In 2020 I wrote an article called “A Simple Man’s Path of Addiction.” It detailed the story of my younger brother, Scott, and his ongoing struggle with being an addict. Recall, I had visited him in 2019 on President’s Day weekend. He had been admitted to the Recuperative Care center in the north San Fernando Valley. This center would help him to clean out his system of the drugs he had been using and then he would be able to go to rehab for further treatment.
When I arrived there on the very windy and chilly date in February 2019, I let the person at the front desk know that I had called a day ahead to schedule a visit and she told me it would be a few minutes and to please wait in the reception area. I watched the people there from all walks of life, as they were either being helped to use the restroom, or were awaiting counseling, and those who were waiting to be checked out to then leave the facility. I didn’t judge them for I had not walked in their shoes.
I noticed one man, I would say in his late 40s, had a business suit on. He was rolling his luggage out and leaving. I wondered about him, and why he was there. I watched him as he waited for his ride and then an SUV pulled up and he put his suitcase in, and he was gone. In some way I hoped that his leaving was symbolic of him never having to be there again, although I’ll never know if that was the case or not.
The care center was just south of our dad’s office. Across the street from the center was the mortuary where our mom’s body was taken before she was cremated. Just over the wall of the parking area on the other side was the San Fernando Mission and where our neighbor was buried. She had lived until her early 90s and her headstone said, “Go with the angels, darling,” and when I needed comfort, I would visit her gravesite and see the lovely angel statue nearby. Ah, the irony of all things surrounding my brother while he was there, that were part of our collective lives.
After our visit, we hugged goodbye, and I told him that our sister was going to visit him before he left for rehab and take him to the nearby Subway sandwich place. Two days later she called to let him know she was coming and the person at the front desk said our brother had left the day before and took a bus back to MacArthur Park.
What I didn’t realize is that would be the last time I saw him.
In September 2020, he called my home phone and asked me if I was impressed that he remembered my number. I told him yes that was impressive. He asked me if I could help him get a place and I said that I couldn’t take on anymore at that time. I let him know that our dad had been in the hospital and had been released. He was genuinely concerned about our father, and I assured him that he was doing fine. I let him know my mother-in-law had fallen and was in a physical therapy place and that my father-in-law needed my husband and me to help him more as he was getting older and COVID was permeating everyone’s life. Even he could tell that Jen was spent, and he said, “OK, I understand.” In my heart I knew I couldn’t do any more than I had done for him, the myriad of things too numerous to mention. I then told him to take care and we hung up.
What I didn’t know is that it would be our last phone conversation.
On Feb. 16, 2023, in the wee hours of the morning, my niece got the call that her dad, my brother, had died of a drug overdose. He had been at a train station near Hollywood and a lady was seen doing CPR on him. When the first responders arrived, they administered Narcan, and continued CPR, but to no avail. The coroner was able to do a DNA test and my niece’s name came up. They looked for her name in my brother’s cell phone and they found her number and they called her.
She called me at 2:47 a.m. that Thursday, and so did my stepmother. For some reason the coroner had also called her, but I had my phone on silent because I was going to be on a plane early that morning. While my husband was driving me to the airport at 6:26 a.m., my niece called me, and I put her on speaker phone. I said, “Good morning.” Her voice was cracking, and I could tell she was crying. She told me that her dad was gone, he had died. I started to tear up and I let her know how sorry I was and that if she needed anything to please let me know. While we were on the phone, I shared some heartfelt memories and I told her to grieve and heal. I let her know that I was going to be out of town, but to call me if needed.
I had mentioned in my previous article about my brother that I have ringtones for the people in my life. All are songs that remind me of them. For many years Scott’s ringtone was Tom Petty’s “Refugee” and one day I asked him what his favorite song was, and he told me: “A Simple Man” by Lynyrd Skynyrd. I immediately downloaded it and made it Scott’s ringtone:
“Oh, take your time, don’t live too fast
“Troubles will come and they will pass
“You’ll find a woman and you’ll find love
“And don’t forget, son, there is someone up above”
— Lynyrd Skynyrd
Rest in peace Scott, may you finally be at peace! Love, Jen.
Jennifer Danny is a Santa Clarita resident.