My husband Peter is the youngest of three. His older brother was an addict and an ass, a middle child smashed between the rocks that are his dashingbrother and his smartsister. I never liked him.
Peter tells stories about having to clean up his older brother's drunken puke when Peter was nine and Dan was twelve. Dan had been babysitting. When their parents returned home from their party, Peter loyally hid and protected his passed out brother from the wrath of their parents. He learned to enable when he was nine.
Dan gave me the creeps because he couldn't look me in the eyes. In my more compassionate moments I could feel his pain and it moved me, but he was so guarded and manipulative and inaccessible that my brain told my heart to not sweat it. "It's not worth the energy, " my brain would whisper. "And besides, you'd better keep your distance because this guy's unpredictable. It could get ugly."
My heart is so easy to sway really, and my brain had its number. It's the heart's greatest fault: all it takes is a whisper and I'm yours. So I swept compassion away, labeled him a loser, and I moved on.
Despite Dan's addictions, he managed to function sort of. He got married and had two kids (poor, poor kids) and was fairly successful at his job. They lived in Florida. I always thought that being around him was something akin to how I picture Purgatory - lots of shouting, undermining, out-of-control behaviors, but he and his family pressed on.
Sometimes he'd show signs of health. He called one night to tell us about watching the shuttle take off from his back yard. He periodically apologized for his bad behavior, having been to some sort of 12 step meetings. These times gave us the tiniest bit of hope for Dan. But it was still the kind of hope you feel when you buy a scratch ticket. That "wouldn't that be so cool if it actually happened" kind of hope.
Our phone rang at 4:30 am.
I can never bring myself to answer the middle of the night calls - I know enough to know that I can't stomach them.
Crying, rocking, yelling.
"Who was there?!" "In the face?!" "All alone..."
His car had been vandalized twice and he thought he knew who had done it. He'd been drinking all day and the cops wouldn't help him and so he was gonna' go get the fucker himself. He rallied some punk friends and decided to go see what he could see. He knocked (pounded?) on the suspected vandal/neighbor's door, and that's the last thing he ever did.
In Florida you're allowed to "protect your castle" if you feel threatened in any way. No need to call for help, just shoot to kill. You're protected.
So Dan died alone with a couple of bullets in his head on his neighbor's porch.