Well? Did you see it last week? Nope!
I didn't have the time to send you a grateful message last Friday. It was Tristan's birthday week and the gud stuff was hella busy along with real estate gaining traction. I kept "wanting" to do it.. (different than making the time)... I care so much about what I post that I wasn't going to just shit something out. I entertained sharing a message on Tuesday or Wednesday.. Had all the pics and was like, there's no wrong time for a grateful message... Right?!
I even knew it had been a while since I talked about our family or even showed pics of our growing ass kids... so I was jacked to talk about them. But as the universe would have it, it made me wait, wait to talk about our family..
This past Tuesday, June 2nd, exactly 5 months from the passing of Chas's Mom, Dale, Dale's ex-fiance, surrogate father to our little brother Ryan, Shawn Coffey was found dead in his bedroom apartment; by no one other than Ryan himself. :( Sean was only 47. :(
A picture here from our wedding in 2003 This was Chas's side of the family.
left to right: Ryan, Shawn, Dale, Dale's Mom Tilly, Me, and Chas.
It was a couple years later that Dale and Shawn would split up and go on their own path. Our little brother Ryan didn't grow up with a dad or father figure. Shawn never had children of his own either.. but to Shawn's amazingly huge heart, he kept in close touch with Ryan... Regardless of the split, Shawn kept in touch with Ryan throughout the years. Ultimately leading to Shawn being Ryan's surrogate father.
Although Chas and I didn't see Shawn nearly as much as we would have liked, he was always! a part of our family - especially Ryan's. Over the years Ryan would be brought under the wing of Shawn's family and get to know Shawn's brother and his mom. Every year when we would plan our Thanksgiving or Christmas's Ryan was always leaving from or going to Shawn's family.
Shawn loved, loved sports! His hobby was collecting memorabilia from all kinds or sports. While living with Dale he had his own "sports room".. It was a really neat thing he was so proud of. Even though the poor dude couldn't spell the word "hammer" to save his precious ass. haha! I remember being asked to repair an old wooden gate at Dales house. I recall Shawn saying "I was just going to pour glue all over to fix it" hahah! lord Shawn! he was the biggest man child kid I've had ever known... Regardless of any kind of shortcoming he had, as we all have our own, Shawn had the biggest, like the BIGGEST heart on the damn planet. Such a gentle man. Soft spoken. Damn he was gentle!
This Tuesday I was at the table with a client and I had missed 3 calls by Chas. I knew I needed to answer. Being 100% removed from the idea that she called 3 times, I casually answered. Chas was already a mess.. She asked where I was.. I told her. She said I need you to go get Ryan!! I'm still trying to process what the hell?!.. "Shawn's dead, Ryan just found him!"
Shit... like what the F?!..
Without missing a beat, I hung up on Chas (which I never do) and worked my way out the door. Over the years I have had WAY too many of these "died, passed away" calls from her. Like enough already! I'm thinking what the hell.. this cannot be happening. Shawn was so young, 47, poor Ryan... he just lost his Mom 5 months ago... shit, now this.
Literally a week prior Ryan had just moved in with Shawn so he could get his financials and life in a better spot. We've all been there trying to make ends meet and a little help always made the difference. This was going to be a good thing for the both of them.. How exciting for Ryan, how cool for Shawn!
I collected myself in thoughts and called Chas back. She gave me the details of what happened. In a mess she said Ryan can't be alone. He needs us. I thought out the logistics and told her I will go get him. It'd take too long to come home and get you... She said that the police will be there until someone gets there to be with Ryan.
I was fast on my way!
I inconveniently happened to be on the other side of town, 40 minutes away. In a calm demeanor with a sense of urgency, I tried my hardest but couldn't get there soon enough. Dancing with traffic, answering calls and texts (sh... don't tell Chas)... I was trying to prepare myself for where I was going.
I pulled up to the apartments 40 minutes later. The traffic gods were on my side and allowed me to get there smoothly. It wasn't hard to miss, when I got there, there were two police tahoes sitting in a line... with a truck full of tools I said F'it and parked right in front of them.
Cautiously and collected I approached the stairs. A covid masked officer greeted me and lets me in. I gently placed my hands on Ryan's shoulder, he looked up in a panicked startle, dropped the phone, stood up and embraced me hard.... Shit!... I was just here with him 5 months ago at his mom's bedside... shit, what do I say?!.. .F....
I held him...
The wall in front of me was all mirror. I could see my larger, older brother-body hold this broken, emotionally obliterated little boy in my arms.. Unopened boxes of Ryan's stuff fill the space between us and the wall... I patted him, talked to him, shit I can't remember even what I said... what do you even say??... you don't say anything.. just be there. Feeling the heat from his back as I patted him. I had flashes in my mind of moments after his mom passed. Shawn's little chiwawa dog, Lilly, is just sitting there. Not moving quickly, just looking around. Those big precious round marble eyes looking all around. She looked like a lost kid on the playground wondering what the hell is going on.
Shit. My heart was breaking...
I can't believe this.
I cradled him more...
Just 10' away in another room, Shawn's lifeless body lay waiting for the coroner to arrive. The officers were looking at me, hands on their vests, just holding the fort down until Shawn can be taken out.
I felt like a fly on the wall. It was a feeling like I never will forget. Shit. This was life. I consoled my little brother and he told me how and what... how traumatic. I can't imagine. He had just moved in!... damn!...
In short time Ryan collected himself as best he could.. I asked the vulnerable questions to the officers, what happens next, what, how and so on and so forth? We went into Shawn's second room, his sports room, Ryan's new bedroom. All Ryan's stuff placed around having freshly just moved in. We all know what a bedroom looks like when it's brand new.. this was that. While Ryan packs his bags, I'm processing what I'm seeing.
It sucked so bad. I felt helpless.
We collected enough of Ryan's things to give us a day or so... We picked up Lilly and drove another 40 minutes home. The radio in my truck didn't work.. so all I could do was talk casually, not ask questions. There was a time I thought, what the hell is Dale going to say?.. how is she going to deal with this?... SHIT... that's not going to happen.
All I could do was just talk without being a chatterbox.. meanwhile the sun visor is down blocking the setting sun's rays in Ryan's face. Worn out and beat to piss.. He was in rough shape. Ryan had his hands blocking the sun in Lilly's face too. He would do this for the entire 40 min drive home. She sat in his lap, cradled in the purple blanket.. she has shit of an idea of what's going on.. but she's calm and collected in his arms. Between the silence of talking all we can hear is the high pitched whine of the tires. It's a hypnotic sound.. I often drive just listening to the tires. It's surprisingly calming. We talked about that as we neared home.
We make it home... As soon as he's within feet of Chas, he buries his little head into his big sister's chest. He's shaking in decompression with Chas.. in an effort to help, I took Lilly from Ryan and brought her inside to welcome her to her new temporary home of 4 other dogs. Man Bison (my big ass rhodesian ridgeback boxer mix) can be such a dick to other dogs... She held her own though.
As the night would progress we came to find out Shawn's mom still didn't know... we struggled getting a hold of Shawn's younger brother... damnit! ... being a grownup sucks shit!. It's nearing 10pm. We can't go to bed and just tell her in the morning... A decision was made to go break the news in person... easy and hard all at the same time.
Ryan and I got in the Accord and drove another 30 min back into town.
The stresses mounted as we neared her apartment. This was a new kind of stress... poor Ryan. Shit. He just found Shawn and now he needs to do this next step. At least I was there with him... I was 100% a fly on the wall.. I had never met her before.. shit this was stressful! I've seen this a ton of times on the movies or on Cops before.. but here we are, facing this real life shit show of responsibility. I hated it.. but I as odd as it sounds, it was a privilege. Shawn deserved this. His Mom deserved this.
I was there 100% for support. This was my little brother's deal and he owned it.. owned it like a Samurai falling on his sword, owned it. I was so, SO proud of him. There we sit, literally on the floor of Shawn's Mom's kitchen. Graciously spoken, empathetically delivered, a crash landing from hell and my brother nailed it. It was hard watching his mom take it. Literally take it. Her motherly chin quivering, holding it together, applauding Ryan for making that difficult decision to drive out to see her in person.. being the messenger from the other side. Man. I was so proud of him. but shit this sucked!
When we finished delivering this heartbreaking news to Shawn's mom, we left with a heavy ass heart, drove another 10/15 min up the road and got Ryan's car and came back home. It was near 12AM when we got home. Chas and Ryan spent the night on the couch together.
The next morning Ryan and I drove back to the apartment to collect his stuff. Before Ryan and I left that night I gave the officers one of my extra mechanical lock boxes in my handyman truck. This was so we could leave and the officers could lock up after they had taken Shawn out of the apartment. Of the near 250 jobs I've done.. I have NEVER used that lockbox. Shit.. there we were, putting the code in to enter the apartment I had a sudden flash of when I put that into my truck.... like out of a movie zooming in on the placed, not used lockbox.. little did I know what I would use that for. Like shit man?! shit!
We entered a very sad home. Shawns wallet had been opened up so officers could take ID pictures.. it was eery.. with a lump in his throat and a lovingly courageous heart, Ryan brings me into Shawns room. F... this sucked! Ryan tells me the details.. I'm there for him, for Shawn. Shit this sucked. There on the floor you can see where Shawn last laid. Shit. Shit... like what the hell?! this wasn't right!? A single bite taken out of his very last meal - ever! Shit. F.... lord this was hard! The ball in Ryan's throat rang clear as he held it together.
This sucked.. Life shit right on him, on us.
As messed up as this is, thankfully all of Ryan's stuff was for the most part 90% still packed having been not unloaded during his first week of moving in. I let my brother lead the situation while he grieved and put on a good face.
Eventually we loaded up all of his belongings and brought them and him home. Just a few months ago we had redone our house to move on and grieve the loss of their Mom... and here we were, undoing everything in the quiet room for my little brother to live with us.
Many years ago, Ryan had lived with Chas and I during his last year of high school. Dale moved to Lousianna and suggested Ryan move with her. Knowing there was one last senior year left, Chas and I owned the responsibility of Ryan and took care of him as if he were our own child. Chas and I were barely 25... Avin was 2 years old and we were also raising a 17 year old... on my way to work I would dive 30 min into town to bring him to school... then as the day would end, Chas would pick up from school. We taught him how to drive, got his first job... man! talk about growing up quick - all of us.
Now, here we were 15 or so years into the future from that time... moving our little brother back into our home. I had learned SO, SO! much in how to never!! treat someone.. (Ryan).. he prepared me for a life of raising a teenager in a way I would never have known. There we are that Wednesday afternoon.. sweating balls at 110 degrees moving out.. grieving, laughing, sweating more, my oldest boy, Avin... 15 years old now... 2 years younger than Ryan was when he first came to live with us is helping us move personal items into a storage building..
Shit. this is life!
Shit.. this was love!
As I take the recently renovated room apart, Ryan looks at all that I had done to get that room set up in a gud way.. he's like man?!..I feel so bad, all this work you've done.. man...
In a calming response I said "It's just wires buddy"... "I can put this back together later".. I never would have ever, ever been able to predict this moment! But here we were. Here we are. Roomies again. A grown man from the child we helped raise... sharing a wall with his now grown ass 15 year old nephew... also down the hall from his other 10 year old nephew..
Man. Life has a weird way of doing what it does.
I was proud to help him. He deserved this kind of love, this kind of help.
Here we are now, today... Ryan's room has a glimpse of the freshness I helped him reluctantly unload just 18 hours ago . He's happy, he's in a safe place. But despite the tough face, the strong demeanor I see in there.. I still see the fragile little boy I was holding just days while my 38 year old face looked back at me.
I love this kid as if he was my own child.
But he's my little brother..
Life has an F'ed up way of "knighting you" as you age... This past year is NO exception! we can't control the effects of this universal shit from hell.. but we can control how we respond.. Chas, Avin, Tristan and I have his back.
That's all I can come to words with. Never in a million years would I have imagined such an emotionally wroughting image.
Damnit. I feel like dick having even composed such a picture.
But this is life. There are no reset buttons from this image.
This is finality.
and F! it hurts! Lord does it hurt!
There are times I feel bad about writing something so long.. like I really do. But how can one show love for someone without giving them the time they rightfully deserve. If I had more words to give Shawn I would. Lord knows he will be missed! ..
As I was leaving Ryan and Shawns appartement a passer-byer said "what happened?".. I didn't have the heart to tell her. So I played dumb. (thank the heavens I had been thinking about this during the entire! time I was loading my truck) so I was prepared... I told her "I honestly have no clue... I was just asked to help move a buddy out"... her response will summarize this entire shit show.
"I saw them bring out a body bag yesterday.... was it the guy who lived here?... He was SUCH A NICE GUY"...
My heart 100% ate shit after that.
She was walking her dog as she approached her car under the covered canopy.. I don't know why but her license plate had a handicap symbol on it. She stared across the way in wonder. I know she was processing what the hell... especially after I told her I didn't know...
It sucked to watch. It was 100% genuine and out of the love for Ryan and Shawn, I had prepared to lie.
She watched Ryan across the street in his U-Haul truck waiting for me to make my way out. I could tell she was processing if it was the new roommate guy or the one who owned the lease?.. I could tell she was moved.
It was hard to watch from my fly on the wall perspective.
The part that made me feel sorta ok about this entire shit show was that a complete stranger "knew" emphatically knew! Shawn was such a nice guy.... damnit! as I write this the ball in my throat swells and my eyes water. .. Meanwhile the song "November Rain" plays in the background.
Where do I go from this?! I've not let down from this shit since all this has happened. Shit! That's all I got. Shit!. Man this burden of observation hurts SO! F... F! this hurts!
Lord I'm sorry.
This is not easy, but shit I need to get this out!
Tears well up from my face and pour down rampantly. My sun scorected cheeks hurt as I wipe the tears with my shirt... a small buren to tolerate as I willfully shoulder this responsibility the universe had knighted me with. I own it entirely. Just like a Samurai would falling on his sword - I love this family.
Before I continue to ramble in a stress filled element of shear grief I need to come to a close on my thoughts. Shawn deserved every word of this homage! Ryan's courageous heart deserved every word of this homage!
Ryan's birthday is tomorrow. <3
Shit this is hard.
There is NO mistaking the love seen in this picture. Rest in peace Shawn! We honor you daily, we miss you daily! Thank you for having such an amazingly huge heart!
Shawn was a born and bred diehard Pittsburgh Steelers fan.. I can't think of anything more fitting for such a guy: Heinz Field in Pittsburgh.
You made! a difference Shawn!
We love you.