They aren’t perfect, but they’re my family
by Kelvin Wade
On Mother’s Day, May 13, 1990, my brother Ken shot and killed his girlfriend at a lounge on Parker Road in Fairfield, California and then walked outside and killed himself. The most horrific memory of that day for me was standing in the doorway of my mother’s room with my sister in law Patty watching my brother Orvis sit with our mother and other brother Tony about to tell them what happened. Orvis, Patty and I had heard the shocking news moments before from the coroner’s investigator and a friend of Ken’s. It seemed like an eternity before Orvis finished the story and the room exploded in grief.
Suicide always leaves the survivors with more questions than answers. Not that there would ever be a good day to commit something like this, but one of the obvious questions was why Mother’s Day? It was most likely just the way the precipitating events fell. My brothers and I have even tried to reason that perhaps it was “better” since we were all there with our mom on Mother’s Day.
But the truth is it doesn’t matter. He killed a mother and destroyed his mother on Mother’s Day.
For years after, we tried to overcompensate on Mother’s Day for our mother, but what could we do short of undoing the tragic event? Our mother never cared about Mother’s Day after that. No flowers or chocolates or dinner were going to mend her broken heart. Why would she care about that day?
It bothers me that on a day where people are celebrating their mothers and remembering their mothers fondly, Mother’s Day to me is synonymous with death. I’d love to be able to just think about my late mother and how much I miss her.
I can remember how my mother was before May 13, 1990. She was funny. She had a nutty since of humor. She was selfless in a way that I’ve never seen in anyone else. If she thought you were in the right, she’d go to bat for you. There’s no question that our mother would’ve laid down her life for my brothers and me. We were her life’s work. Let’s keep it real; my family was old school, so that means the bulk of raising the children fell on our mother’s shoulders.
She was stubborn. Bang your head against the wall stubborn. But today I miss her stubbornness just like I miss her compassion.
Perhaps some shrink would say Ken’s act had something to do with our mother being that he chose such a day to do a terrible deed. But I think they’d be wrong. The days fell like they fell. In fact, Ken had a close relationship with mom. He spoke with her almost every day. He often would stop by for lunch to talk to her. He confided in her. Sometimes I was resentful that he spent so much time with her.
After his death, I was even more resentful that he’d dominated so much time with our mother and then left her shattered and heartbroken. And while she had four living sons, for the longest time she was crippled by his loss. She wanted to cancel the holidays and I remember snapping, “Holidays are for the living, not the dead!”
It took time to work through the shock, grief, devastation and anger. It took a while for me to be able to forgive my brother for one horrible day. And while it still sucks that on a day I should solely be thinking of my mother, I have to share brain space with losing my brother and his awful last act — that’s my family and I love them all. I remember them both. I remember how they touched lives. I focus on the good things. The good memories. I focus on how they shaped who I am.
It’s not perfect, but I love them. That’s my family.