Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Death plunge (July 25, 1980)


 Word came from Uncle Albie. Richi, his brother-- my uncle-- had tried to kill himself. None of the details were clear at first. Just a call south to Uncle Ted. Part of the circuit of brothers which spread such news. The last thing had been the death of Aunt Florence.
 No one had seen Richi much over the last few years. Since Alice kicked off, he turned hermit, living in one place or another in the old neighborhood. While Grandma and my mother still lived on Trenton Ave, he came to visit. But I've not seen him in Passaic, and the trip south is just too much trouble for a gypsy like him.
 Albie said Richi aimed his truck for the river and stepped on the gas. People saw his green truck plunge into the water and called the police. The cops went in after him. He fought them off. He just wanted to die.
 I'm not sure if he knew about Florence-- maybe news filtered down to him somehow, through the ether maybe. Or maybe things have a habit of happening all at once. One death following at the heals of another.
 I know grandma sent me looking for him awhile ago and his landlady wanted to know details about him, like his age. "He's mentally ill, isn't he?" she asked.
 "No," I said. "He's just a drunk."
 Though then and now I recall the nights in grandpa's house when he came home drunk and tried to preach to me about the art of living. Now he wanted to die-- maybe figuring life in the next world better than this, or hoping to meet all those who had already kicked off from this coil.
 He was Grandpa's son. The one who took up Grandpa's profession when the other boys wandered off on their own. And perhaps part of Richi died when the old man died. And another part when Alice, his favorite sister, died.
 I remember seeing him cry when they laid her to rest, someone leaning on his shoulder saying at least she was buried near Grandpa, as if such reminders actually made him feel better about life.
 And maybe the IRS had finally caught onto his book keeping tricks, bundles of cash hidden in the houses of all his favorite relations, money of which the government knew nothing. His landlady mumbled about his fear of them.
 Albie said the state had collected Richi and put him in a padded cell up at Bergen Pines.

 "He's half dead already," Albie said-- though very little water got into his lungs. It's what's in his head that killed him. And Richi isn't saying what.

No comments:

Post a Comment