A Little More History of gene

The summer of 1996, when the Golden Globe Light experience happened, as I said, had more than its share of worry and fear for me.  I'm not a guy who likes living on the "edge" in that way, fear, unknowing but ever present within, though I have done and do many things in life that people, most people, would find VERY fearful but do not scare me in the least.  Nonetheless, I prefer a calmness around me, quiet to noise, and people in harmony with each other.  The state I was in then was anything but calm and quiet, especially within.    I told you I had been searching for something in which to find spiritual comfort, since long before the Golden Globe experience.  After that experience I stumbled around trying to rekindle my spirit through the only vehicle I knew, traditional Lutheranism.  I tried several Lutheran churches, hoping that I would find in one of them a sense of peace.  My hope was that even for just an hour a week, I could find a place where that horrible anxiety could be OUT of me, where I could feel safe.  I tried several, not one felt "right" to me.  

I was then a member of a health club, a few miles south of where I lived.  I'd joined it years earlier, primarily because it had the largest indoor running track I could find anywhere near New Brighton where I lived when I joined this club.  I'd been a runner for many years and ran outdoors most of the year.  I enjoyed running outside, even in winter, but believe me, in Minnesota there are days when running outdoors in winter is difficult.  Not so much because of the cold, running really does sort of take cold out of the equation because you generate SO much heat, but on snowy days, footing can be treacherous, snow sticks to your shoes, visibility is tough, for both runner and vehicles.  You feel like you are running with 10 pound weights attached to your shoes.  So I wanted a place where I could always be assured of being able to run regardless the weather.  So I joined the Moore Lake Northwest Health club.  I ran around that lake, Moore Lake, and all through the neighborhoods surrounding the club for several years, and not once noticed that there was a Lutheran church across the street.  

One day that summer, as I was on my way home from the club, I was stopped at an intersection waiting for the light to change, when I had an experience I sort of liken to the scales falling off the eyes of Paul on the road to Damascus during his epiphany.   I was completely lost in my inner world, when I looked up at the light, and noticed a large church right there on the shore of Moore Lake.   As many times as I had run by that place, I'd never seen it there.   I thought, well, if that isn't a "sign" then I'll never see one.  So I went there the next Sunday, the 11 o'clock service, which was the one I attended as a child, the ONLY one really, at that time most churches, at least rural ones, only had one service on Sunday.  It wasn't bad, it wasn't great, but it wasn't bad, and I liked the minister.  I've always, since childhood, had an ability to "read" people, to somehow know something about them, without knowing how, but to feel their essence, I guess.  And in him, I felt strength and peace.  I also learned they had three services and the middle one was outdoors, on the shore of the lake, with different music and a different approach.  I decided I would try that one the next week.  

The week in between was horrible, I felt that inner anxiety non-stop, I just wanted it to be Sunday so I could try that outdoor service.  I went back and loved it.  It was much less formal, it used modern music, it was an entirely different experience of religion for me.  For that hour, I was okay, I lost my anxiety and felt "normal" again.  The days in between services were terrible and passed slowly, but I was SO eager for those Sunday mornings, looking forward to those helped me get through the rest of the week.   I had crises coming at me in every direction that summer, work, home, Brandon, everything, just everything.  I lived that summer paralyzed in fear, but for that one hour on the shore of Moore Lake and not ONE service was rained out that year.  I began thinking of joining that church officially, but the closer I got back to my Lutheran heritage the more terrified I became.  Actually being IN the church, filled me with dread, it was only outside there in the sunlight that I felt any measure of peace.  

Brandon continued to slide, until one day in mid-July, the paranoia and rage of the meth just burst out of him.  It came out of the blue, and for the first time in his life, I was actually afraid of him.  I thought he could do something terrible; a thought that had never crossed my mind before about him.  He was the sweetest baby and little boy.  He was emotional, impulsive, hard to reach sometimes, but always my baby boy.  He'd get so angry when he was little, that he'd get stiff as board, literally.  In those moments, it was not possible to talk to to him so I'd just hold him close to me, until I could feel his little body relax, and his breathing ease, and he'd be my little guy again, then we could talk.  I mean, talk through whatever had created that particular crisis.  We were always, no matter what else was happening, able to do that, work through whatever it was that was "wrong" for him.  But that day in July, I could see nothing of that little guy I loved so dearly in his eyes or his face.  So I asked him to leave, I told him I thought it was time he move out.  He said fine, packed some things and left that afternoon.  

He left his dog, Cisco, with me for a few weeks, he'd gotten Cisco for his 20th birthday, we sort of picked him out together but in truth, I think he picked us.  In some ways, I think he was never really intended for Brandon, in truth for the years from 2/11/97, we were each others sole (soul) companion (I have to insert here that on August 5, 2009, I had to put him down, myriad problems and no other choice, I hope his ghost haunts me, I miss him so).  In early August Brandon came to pick Cisco up and took him with him to this place he was staying.  He was as I said earlier already lost in a drug called crystal meth, it was that which produced the profound change in him that scared me enough to ask him to leave home.  I didn't hear from him for weeks, but I lived in fear that each call would bring news of something terrible, either that he had done or that had happened to him.  He called me on my birthday, 9/7, ostensibly to tell me Happy Birthday, it was late in the afternoon and I had about given up hope that he might call.  I couldn't believe he wouldn't at least call.  It was not the happiest of birthdays.  He did though finally call and he seemed different, quieter.  

I was so glad to hear his voice.  I asked him how he was doing and we talked superficialilties for a bit, and when I asked again how HE was doing, he said, "not so good, Dad", I asked him what was wrong and he told me had made a terrible mistake, that he'd done something really wrong.  He said he thought it was all okay but he wanted to change, he wanted to clean up his life, stop doing the meth.  He asked if I would mind if he came home.  My eyes fill even as I type this, I didn't want anything more for that birthday than to hear that from him.  I said yes, if you can stay off the meth, you can.  He said, "tonight?"  I said, yes, this is still your home, Brandon.  He was home within a couple hours.   For most of that fall, he really seemed to be trying, I was sure he wasn't doing the meth, his personality was back, he was my son again.  He looked for work, didn't have much luck, but he did try.  For a couple weeks he worked across the street at this convenience store / gas station place, the overnight shift.  But he told me that this woman he worked the overnight shift with, who had started about a week after he did, and he kept coming up short on the till every morning.  The place was full of cameras and they couldn't see how it was being done, but they were sure it was one of them, and they let him go, he said it was her.  It probably WAS him, he was an inventive guy and if anyone could figure a way to beat the camera system, well, he could have.  He insisted it wasn't him and I so desperately wanted to believe him, that I did.  I WANTED things to be right for him.

We talked a lot that fall and I asked him what he had done that so scared him.  He told me.  You need to understand this about Brandon, he was a guy who was always great at telling stories, he could look you right in the eye and tell the most outrageous lie and make you believe him.  I suppose it was a gift.  A dark gift, maybe, but he was darn good at it.  This was ALWAYS in him.  As an example, one time, (our divorce settlement gave his mother and I joint custody so the boys were with each of us physically 50% of the time) when Evan was in first grade and Brandon still in day care/pre-school,  I was taking them over to the day care, a block from Evan's school, on my way to work one morning.  Evan was all excited because he was telling us about his field trip the previous day, it was the first one he'd ever been on and they'd been to a farm where they got to see all sorts of animals and things that city kids just don't know anything about.  He was just bubbling with excitement still as he told us about his big event.  

Brandon, 17 months younger, was NEVER one to be one-upped by his brother, said that he too had been on a trip the previous day, and told us that they'd been to the Minnesota Zoo (which was a really big brand new zoo in the south metro, full of exotic animals, an elevated train to ride around the complex, a dolphin aquarium, all sorts of wonders) and he described in detail all the things they'd done and seen ( he was FIVE then), as he told his story, I could see Evan, who was in the front seat with me (they alternated, one in the front on the way to a place, the other in the back from a place) just losing his excitement as his brother spoke, suddenly his trip didn't seem such a big thing after all.  I swear, Brandon had us BOTH believing this story, until I asked him if they had gotten to take a school bus to the zoo too (bus rides were big things to 5 and 6 year olds back then) and he said, no, a big plane had landed on County Road B to pick them up and take them to the zoo.  He had us right up to that moment.  We all got a good laugh out of that, but let me tell you that kid could make you believe anything.  He could always make me believe anything.  Partly because I so wanted to, I guess.

So, when he told me about what had happened that "scared him straight" it was a story, that, although it had some logic holes in it, was believeable enough.  One of his real talents as a little guy was to tell on the other kids, he'd tell just enough of his own part to make it sound true, it was only in hearing from the other kids, that I ever got the whole story, which most often did not leave him looking quite so much the aggrieved party as the story he told, he always left out the parts that proved him the instigator.  So I had some doubts about parts of his story, but, like I said, I was a mess, and I so missed him, I was so afraid for him, I really thought the only way I could protect him was to keep him close to me - as long as he was staying off the meth.  He said he and some friends had been in downtown Minneapolis and were on their way back to the place they were living in a suburb of St. Paul; Little Canada.  He said they had some sort of altercation with another car on the freeway, how or why, I don't understand to this day, but drugged up kids are still doing these things on our freeways to this day.  He said, that he was in the front passenger seat, that someone had a gun, and that he had fired it out the window, up in the air, NOT at the other vehicle.  He said that he didn't mean to, he just did it.  Which was believable, controlling his impulses was always one of his greatest challenges.  He said they all got scared, got off the freeway, threw away the gun, and then got pulled over by the police.  How this other car knew a gun had been fired and then had the wherewithal to call that in with a description of the car Brandon was in is one of the logic holes.  He said the police didn't arrest them, they did find the gun, but couldn't prove it was anyone in the car who had thrown it out and let them go.  Nothing happened from that.  Not for several months.  

In late November he got a job as a security guard at a condo in Minneapolis, complete with uniform.  He really seemed to love that job, loved the uniform, he looked good in it, he'd talked as a kid about being a police officer, so I thought maybe, just maybe, this was a turning point.  And it was, just not in the direction I was hoping.  Part of the job process, was a background check, and his third night on the job he came home and told me they had fired him because the background check had turned up the assault charge in Ramsey County, apparently that had been sitting at the bottom of someone's stack of paperwork and the inquiry brought it back to the top.  He called them the next day and discovered there was a warrant out for him.  I think that was when he gave up.  We talked to a couple lawyers, but I had no money for a retainer, even though none of them thought the charge all that serious and said that the most he'd get was some probation time.  He built that into something else in his mind though.  I think that is when he began planning his suicide.  

He actually seemed to grow calmer, (I have since learned that when someone has made an ultimate decision, like suicide, they DO seem calmer, because for them, they've decided and feel as if they are back in control) I'd see him in the evenings when I'd get home from work, we'd talk, he'd seem fine, I'd go to bed at 9:30 or so as I go to work early, still do.  He'd go out after that with his friends.  He'd usually be sleeping when I left for work, most days, I'd wake him and he'd drive me to the Park and Ride, from where I bus downtown to work, so he could use the car to look for work.  Things seemed relatively normal, no one came looking for him.  But every once in a while, the doorbell would ring, and he'd run to the upstairs hallway, while I got the door, it was always one of his friends, and though I thought the running to the stairs odd, I just figured he was worried it might be the police and didn't want them to see him.  

One night, in the middle of January, we were down in the basement smoking, I don't any longer and had been trying to quit even then, but never quite made it, and he was telling me about this plan he and his friend had.  His friend had relatives in Colorado, who owned a resort, who had told them that if they came out there, they'd give them jobs.  His thought was that the local warrant wouldn't follow him out there and he could establish a life and let things "blow over".  He looked me right in the eye, it was the oddest look, I mean SO serious, so different that I remember it today, 18 years later as clearly as that night, and asked me if I'd take care of Cisco for him, until he could get settled and come get him.  I told him, yes, I'd look after him as long as he needed me to.  Looking back, I realize that was not really the question he was asking me.  It took me years to realize that, to realize what he was really asking was would I take care of Cisco forever.  I'm still coming to terms with it and I'm still doing it, Cisco was 13 in November 2008, and he was my last living connection to my baby boy, the closest thing to a grandchild I will ever have from him.  I wanted him to, I hoped he would live forever, but as is always the case with our fur babies, the last two years his health grew worse and in August, 2009, I had to let him go.  I still cry over him, over his baked paw print, over whether I chose too soon to let him go, over whether he is with Brandon now, over whether I will ever see him again - I SO want the Rainbow Bridge story to be truth.  Were it in my power I would make it so.

About three weeks after that conversation on 2/11/97, as I was getting ready to leave for work, I knocked on his bedroom door, which adjoined mine in a sort of V, with my door on the left and his on the right, and asked if he was going to take me to the Park and Ride that day.  He, answered, sleepily, "no, dad, I'm so tired, I think I am just going to hang around the house with Cisco today."  Those were the last words I ever heard him speak.  I was in a seminar of some sort at work that day in the afternoon, when I was called out of the session and given a message to call the Coon Rapids police department.  I did that, I asked what was wrong, I figured they'd finally showed up and executed the warrant.  
They wouldn't tell me anything on the phone, just said I needed to come home right away.  Okay,but that was scary.  

My car was up at the Park and Ride, so I called my oldest son, who had an apartment in the same building as his mother in St. Paul, I told him what they told me and asked if he could come get me, there wasn't a bus going up there for at least another hour.  Evan got his mother and they came to get me.  It was a quiet, tense ride up to my car.  Evan told me that he had been going to call me, that he wanted me to know that Brandon had a gun, he said he had planned to tell me that evening.  That did NOT ease the dread I felt.  

They dropped me off at my car and headed to my place, I followed a couple minutes behind them, I turned into my driveway just in time to see his mother talking to a police officer and then collapse to the ground.  I parked behind her car, there were several police cars there, and walked up to the front door, where I was met by an officer.  I asked him what had happened, he said they had gotten a tip that Brandon was there and that there was a warrant for him and had come out to get him.  He said that when they kicked open the door, they heard a gunshot upstairs.  I said, thinking that Brandon would do anything to avoid having to go to jail, "what, did he shoot himself in the foot or something?"  The officer said, no, and pointed to his head.  

He said, don't go up there, but I had to.  I had to SEE.  I couldn't believe it.  I just couldn't believe it.  Cisco was locked in the upstairs bathroom, absolutely frantic, they weren't afraid of him though he was, is, a BIG dog, tall and 115 pounds at that time, they said they could tell he wasn't dangerous, so had just shut him in there out of the way.  In Brandon's room, they'd piled a heap of his clothes over the spot where he fell.   We went directly to the hospital, but he was already gone, for the first time in his life, he'd done something perfectly right the first time he tried it.   The rest of that is pretty much still a blur, the next few days, I mean.  There was a big service, a LOT of kids showed up, he had a LOT of friends, that was important, people showed up from my work, I don't remember but a couple.  There was a video made of the service, but I never went back to get it.  I intended to, but I never set foot in that church again.  It caused me incredible pain to think, even for a moment, and there were many such moments, that I was led there to St. Phillips that past summer, just so I'd have a place to have that service.  There's a lot of detail to that, which isn't important here but which I will talk about in the story about Jenna, but what is important is what this event led me to.  That is the next story in the index.  Please join me there.