I am an only child to two parents who were ill-prepared to parent. My mother was mentally ill. I suppose today's diagnosis would be bipolar. There were many ways in which her manic-depression manifested itself but the primary one was clinical hypochondria. Since my first memories, my mother was sick. She had leukemia, heart disease, liver cancer, brain cancer, lupus and a host of other life-ending diseases. She had found a group of doctors who somehow supported these claims with medication. She also attempted suicide many times, and was in and out of mental and regular hospitals more than I can count.
My father was largely absent, working non-stop. It was my responsibility to give my mother the right medication at the right times or else. It was my responsibility to not make waves or make her mad, or else. There was a constant threat I could kill my mother by my bad behavior. More importantly, there was always the possibility I could find my mother dead.
The sad irony is, after all of these life long terminal illnesses, she died at the age of 65 of a brain tumor in 1995. By then, we were long estranged. She had stopped wanting to see me while I was in college and we never regained any sort of workable relationship.
In the shadow of Billy's loss, this background had two massive impacts on me. Finding Billy dead, ten months and 28 days ago, tapped into a long forgotten fear. The fear of finding the one you love most dead. It was every childhood fear coming into my adult life. Only worse because I knew Billy better than I ever knew my mother, and I loved him more than I ever loved my mother or anyone else, for that matter.
The second and tragic impact this had on Billy was my lack of action when Billy had complained of chest pains in the days prior to his passing. When he said it, I think I did not take it seriously because I had been so conditioned to view physical complaints with skepticism. Not consciously. But would I have taken his condition more seriously had I not had this desensitization? Another question that never will be answered.
I'm not sure what to do with any of this information. After writing it down, it neither makes me feel better nor any less responsible. But hopefully I will come to a better and more peaceful place. Someday.