Each year as Cinco de Mayo arrives, I think about my youngest brother, whose last fiesta was that celebration in 2004. He drove to Portland from Baker City, stayed a few days with his step-daughter, partied with a friend, and then made the five-hour trip on U.S. 84 through the Gorge back to his rented house.
It was his last trip. I don’t intend that as a pun, but it probably was one of the last times he was high as well, since getting high in one fashion or another had been a major part of his life for 40 of his 56 years. Adding weight to my hunch is that another reason for the trip was to pursue the status of his application for medical marijuana. Less than a week later, on May 11, he died of complications from AIDS.
Now that he's been gone for five years, it’s an almost universal process that my mother’s ghost follows him into my mental house. Even though she died 32 years earlier than he, they are linked. Perhaps because he was the child she agonized over the most, perhaps because he was the baby of the family, our mother’s last child.
He was born when I was almost 12. It was one of the most self-absorbed times of my life, preoccupied as I was with pre-teen life and hormones, secretly plotting to meet the boy I liked when I wasn’t even dating age! I met him at a movie matinee, having told my parents I was meeting a girlfriend. All in explanation as to why it is I have so little memory of Johnny as a baby. Just snapshots, mostly of my mother.
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