I got a voice mail from my Mom and I could tell she had really bad news… And I had my suspicion what it was. It’s the call I’ve been anticipating, but I just didn’t know when it would happen. You see, having 8 siblings brings with it a down-side. My whole life people have said to me “Wow, the youngest of 9 kids? How was that growing up?” My answer is always that I didn’t know any different. I got to grow up in a crazy, fun, screwy, nutty environment… And as the years go on, people change and situations change. Not every sibling will have the life you expect and what seemed like “normal” within the family dynamic won’t always stay normal. 

My brother Terry had more musical and artistic talent in his pinky than most of my siblings and myself put together. For the first half of his life he was able to channel this in ways that were amazing – I always enjoyed going to see his bands play (or staying in when Mom let them practice in her living room). He wrote great songs and he played the guitar amazingly. I truly thought at one point that one (or more) of his songs would be on the radio one day. He was also a tremendous painter and drawer – his work was awesome. But at some point along his life journey, he lost his way. He never really did well in an environment with a “boss”, which is even more why he should have pursued his art more vigorously. But something took over him. He became stuck and had some personal issues with another family member that exacerbated his already tenuous situation… And he drank. And he drank and drank. And then he spent a lot of time at Santa Clara Valley Med and he was in a tremendous amount of pain. They kept sending him away, over and over, thinking it was really nothing. Until they finally realized he had pancreatitis and that they needed to help him. 

He reached his tipping point and his body gave up. My middle sibling, and brother number five, Terence Gerard Powers passed away this weekend and I don’t think I’ve seen him for three or four years. I’m wracked with guilt. But what could I have done? There were several occasions that we hoped would be his tipping point for the positive – that he would realize he needed to help himself and get into a program – but that never happened. I never visited him in the hospital because I couldn’t take it. I was so mad that he had done this to himself and there was nothing I could do to fix him, so I cowardly stayed away. My poor parents. They eventually took the tough love route after he had stayed living at home for far too many years and sent him out on his own. They had to. Before too long, my Dad began helping him again financially, gave him his cell phone… then took him to the hospital, picked up meds for him. No parent should have to bury their children… I sure hope they give themselves a break. I don’t know that any of us who truly cared about him could have “fixed” him or his situation. But I’m sure we’re all questioning what else we could have done.
So, the downside, you see, is that I have many more family members who I care about and I’ll have to deal with loss more times than most. Rest in peace, brother Terry. Keep on drawing and keep on playing.

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