body would be released to our mother since he was considered a ward of the state. You see, Bobo was serving a life sentence without the possibility of parole. He was never to see the light of day, but I pray that he saw a light of release and relief when he took his last breath. He had suffered a long time from kidney disease.
However, there wasn't the usual fondness one has of memories about a loved one that we speak of when they have deceased. Things that made you laugh or moments when that person made you feel truly happy or occasions where someone's life left an indelible mark on your own without guilt or shame or anger or unpleasantness. Instead, my brother and I communicated in a kind of somberness expected but without the sadness that I would expect to have at the news of one of my sibling's passing. Kevin and I ended our conversation instead with a promise that he would call me soon with more details.
I had been awake only minutes before his call. I lingered in bed for more than a half hour, trying to collect my thoughts, wondering who to call, and found myself writing a post on my Facebook wall that only casually approached the subject of my loss. I wondered if my grief would come in the form of tears, and it did, but not as I suspected. It was as brief as the conversation I'd just had with Kevin. Yet there was a heaviness that followed. A kind of numbness and disconnectedness that I just couldn't negotiate or understand. As I stumbled through my feelings, I came upon memories of my departed brother that I knew I had to resolve. I grabbed my journal and began to write about the scattered pieces of a life I had shared with a brother I hardly knew.
We were only five years apart. That's not a big gap, but it was big enough to separate us physically and emotionally from one another. Our growing up only made us grow apart. By the time he was a teenager, Bobo had already been inducted into the judicial system, first through juvenile detention and later graduating into a much harsher term within the adult prison industrial complex. He spent a lot of time away from us. We celebrated birthdays and holidays in his absence. When he was home, he continued to distance himself by spending long periods of time in the street where he fell into the grips of addiction.