He got off the airplane, an electric guitar slung over his shoulder, eyes staring at the floor, and wearing some old rocker T-shirt. My parents took him in, gave him a bed, and made sure he got his G.E.D. He was 17. He was….is….my cousin.
I showed him my classical guitar. I think I played a few arpeggios for him. He seemed intrigued. When I saw him again he had learned to play a few songs on my dad’s guitar better than I had learned to play after a year of lessons. I forgave him for it, and we went off to see the DaVinci exhibit to celebrate our shared love of art. I had stopped drawing years before, to have babies, but he kept it up and took up painting.
He met a cute little blond. They got married, had the house, the two kids. It didn’t work out. He got bitter, really bitter. He would come and go, usually just showing up around the holidays, then even that stopped. I got a bad feeling. We all got a bad feeling.
We found him at a homeless camp during a frigid cold winter, his bitterness intact, irrational and delusional. He referred to the frozen dirt patch with ragged tarps, as “camping”. He had smoked infused clothes, numb feet, blackened and cracked fingers. My brother chased him down, and dragged him to a hotel. It took two showers and one bath to clean him up before putting him on a train to his sister.
All the signs for drug use were there, and mental illness. I blamed his arrogance. I blamed his artistic “genius”. I blamed his parents. I blamed his arrogance again. I cried for the waste he had made of his life, then asked God to give me the talent my cousin had squandered.
We all prayed he wouldn’t get off the train, and would make it all the way to CA. He did and his sister drove him directly to a hospital. A sinus infection, ear infections, confirmed frostbite in his feet, and the first admission of meth use. He broke down and sobbed, and agreed to therapy.
It’s a new start, but only the first step of a 100-mile walk. I hope he makes it. Either way, I asked God to let him keep his talent. He might need it someday, then I’ll draw another tree, green and lush, with all the hopes of spring, gladly drawn by my inexperienced hand.