We all have one in the family. The person that doesn’t quite follow the rules. The one you hate to love. The same person that you complain about constantly but anyone else better not say a word against them. For me that person was my middle brother, Jason Brown. We fought like cats and dogs and went together like oil and water. You know that old saying “you never know what you got until it’s gone.” Well I can tell you first hand it’s true, and it hurts like hell when it’s gone.
Let’s start from the beginning. He was born in Louisiana at the Caldwell parish hospital on September 14, 1982. Dad paid cash for him. Mom said he was an easy birth but oh was he a curve ball in the making. They named his Darrel Jason Brown. He went by Jason. He was a curious and disobedient child. Getting switched and whipped near daily. Somehow mom always had a big soft spot for him, no matter how rotten he was. He was a terrible listener, wouldn’t follow instructions. When he started school they learned that he was deaf in his left ear. Dad sure felt bad about a few of them whippings after that.
I was born in eighty nine. Maybe he was sweet those first few years but if so I don’t remember them. I feel like the worst age gap you can put between children is 7-8 years. He was 14 and I was 7. I just wanted to do what he was doing, he didn’t want little sister cramping his style. If he didn’t accomplish anything else in life, he did a fine job of toughening me up for life. Despite black cats down my shirt, being left in a thicket of saw briers, my shoes stolen and forced to walk home on the ice in 97′, being ran over by a bike cause I was dumb enough to “let him jump me” I somehow survived my unruly childhood with Jason Brown. I could go on for days about the tricks he played on me. He got plenty of beatings for them too, he didn’t care though. He had no quit in him back in those days.
By the time I was 12 and he was 19 we got along much better. He was more mature and could handle my annoyances better. We spent many a summer day in a little hole on Sam Rayburn lake. We camped, we fished, we ran trot lines. We filled the freezer together, all out of an old flat bottom boat. He took me hunting more than any other person growing up. He taught me to shoot. He sure got a kick out of me firing off that heavy 12 gauge for the first time. I was around 11, all knees and elbows, it knocked me on my butt. He taught me to drive on the backroads by the lake, heading down to Parker’s point, our family camping spot. I also bulldozed a mailbox in that old truck one time. It was primered grey, with a little blue, and rust spots here and there. It was an 82′ Ford I believe. It was a standard with dusty old floorboards, the kind that stirs up when you’re going down the highway with the windows down cause you don’t have a fancy AC.
The older I got the less we fought and the more we bickered. He was the only man I’ve ever punched in the face though. He helped me buy my first truck. It was from an older gentleman he was doing some work for. He was able to get a great deal on it. Between the money I had saved and his great job of haggling the old man, I got the keys to my first truck. Later on, I let him borrow it and he wrecked it of course… he didn’t tell me he slid the passenger side down a guard rail so after school the following day I thought someone had hit it in the parking lot. He never fessed up until I overheard him on the phone talking to someone about it. I nearly killed him.
Somewhere along the way, he fell in with the wrong crowd. He was always more of a follower than a leader. He’d stand up for himself and anyone he cared about when put to the test but in general he just went with the flow. By 23 he was hooked on prescription drugs. He could literally chew Lorcet and wash it down with a Dr. Pepper. Through his addiction I became aware of many painkillers and narcotics. Norcos, Vicodin, Xanax, OxyContin and eventually Suboxone strips were his drugs of choice. I tried a few times to get him off of them but the detox process for pills is a very painful experience and ultimately if you don’t have the grit and “want to” then you’re not going to leave them behind. He was still a great guy but they took a huge chunk of him away from us before he ever died. He ran with a bad crowd. People that mostly used him for rides. Underneath the fog he was still a man that would give anyone the shirt off his back. His dependability and moral compass wavered from time to time. Pills have a way of justifying things that you think you’d never do. What’s a few bucks from moms purse here and there. I’ll only take a few from dads medication sort of thing. All the blame wasn’t just on him though. My parents were chronic enablers. They just couldn’t let him sit in jail or on the streets. I couldn’t understand it back then but now that I have kids of my own I can see how hard that could be.
He’d have good days and bad days. Most of the time he seemed normal and not impaired. Towards the end of his life it was mostly Suboxone strips which are prescribed to help get you off of pain killers. He got to the point where he knew just how much to take to keep the pain away. Maybe if he’d lived long enough he’d have eventually weened himself down. Unfortunately that never happened.
On April 12th, 2014 my husband received a call from a close friend telling him there had been a wreck and the car looked like my brothers. We’d bought the car for him a couple of months earlier. It was a beautiful spring day, not a cloud in the sky. We were outside playing with my daughter when he got that call. We jumped in the truck and drove out towards my parents house, towards a wreck. My husband went ahead to the wreckage to gain some insight on what was happening. He made me stay in the truck. I prayed harder than I ever have before. Please Lord let it not be him and if it is him let him live. A head on collision killed my brother. When we got there they’d only just pulled him from the wreckage and had a sheet over him. The highway patrol and my husbands bleary eyes said it all. He was gone, just like that. Luckily, the men he hit were in a truck and fairly unscathed. I took on the job of notifying my parents. I thought it’d be a little easier coming from me than from a stranger. No harder words were ever spoken. We detoured around the wreck and drove the few more miles to my parents house. We pulled up and they met me on the front porch, their faces heavy with worry. I said, ” he’s gone, he’s dead, I’m sorry momma.” I hugged them both as they broke down. It’s a hard thing to lose a brother and be the one to inform your parents. On the other hand, I imagine it’s much harder to receive the news of your child’s death, regardless of who it’s coming from.
My parents were devastated. They could barely function. I planned his funeral and gave a brief eulogy, by gods grace I made it through it without breaking down. I bought him new clothes and the most beautiful casket spread of wildflowers that I’ve ever seen. Wildflowers, wild just like he was. The toxicology report from the morgue found that he wasn’t impaired. We don’t don’t know what caused the wreck but we know that he saw it coming. His hands were clenched like they were gripping the steering wheel. I placed a bible in his hands so no one would notice. The men he hit said it looked like he was trying to regain control over the vehicle. He was cremated and later on, his remains were buried with my mother when she passed.
I don’t have many regrets when it comes to my brother. I was hard on him because I knew the potential he held and I didn’t want him to waste it. The only thing I wish I could fit in is one more fishing trip with him, and that my girls could grow up with one more uncle. If you are or know someone struggling with an addiction, get help. Don’t enable them but help them however you can.
The national helpline for substance abuse is 1-800-662-HELP. I hope this helps someone.