March 6th Swarm
It was April 2016. I got a call from my dad. “Hurry home. Dino killed himself – he hung himself in the basement”. We were at my son’s first baseball game of the season. He had just got a home run! It was a beautiful April Saturday. Sunny, warm. It was supposed to be a fun day. It wasn’t.
Mom and I ran to the car. I yelled to my husband who was on the ball field. “I have to go. Dino killed himself”. I got to my mom’s car and I really don’t remember even driving to their house. I had to have been driving 100 mph.
“Please don’t tell me he did it. Mom I’m so sorry. I didn’t mean for him to kill himself. He’s got to be OK. Maybe dad saved him”. I was saying all of this on to my mom during the 10 minute drive to her house. We were both so scared.
When we got there, there was a swarm of emergency vehicles. The sheriff’s department. The ambulance. The fire truck. More officials came in. Asked questions. Made my dad explain what happened over and over.
I was sick. I thought I was going to physically get sick. I was crying harder than I’ve ever cried. I was shaking and didn’t know how to feel. Dad didn’t save him. It was too late.
My Uncle Dino moved to NC in December 2015. He moved here because he was suicidal at home. He had a successful hair salon for years, but lost it all because of drugs. He lost everything. Friends. Family. His business. His home. His car. Everything. Gone. So at 50 some years old he moved 12 hours away to live with my parents, his brother and sister-in-law. A brother and sister in law that he hadn’t seen in over 10 years and didn’t speak to for about 8 or 9 of those years. Needless to say, I wasn’t really happy about it. I have two kids that were at my parents house every day. What if he was still on drugs? What would they be exposed to? The deal was he could come but no drugs and no alcohol or he would have to leave.
So he came and he looked terrible. After a few months he seemed to be doing better. But one night I took my mom and kids to Chic Fila for supper. He was acting strange. He seemed high. Out of it. Trying to take my kids food. Acting like he was going to steal things like the salt and pepper shakers or something like that…I can’t remember exactly what it was. He was just off. My mom saw it too. So I told my mom that I was going to talk to him and give him an ultimatum. He went to a clinic and got help, or he was out of here.
The next day I went to the house and asked to speak to him alone. I told him that I thought he was on something the night before and I wanted him to tell me the truth. He denied it and said he was just taking caffeine pills because he was out of his adarol and didn’t have a prescription for more. I told him I didn’t believe him. I told him that I was taking off work the next day and I was taking him to a mental health facility for treatment by a psychiatrist. He didn’t disagree. I took him. I sat in the office for two hours waiting for him to finish. He was told about other resources available to him as well – food stamps, etc. It was a good thing for him.
The next couple weeks passed. Uncle Dino would cut my hair and moms hair and I would pay him 20 to 25 bucks so he had some cash. He started talking to different places around town about his ability to do hair. He worked as a volunteer at a salon and got to know some people. And then he abruptly left the salon he was working with. I never found out what really happened. In the mean time he started doing all of the wigs for a local theater. It started out as a volunteer thing but then they started paying him to do it for each play. This started in October of 2015. That’s when I saw the biggest change. He started avoiding me. He never stayed around me for long. He was gone a lot. Started borrowing money from my mom and dad. They paid his cellphone bill, gave him a car to drive. The bills all increased – water, electricity, etc. He never helped my mom around the house. No yard work. Didn’t even take the garbage out. All he ever did was run to the store for groceries once in a while. He was doing hair for folks around town and charging them a lot. About 100 bucks for a cut and color and they were buying their own color most of the time. The money never went to pay back my mom and dad. It was always coming…the money was coming with the next check he earned…the next time…the next time. The next time would never happen. Mom started a tally and he owed them well over $1000 dollars. Mom and dad live on a tight budget. Dad’s a retired veteran living on disability and my mom never worked. They are strapped for money. My mom would vent to me about him. She would even cry sometimes about how he doesn’t help at all. I think she felt like his mom and she had a lot of pressure on her to take care of him. I told her and my dad that I wanted to confront him. They said to just let it go.
I started getting angry. I would come over to help my mom in the yard or do work around the house and he would just sit there. Nothing. No help at all. I would buy dinner, take us all out to eat and he never paid. He never even offered. At first I didn’t mind. But it got old. So he would cut my hair and I only paid him about 20 bucks. Then one day I asked him to color my hair to cover my old highlights. He said sure. I paid for the color and all the supplies. He dyed my hair. I knew something look weird with the color. It seems dark. It had a blue tint. No…it’s not blue. I went home. Rinsed it again. BLUE. Really?? Blue? I woke up the next morning and my pillow cover was blue. I texted him and he said he had no idea what I was talking about. He played it off and said he thought I was crazy. Then he read the box of color and it said Dark BLUE. Yes. He dyed my hair blue. I wish I had the picture still. At the time I thought it was an accident, but now I think he did it on purpose.
So I quit having him cut or color my hair. Months went by. He avoided me. He still didn’t help. Weird things happened….like the one night when two people rang the doorbell at 3 in the morning. He went out and talked to them and told my parents that it was a girl who needed to use the phone. Of course they didn’t let her in. Weird. They just shrugged it off. I thought it was odd.
I started to be honest with my parents about how I felt about him. He was drinking a lot. He even tried to steal alcohol from my house during the holidays. Just ask. Don’t take from me. I didn’t trust him. We caught him downing our vodka at Christmas. Literally just tipping up the bottle. He just laughed. He started skipping holidays and he was definitely avoiding me.
I knew it was drugs. My parents were oblivious. He lived in their basement and they couldn’t see what he was doing. Some weeks he wouldn’t even show his face upstairs. A few more months passed and I couldn’t get in to see my hairstylist. I texted him and asked him to trim my hair again. (I Know! Why would I do that after he dyed my hair blue a few months before!) I tried to give him the benefit of the doubt. After all, he was my uncle. He texted me back with an attitude. He told me I would have to pay him like 75 bucks if I wanted him to cut my hair. I was furious. He is my fricken uncle and I have helped him for months now. Why would he charge me so much just for a hair cut?
That’s when I fired back. “I am not paying you that much money. I buy my own products and dry my own hair. All you do is cut it. I know what you are doing and I’m on to you. Get a job and quit mooching off my parents.” Silence. No response.
I called my mom and told her what I said. He had already been upstairs trying to get my mom and dad to take his side. He was a liar and a master manipulator. He was trying to get them to turn on me. They told him that I was their daughter and they would not take his side and that I was just looking after them. The next couple of days they said he was up and down with his emotions. A few mornings later he came upstairs and had scrapes all up and down his face. My mom thought he was drunk. It was 8am. He said he couldn’t sleep so he took 4 benadryl pills and fell down in the basement. She asked him if he was drunk and he said no. She believed him. He went to work and she didn’t see him again that day.
The next day was Saturday morning. Mom got up and got ready for my son’s baseball game. She said he was in a good mood and was getting ready to go to the theater to work on wigs. Mom left to go to the game. He and dad were talking. He asked dad to borrow 100 dollars. He needed gas and cigarettes. Dad told him he didn’t have the money to give him. Dino then went downstairs. Dad thought he was getting ready for work. Dad felt bad so he called downstairs for Dino. He was going to give him 20 bucks for gas and ciggs. Dino didn’t answer. After calling him a few times and getting no response, dad went downstairs. Dad has emphysema. He can barely walk. He can’t walk down the stairs so he has one of those chairs that takes him down. It took him a few minutes but he went down and didn’t see him in the sitting area. So he went to the back of the basement and there he was. He hung himself. Dad was too late.
Dad went back upstairs to get his phone. Called 911, back downstairs, mouth to mouth, a trip upstairs for something to cut the cord…he was too late. The swarm of emergency vehicles…we showed up. Too late.
I felt so much guilt. I felt like I did this. I was so sick to my stomach for weeks. I couldn’t sleep. I was scared to be alone – I couldn’t be alone in my house. I couldn’t walk outside in the dark. I was terrified. For months. Dino used to tell me that he would come back and haunt all of the people that he didn’t like. He was the closest thing to evil I have ever experienced.
My brothers came in from out-of-town. The first thing they did was search the basement. They found a lot. They knew they were going to. My parents were shocked. They couldn’t believe that the missed what was right under their nose. Heroine needles. Spoons. A filthy basement. It was disgusting. We threw everything away. All he owned was put into a trailer attached to a truck and thrown away. So sad to think that all someone owned ended up in the trash.
A month passed. The theater held a little memorial. Mom and I went. We cried and people told stories of their memories of Dino. He was a funny man. They told numerous stories of partying together and all the times he cut their hair. It was nice and I felt some closure. I left earlier than my mom did. My mom stayed and drank some wine and visited with the folks from the theater. They all started talking about it. What he did. How he hung himself. How they knew it was suicide or overdose. Mom told them about how she thinks he tried to do it a few days before, but was unsuccessful. The morning he woke with scrapes on his face and all drugged up…did he try that night? The women at the theater looked at mom. They said “You mean Alison didn’t do that to him?” HE TOLD THEM I HURT HIM. THAT WE GOT INTO A FIGHT AND I HURT HIM. They thought the scrapes on his face were from me. Mom obviously told them no. I didn’t hurt him. It all started over again. The fear. The pit in my stomach. He was sick. He was mean. He was evil.
He was so sick. More sick than any of us ever knew. It’s been almost a year and I still have a hard time. It took me a long time to really believe that I didn’t do this. He chose this. He had a plan and he followed through. My text did not make him kill himself. There are so many more stories about him and the terrible things he chose to do to our family. Not just my mom and dad and me, but my extended family up north too. None of that matters now. He made his choice to end his life.
It’s been a hard year. I have grown in my relationship with God. God is who I turned to. The only way I got through all of this was prayer. I read the bible every day. Devotion after devotion. Christian music. I surrounded myself with prayer warriors. God is the only way I made it through. Dino was so sick. It’s sad. The whole thing doesn’t consume me everyday like it used to. I forgave him.
John 10:10 “The thief’s purpose is to steal and kill and destroy. My purpose is to give them a rich and satisfying life.”