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I have two brothers. Well, I had two brothers. I still have a hard time believing one of them is gone. That would be Dale. My other brother is Mike. Mike is gone, too, figuratively speaking. He has schizophrenia. I have two brothers. Well, I had two brothers. I still have a hard time believing one of them is gone. That would be Dale. My other brother is Mike. Mike is gone, too, figuratively speaking. He has schizophrenia.
Dale went on a hike
I have regrets. I regret that Dale ever took that hike. Dale went on a hike alone in Mesa Verde National Park, CO. He was there with his wife and our parents, and he wanted to go to Spruce Treehouse, an abandoned dwelling about a 20-minute hike away from where they all sat in the shade of the porch of one of the old buildings. He planned to be back in 45 minutes to an hour tops. His wife offered him a bottle of water and he said he wouldn’t need it as he would be back soon, and he took off walking down the steep, paved path to the Spruce Treehouse. That was the last time his wife or my parents saw Dale. He simply never returned. When he had been gone for 2 hours, my mother sensed something was wrong, and she raised the alarm. By this time it was late in the afternoon, and there was a quick search, but it was called off at nightfall. The next morning the search for my brother began in earnest. Search and Rescue people swarmed the park. There were people on foot, on horseback, on ATVs. There were helicopters searching from the air, several teams of search dogs showed up, and there was a FLIR jet making passes along the mountainside, trying to locate Dale with its heat-seeking device. Missing posters were put up in and around the park. It was an intense search. It lasted just over a week, and then it was scaled back to nothing. There have been a few more organized searches for him, in the 6 years since Dale went missing, but not one single clue has ever been found. No sign of an animal attack. Not a thread, not a hair, not a cigarette butt, nothing, absolutely nothing, has ever been found that shows Dale was even in the park that day. It is a complete mystery. I wrote about it elsewhere in Quora. The not knowing is what gets to me in the end. I believe he is no longer living, although there is no proof of that.
Dale has been the greatest loss
I honestly think losing Dale has been the greatest loss I have ever had in my entire life. I never knew my heart could hurt like it did, and does. Dale was my best friend. We were thick as thieves, as they say, and shared just about everything with each other, our troubles, our joys. He was a frequent visitor at my house, and we spent hours talking and laughing and crying and sometimes just being with each other. Dale had my back and I had him, we had little private jokes, and he was my favorite person. It had always been that way, from childhood up. Dale was my soulmate, really. Everybody knew how close we were. When he went missing I fell apart. I didn’t understand true grief until I realized that he was not coming back. For a solid year, I felt like I was hollow, except for the burning aching pain that was constantly in my heart. Our whole family was lost without Dale. My mother was like a ghost as she quietly grieved the loss of her youngest son. Everything seemed surreal to me for a long time. The loss of someone so dear to me and such an important part of my life rattled my brain. Sometimes I drove myself crazy with the why’s and how’s and what-ifs of Dales disappearance. Still, time marches on. You go through the motions. You come to terms with things. You still live and breathe. You begin to savor the memories. For a long time, Dale wasn’t mentioned in my parent’s home. It was too painful for them. But I refused to let him be forgotten, and I talk about him all the time. I have no regrets at all in regard to my relationship with my youngest brother while he was with us. None. If we spoke harsh words in the heat of a disagreement, we always apologized and moved on. He was a wonderful brother, from the time he was born till the day he took his last breath on this earth. He had his share of problems in his life, he wasn’t a perfect person, he had his demons, but he was my brother, my compadre, my confidante, my partner in crime. I miss him more than I could ever put into words. Everybody loved Dale. My only regret is that I will have to live the rest of my life without him in it.
Mike was my hero
And then there is Mike. Mike was my hero. One year younger than me, but always acted like he was the big brother. He was a good-hearted guy, a truck driver, a husband, and a father. He adored his kids, and they adored him. He was an ace mechanic on any kind of engine, and from little on, all he wanted to be was a truck driver. And he was a good one. He had a silly way of looking at me over his glasses, and he didn’t hesitate to call me out if I pissed him off somehow. But he always got over it. Mike was my protector. He watched out for me. He insisted that I tell him where I was going all the time, because he felt responsible for me, and because I went to some places with some people I should have avoided like the plague. One time I got mixed up with a man while I was married. The marriage was a joke, but I was still wrong. I went to meet this man one day and he never showed up, I was stuck there, as someone had dropped me off. Hours ticked past, and I felt lower and lower. Finally, in desperation, I called Mike. He lived a few towns over, but he got to my location in less than 20 minutes. I will never know how he did that. But he picked me up and didn’t drill me about what happened. He just said if I wanted to talk about it, he was there, and if I didn’t, we never had to mention the incident again. He built me up, said all the right things, put a smile on my shameful face.
I was severely depressed
At a certain point in my life, I was severely depressed. It was during the joke marriage. I couldn’t stand the horrible way I felt, I couldn’t bear the darkness that surrounded me, but I still put one foot in front of the other and went through the motions. Fooled a lot of people. My world came crashing down the afternoon that I decided to take a bottle of sleeping meds and wash it down with vodka. I ended up in the hospital for a week. Felt like utter shit. Mike came. He helped me get out of bed and helped me get my robe on, and he put his arm around me and led me out of the room, while he pushed my IV pole with his other hand. We got down to a conference room and stepped in there for privacy. Mike grasped the front of my robe in his hand and slowly shoved me against the wall. He whispered to me, “Some people are going to tell you that you are a fuck up. Some people are going to use this episode to their advantage. You don’t listen to that person. You listen to me. You are not a fuck up. Do not believe it when you hear people say that to you. You will get some help and you will make some decisions, and you will be just fine. Do not for one minute think that you are a fuck up.” And so I went to rehab for drug use and depression, and I got some help and I made some decisions, and….I am just fine. Because Mike said I was not a fuck up, so I wasn’t.
when I had been to visit Mike and his family
Then there was the time when I had been to visit Mike and his family and I was driving my old pickup truck down the back roads, headed for home. I was cruising along at about 60 mph when I saw something in my side mirror that made my jaw drop. A tire, still connected to the part of the axle, was bouncing down the road behind me and I watched it bounce over a barb wire fence and come to rest in the pasture. At that instant, I felt the back driver’s side of my truck fall down, and I put on the brakes and came to a stop, but not before leaving a deep groove in the asphalt from some part of my truck. I couldn’t believe it, who loses a tire like that? I got out of the truck and saw that there was a small fire where my back wheel had been, so I grabbed an old towel off the seat of my truck and beat it out. About that time, an older couple came driving up and offered me a ride, they were headed back toward my brother’s place. So I got in and they dropped me off at my brother’s house. He was sitting on the front porch with this “what now” look on his face as I got out of the truck and waved goodbye to the good people who had helped me out. I told Mike what had transpired, and he got a good laugh out of it, and then he drove me back to my truck, and looked it over, then drove me home. He told me not to worry, he would have my truck back on the road the following day. And he did. He took parts of an old truck he had and put them on my truck. In the ditch, in the sun, in Texas, in August. For me. He was my hero.
Mike had his share of problems
Mike had his share of problems, and he had begun to act strange, unpredictable, mad at the world. He couldn’t hold down a job because there was a conflict with the boss. He got hooked on meth. Then he learned how to cook the stuff. He was doing just that when the shed he was in, exploded, and he ran for his life, out into the pastures, and made his way home by foot, as the crow flies. He was talking so crazy, I couldn’t figure him out. Time passed and it became obvious that there was something seriously wrong with Mike. And eventually, he was diagnosed with schizophrenia. I won’t go into how dangerous and bizarre he became, but in around 2003, he pretty much removed himself from our family and we haven’t seen him since.
Yes, I have regrets. I regret that my brother has a mental illness that has alienated him from me. I regret that I don’t feel safe in even trying to have a relationship with Mike again. I regret that my younger, “big brother” lives in a world I can’t understand, and I don’t think he can understand it either. I miss him. I share memories and talk about him all the time, just like I do Dale. I used to be one of three siblings. Now I regret to say that I am, basically, an only child, and it sure does get damn lonely at times.