Monday, January 4, 2016

My Brother Drew

By Joe Cunningham

Sometimes I walk the creekwalk to the mall. It runs from Downtown Syracuse, by The Soundgarden - the best little music store you’ve ever been to, to Destiny USA, which is as much of a big deal as it is a misnomer. I only go there now when I really need to vent, which is simultaneous with a long catching-up session with my brother.

Andrew is 20 some-odd years old (I’ve gotten to the point where I stop keeping track of the ages of my seven siblings, though I remember all their birthdays without fail or Facebook), taller than I, and has kind of an old soul. He didn’t always though; no he did not always.

Drew in his prime.

We slowly stroll the two or three miles there and the same distance back. In the summer it used to smell like shit when you got to the water. Onondaga Lake will always be the once “dirtiest lake in the world” for our generation. I think my grandkids, if I ever have those, will know it differently. I ran the path a hundred times when I trained for the Marines. That was a long time ago. The wiff of shit would hit you after Franklin Square, perhaps one of the nicest places to be in Syracuse.

I love that trail.

Drew and I would always walk it together. Neither of us liked to sit still, call it A. D. D. or whatever the fuck they say these days. The conversation would usually go something like this: I’d say something about how my lack of a good relationship was going or not going; he’d listen. I’d ask him about how he was doing and he’d wax on about it for a short time and then, I’d say I understood or give him some random, passionate advice. Then we’d recall some moment from our family’s past and laugh; and laugh again. And then I’d bring it back to my current ex-relationship. It kind of always happened like that; and repeated.

The subtext of it all was “good to see you” and something like we both cared about each other in a way only brothers can; and not the “you’re my brother” way that gets added as you make close friends, I mean brothers.

I’m writing this now from the Starbucks - very cliche, I know - where he worked some time ago. I can’t put my finger on the date right now. Half the staff remembers him: quiet, “a great guy, the best” I hear often. I’m still “Drew’s brother” here: part of the reason I like coming back. He is: a great guy. And better if only they knew the other half.

I had to turn on “What’s Goin On” on Spotify. The music just got too lame all of a sudden; or I just noticed.

“Who are they to judge us, simply ‘cause our hair is long?” My hair’s not that long; it’s just a great song.

I remember Drew. I remember my Mom telling the story over and over again about my second-best friend Drew Julian being so excited in Kindergarten when he was born as if my parents had “named him after me!” I remember babysitting my younger siblings. Lucy, the eldest and the only older than me, must have been out with my parents to some thing - I can’t remember that side of the memory. I just remember this moment when I tucked my brother in, Andrew then. It’s clear as day, that part. He was the cutest kid when he was a little tike. Me and Kevin (two years older than Drew, four years younger than I) would lay on the carpet with him and laugh as we imitated him blowing bubbles or whatever.

I remember tucking him in that night. He must have been three or four. I tucked the blanket around him like a kid likes to be tucked (I knew, I had been one or was), and I kissed him on the forehead. It was the kind of kiss you give a young sibling. I closed the door and said goodnight, big smile on both our faces. Somehow - and I remember this clearly - I knew it would be the last time I would ever kiss him.

You just don’t do that shit when you get older.

We loved Drew. I remember the girls in his class did too. I was always the awkward type, couldn’t tell if a girl was hitting on me at twelve better than at 29. They were always all over Drew when I came to walk him to the bus or something like that. They are all hot now, those girls [laughs].

Little Andrew "Rockadoodle"
He was fun and funny from a young age. I remember it really taking off when he was a teenager. We all would silently look forward to any family dinner with Drew. He always had the most random, hilarious comments to add, choke-on-your-food laughing anecdotes, and the best sarcastic face reactions to whatever anyone else was saying, especially when it was bullshit.

My sisters' boyfriends’ especially.

[I’ve got this song on repeat; how I roll.] “Don’t punish me, with brutality.”

Did I mention he was a drummer? It was after many months of my Mother going crazy from his incessant tapping around his desk (we were all homeschooled after ‘98, don’t ask) that he somehow managed to get a drum set, in the garage. He’d be out there night and day if he could’ve been. And he was in a number of bands with his pothead friends from highschool (they all went to a small Catholic highschool in Auburn after I left for the seminary; I know right - all of the above?).

Llaz, Ben, Drew, Dres

He was good; Drew was a natural. He didn’t think he was that great either, which in my mind makes someone better: both in character and in the pursuit of excellence.

And then there was Margaret. McAloon. She was - for lack of a better explanation - the mother my Mom never had. After my great-grandmother died and my great-grandfather had been wrongfully accused of keeping his children in the pigeon cages he -

Starbucks is closed. I was the last one, minus someone’s boyfriend. Sometimes I can’t tell if being a regular there is a good thing from a barista’s standpoint. I’ll have to ask Drew. It’s right around the corner from my house [apartment] and the coffee is good, despite the “always buy local” Chris Fowler in my conscience, on my shoulder, what have you. My ex-wife was a barista. That’s the long addiction story short.

I plugged in the Christmas tree, by accident really. It’s on the power strip I have my laptop plugged into. My son likes that he’s taller than it (he’s almost 3, but tall), and I don’t like dealing with the full-size ones: not now, not as a single dad and not without a house. It’s proportional to this semi-acceptable temporary residence.

Where was I?

(That was a calculated hiatus.)

[“...Talk to me, so you can see… Oh, what’s goin on…!”] Yep.

So my grandmother was taken away from her father, her sibling(s) too, because of a false accusation that her father was abusing them. And ironically, they were raped in foster care; several times I think. She never recovered. Something was wrong forever, they said. My Mom told me that my grandfather told her, that after he married her mother, something snapped, something had been wrong and he didn’t see it until then. I can believe that. They divorced after seven kids, all of them feeling the painful effects of whatever was wrong with her.

That is how the story was told to me. All my young life, minus a brief moment I don’t remember, I didn’t see my grandmother, “the crazy one.” She might as well have been dead, like my Father’s father when he was a kid. (I never knew him, obviously.) It was always “she is very hurtful” and we never understood; well, not never.

One self-righteous moment of mine when I was back on a short break from the seminary, I convinced my Mom to go see her. We all went. It was a wake, I can’t remember who’s. My grandmother was very cold, and then, seeing my Roman collar, she proceeded to try to vent to me about the injustices inflicted on her by her family, including my Mother. That’s when I knew it was bullshit. My Mother didn’t add up to someone who inflicted injustice, not like that.

She had been a nun, my Mother; and when she got out she had nowhere to go. I know what that’s like. It was her “second mother” - Margaret - that took her in. So when Margaret’s house in the city got ransacked by burglars, for the second time, I believe; my Mother, her power-of-appointment, took her in. An eye for an eye.

Mom & Margaret with Bingley, Llazmin's dog.

We grew up with Margaret as something of a great-aunt. She never forgot our birthdays, always mailed us a $10 check in a card. Always. Her house - she had grown up there since she was 8 - was preserved from forty-odd years ago, or whenever her parents had died. It was like a museum. Kevin and I used to do yard work there. I hated that.

She always had something to say about everything and didn’t hold anything back - anything! When she got to our house she had dementia, so it was even worse.

I always lose track of how many times old people break their hips or have heart attacks or whatever (I know, karma: I’m gonna do both twelve times for saying that) and she was on hip-surgery-I-can’t-remember, so when she got there she was in a wheelchair.

With the dementia it was like having another kid in the house. She would bitch to Mom, Mom would deal with it; she’d need to be helped at all times (also Mom), she would say random shit at the dinner table; and she couldn’t hear well either, you kinda had to yell at her.

She liked me - hell, I was gonna be a priest (she was very religious); she liked the older kids, probably more memories with us. She hated my brother Ben (the youngest) - they used to legit insult each other - especially her to him about his weight at the time. She made him cry once. (Coulda slapped her for that, but I don’t hit women.) But she loved Andrew, and he loved her.

We would all get the biggest kick out of watching them interact with each other. My God! He would come in - all 6 plus feet-tall of him, look at Margaret from across the room, and then stretch his arms out in the air and shake them at her yelling - at the top of his lungs - something like:

“MARGARET!!!! What the FUCK are you doing up?” And she would just smile at him - having heard all of that - and let out a little chuckle that sounded more like someone farting through a trumpet than a laugh.

That was their relationship.

It was only Drew who could be like that around her. It was something of a love-language; and I’ve never seen anything like it since, probably never will.

There are countless pictures of them together: and by together I mean his arm around her on the couch: she being 80-odd years old, and he, a pot-smoking reincarnation of James Dean, maybe 19 at the time. Regardless, they were magnetic.

Drew (center), Dres (left), with Margaret.
It was only Drew who - when Margaret would interrupt my Father’s long-ass grace-before-meals with a comment like, “Sue, why aren’t you putting Ben into more sports?” - Andrew would turn his head, immediately attract the attention of everyone in the room, and loudly say, “Margaret - shut up!” And she would, like a schoolgirl in front of her crush.

I had to change the music. Marvin Gaye is great but I kill songs: play them 100 times and then… Onto “Hurt” by Christina A. - my current addiction for the last 12 hours. And maybe the next couple of days (or the end of this story, it will end [laughs]).

Margaret died. I can’t remember when. It was a couple years ago. She fainted or had a heart attack (I can’t remember) at my wedding, during the Mother-son dance (that’s not when she died, it was soon after). I remember that all-too well: my Mother dancing with me, holding me so tightly, the woman I loved the most in all my life, to a song that continues to break my heart every time I hear it. I had partially closed my eyes and could see, somewhat, all the people crying. I was almost one of them. (My Mom was, of course.) Suddenly there’s a tap on Mom’s shoulder and my Dad’s pulling her away (because Margaret was down, we didn’t find that out for days). My now-ex-wife stepped in and continued dancing with me. I think that was the only good part of that wedding (Mom). And Kevin’s speech.

Mom & me, Ireland

After Margaret died, something died in Drew; but that wasn’t the moment that changed him forever.

My parents have eight children: “six biological and two adopted” - I have to say a million times. I don’t count Andres and Llazmin as anything different from my other siblings. I love the shit outta them, and we’ve been through quite a bit together; and they’ve been through quite a bit more than we have. They have the literal scars to prove it. That’s a story for another time.

[What it says.]

I remember holding Andres down, literally holding his legs down while my Father held his arms. He was - God - eight? He kept running away when he first got here. I almost got arrested once, at my Father’s Mother’s funeral, for chasing him down. His stepfather tried to kill him when he was three. He almost succeeded, many times.

Eventually the running away stopped. Andrew was a big part of that. They were the same age with basically the same name in two languages. They did everything together - good or bad. They shared their toys, had bunkbeds (so did Kevin and I), had inside jokes, the same friends, went everywhere together, same sports teams - everything. And I remember a time when they found a bird’s nest and killed all the baby birds together; and when I found them I chased them down, yelling at them with tears in my eyes, like the eldest brother should.

The only time I ever broke a bone in my body was when Dres got to my ribs. We always rough-housed, and I never went full force: they were too small and I was jacked then. I pushed Drew off easy, but Dres didn’t stop and had some sort of murder in his eyes; and I didn’t want to do any serious damage to him. I found a rib sticking out under my skin after that. It healed I guess.
Bros (4 of 5): [left to right] me, Dres, Drew, Kevin [not in picture: Ben].

When Margaret was around the house - they were much older then - I’ll never forget crying laughing when they recounted how they would basically terrorize her without her knowing. She would wheel herself with her feet to her room on our first floor - it was mine for nine months after she died when I returned from the seminary (before I almost went ape-shit nuts and had to get away from my parents), and she’d get stuck on the door frame. The house was ancient (1820?) and a beam on the floor would catch her wheels. She’d struggle to get over the hump, and when she did - somehow - Drew and Dres would pull her back over the bump, and she’d exhale in frustration, forgetting she had just achieved this, and start again.

I don’t know why that was so funny. Probably because I knew how much Drew loved her; and partly for the hell she put my Mom through those months before she left and never came back.

[“I’m sorry for - blaming you - for everything - I just couldn’t do; and I’ve hurt myself…”]

Drew's car at Mom & Dad's

I was in Connecticut when it happened. So was Kevin. He joined the seminary before I did - 7th grade and I in my senior year. I remember getting the phone call. It was my Mom. Andres was in jail.

I remember hearing it from her eyes. My sisters were away that night: Lucy, Katie, and Llazmin. They were staying over at Katie’s then-boyfriend’s, now-husband’s apartment in Skaneateles. Ben was upstairs, so were Mom and Dad. Dres had gotten into some trouble: my Mom found porn, knives, money, and shit under his mattress. He was grounded: had to sleep on the back porch couch. We grew up with that couch. That was the night it burned.

My Father - I can’t fucking remember why he went downstairs - but when he did, the back porch was on fire, and he had just enough time to put it out with the garden hose. Had he not not slept - Ben, Mom, and him…

And Drew! Fuck, that was the clincher. Drew was upstairs sleeping too!

Dres was gone. He had run away again, of course, after starting the fire. It was a matter of moments before the police were after him. There was a helicopter and dogs, police scanning the woods.

I wasn’t there, but my Mom recounted this to me later as the moment when Andrew understood that Dres really did need help. It was a constant debate with him where he’d shrug it off whenever Mom talked about his adopted almost-twin brother as someone who needed special care, help, and consideration. Drew didn’t believe that, and his funny, happy-go-lucky attitude that used to cheer us all up didn’t either.

My Mom says Drew walked out - the middle of that night - saw the charcoaled parts of the house from the fire, saw the police going back and forth with the dogs, and started to cry. As she told me about it, I could see Drew there in my mind’s eye - running back and forth, screaming Andres’s name, asking him to come back.

And that was when Andrew left and never came back.

Some Christmas past.
I visited Dres in the - whatever they call that thing where they put him. I came home for a few days not long after that. Nobody really talked about it, but that was talking about it. It was a few years of various rehabs and whatnots til we got to see him at family events again (Dres). And we never saw Drew again, not the Drew we knew.

He was a barista at the Starbucks now near me, downtown before that. Everyone, like I said, loved him. Even they noticed the change. It was impossible not to. It was like someone had pulled the plug, deflated the balloon, or insert-your-own-analogy. It was hard to deal with. Like I cried inside every time I saw him like that.

We used to go ghost hunting a lot. (Long stories.) I remember buying a large pizza at Dominoes and sitting on the bleachers outside B’ville High and eating a third of it with Drew and his friend Lauren, also a barista; and then going out ghost hunting nearby. Everybody said they were getting married. Drew setup a Facebook (event) marriage for them; followed by a divorce a week later. Anyone who knew them knew that was the way it was. And I knew he wasn’t in any shape to do anything like that for real.

Lauren & Drew

Like I said, I left the seminary when I was 24. Long story, no need to get into it here. I came home for nine months, got a job at an auto parts factory, spent all my money on movie tickets and pizza and shit like that. Mom and Dad used to wait up for us (me and Drew) when we were out late as if we were little kids. Dad would take away any DVDs I brought home that he didn’t approve of (Pulp Fiction, Inglorious Bastards, Gia, Boys Don’t Cry, to name a few). I was fucking 24 years old!

I bought a portable DVD player and sat in the cornfield and watched all the “contraband.” No joke.

Last year, or was it the year before, Andrew was sitting in the passenger seat of the car with my Mom; she was driving him to an appointment with a shrink I think. He had been in the psych ward for short time before my Mom took him out so she could take care of him. It’s really like hell in there, I’ve seen it (and I’ll get to that). I forgot what inciting incident made that come about, besides the night I already mentioned. Well, that day, she was driving him for the checkup and he just screamed and dove out the car into a snowbank, then got up and ran off.

Drew and Mom

My brothers used to disappear into the woods behind our house. It was the country in Baldwinsville so we heard shots fired (hunters) almost everyday.

That day, Drew went off into the woods alone. And afterwards came one of the worst blizzards we’ve ever had. I remember being in my apartment with my son, miles away, holding him while I teared up thinking about Drew, and how they would find his body and he wouldn’t be around at all anymore. And I asked God to save him; and I wanted to go out there, but there was nothing I could do; I was a single dad, and had to stay with my kid.

The cops looked for him all night, Mom said, rescue workers too. I remember him telling me, during one of our long walks on the creekwalk, that night he wasn’t trying to kill himself, though everyone thought he was - that he was looking for himself - that he was out there, trying to find Andrew Cunningham, the one that had gone away into the woods with Andres the night of the fire.

Drew came back, what was left of him; and they arrested him, drove him away, and put him back in the insane asylum.

I went to see him once; twice maybe. He was there for, God, too long. This time my Mom didn’t want to take him out too early, but it became very clear, there was really only one doctor who gave a shit about him, and the rest were just filling out their charts and punching the clock.

I remember going to see him: getting buzzed in and going through security. If you’ve seen the movie One Flew Over The Cukoo’s Nest - it was exactly that: people drooling, shuffling from here to there; playing boardgames children play; watching television; or just sitting there not doing any fucking thing at all.

Ben, me, Drew
 One of the ugly, smelly old woman (smelled like they never showered) made some sort of cat-call in my direction when I got there. Drew had gained a lot of weight: he was basically not exercising at all. I brought him a candy bar. The time before it was a calzone. (We used to always get calzones at Zonies after the creekwalk.) He gobbled them both down like they were elixirs of life.

Maybe they were for a moment, from that place.

It was so hard to see him there. The last time I saw him, my Mom had told me not to really listen to him: that he wasn’t in his right mind and he would try to talk me into getting him out of there. When he started talking about how he had “figured it all out,” I almost cried. I didn’t know what to fucking say.

I called my Mom after and she told me she was looking into all sorts of options to get him out: a farm somewhere where they rehab people like that, and other shit.

He went in diagnosed “schizophrenic.” When I brought the calzone, he told me all about his roommate this, his roommate that. I never met the roommate. I was thinking about A Beautiful Mind the whole time though.

He was discharged with “schizophrenic tendencies” and put in some sort of halfway house, charged with taking meds twice a day. During our walks - we were always brutally honest - he told me how he couldn’t even masterbate with those meds - like the opposite effect of Viagra.

We went to the same shrink. I had a lot to deal with too (don’t know if I’ll ever write about that). Doc told me “nothing wrong” with me, that I was “unusually strong” and that he didn’t understand how I could be so resilient. Neither did I. I didn’t know if that was just shrink bullshit; until Drew told me some of the things the doctor told him.

Every time we hung out after he got out, he didn’t wanna see other people. We’d avoid former friends, people he knew. It was hard: it was like he was a turtle crawling into a shell, when I knew him as the life of the party not a few years before.

I took him to the movies on Christmas (The Big Short); he took me Friday - New Year’s, for The Hateful Eight - both great films. We both love good movies. Before dropping him home, we talked for a second about a movie idea he had; and we made each other laugh. That hadn’t happened in a long time.

Drew was always into music and knew as much about it as I did films (I’m a fanatic). I played “Stan” by Eminem for him in the car on the way to Hateful Eight. When it goes from Dido to the new beat, he got noticeably excited, as anyone in their right mind would. I guess that wasn’t the best song to play - all things considered. (Spoiler alert: it’s about a fan who kills himself, and someone else.)

Dres is fine. He has a beautiful son and is engaged to the mother. I see them and the siblings that aren’t in Chicago, Minnesota, or Japan at Christmas, Easter, and other typical family holidays at my parents’ house. It’s my parents’ house now.

I can’t put a date on it but so much happened there it changed the way I look at life. I was there just the other day for a few hours for lunch: just me, Drew, Mom, Dad, and Ben. I can only stay there for a few hours at time now; otherwise I go crazy: cabin fever, claustrophobia, I don’t know; it’s like a mental claustrophobia.

Dad and Mom, Ireland '06

I left there for good, minus the nine-month pitstop of being treated like a 24 year-old teenager, when I was 17. I was gone for seven years: Dublin, Rome, New Hampshire, Connecticut, New York, Philadelphia, and back to Syracuse. Since then I’ve had apartments all across the shitty side of the city and now in Liverpool, something nicer for my kid. I’ve never felt at home in any of them.

My Mom calls it home, their house: “7250,” as my Dad says. New Year’s when I looked out into the woods, I could feel the distance from the very place I was standing - loud - like a deafening thought you can’t shake: a bad dream that you remember so well it makes you shiver when you get up, and a half hour later. I was looking out into the woods, and Drew was in the other room, but he wasn’t: he was somewhere out among the trees - the Drew I knew when we were younger, when we were more innocent and hadn’t gone through so much shit that had left me scarred and my brother broken.

I’ve been a lot of places since we were kids, but I’ve never come back home. God, it’s been at least 13 years since I’ve been home, and I don’t think I can ever go back.


  1. Could it be that Drew's spirit and heart were broken that night his brother and friend was hunted down like a dirty dog? Give Drew a copy of "The Power of Now"...he'll know right where to find himself. For now a song for Drew.

    1. I too love this story. Did you in some way change it, or combine it with another story you'd written?

    2. No. It is the same. But the same things can affect people differently at different times.

  2. I cant stop crying. Omg I'm completely speechless by this story. Poor drew I can't imagine having the life sucked out of me so young and living with that your whole life. Then you Joe having to watch your brothers change and become a completely different person. God had a plan for you I believe and I see where it was going. Alot of it has to do with your amazing writing skills. You are a True born author! This story will affect so many people who have most likely gone through similar events. From all the battles you and your family have had in life, look how amazingly strong u are today! I have so much respect for your mother and all she has battled with Drew and your brothers. What an amazing woman to care for all you guys and support you while heartedly. God Bless you and your family!!!! I can't wait to read the sequel

  3. Drew sent me this the other day. I felt the need to post it here. I have no other words.

    I had to post it in several comments.

    Andrew Cunningham
    Before Anything Else
    Been meaning to write this for awhile now. Only problem is beforehand I had no firm grasp on a conclusion. In this particular scenario there is a most crucial piece that must be in place in order to be complete. I can finally say ive found that piece. What I am about to tell you is a series of events leading up to an answer that I have been searching for for God knows how long.
    I knew something was missing.
    From as far back as I can remember i’ve felt an emptiness inside that held no answers. I’ve been searching ever since. In the younger years it was easy to forget about it for a time. The search that is. I had my family and all that would be required for healthy living. It wasn’t until the end of highschool that things began to deteriorate. Little did I know that this was the start of my search. I say this because up until this point it was easy to turn a blind eye to the inner distress that I was facing. Some would say that this was when things shifted and I “lost” my inner sense of who I was. Little did I know that this was the very beginning of the search to understand who I was aside from the seemingly carefree and happy person those around me had stated that I was. From an exterior point of view I can see why this was apparent. But internally, I now see it as an escape from who I really am.
    After highschool I took the “logical next step” and went to Community College for a grand total of 2 wks. I then got a job as a barista at starbucks where I was employed for 3 yrs off and on. In the midst of working I went back to college for a semester, started a band in Nashville, and worked as a barista/barback at a hotel in Syracuse NY. As I spent more time outside of the family life and into the world I felt the emptiness growing. There was a tension that I was constantly putting off. Questions that had urgently been awaiting an answer.
    Then I snapped...

  4. I remember the night it happened and into the morning. I had just finished my shift out at starbucks and ventured home to continue my after-work routine which consisted of smoking weed, eating, and watching movies until the wee hours of the morning. Only this night I looked around me and for the first time felt an incredible sense of isolation. Nothing in the room made sense. I touched the table. I tried to get a laugh out of Tommy Boy playing on my dvd player. I listened to my parents in the other room. Empty. I didn’t get to sleep that night. The next morning my mom was downstairs in the kitchen. I told her I felt that I was going to hurt someone. Did I really feel like I was going to hurt someone? NO! I never had any intentions of hurting anyone but I needed an answer and for me this was a way out of sheer desperation to seek help. When one doesn’t know the question and is looking for answers nontheless where does one start?
    I was taken to 4b a psych ward in the syracuse area and was administered medications and therapists to try and determine what was going on. This time around I met some interesting people, but in the end was seemingly no closer to finding my answer. Due to the medications I was feeling alittle less tense. I went back to starbucks and continued working. Time passed and I found myself reaching a breaking point as I was walking with my Dad around our block in baldwinsville. I remember saying to him “Dad, i really wanna connect with you but I feel as though we are both history books who describe events that have taken place but have no real depth to them. I want to feel with you. I want to love you. And right now I don’t” My Dad affirmed that he too was trying to connect and draw closer with me. But it wasn’t enough. I sprinted the rest of the way home and collapsed on our front lawn. It was freezing rain. I outstretched my arms with the intention to feel at least the physical sensation of the rain but inside felt entirely empty. My Dad urged me to come inside and after awhile I did. I ran to my room, paced back and forth and screamed “NO! Don’t take me. I want to live. I want to live!” I could feel both an evil presence and a good fighting within me in a last ditch effort it seemed to make sense of where I was. I began throwing up stomach bile. My younger brother also one of my closest friends looked on in a desperation to do anything he could. When one is not expressing an emotion how can we know what to do? And that was just it. I was empty inside wanting desperatly to express it but how? From an outward perspective I can see where you would think I was acting like a little bitch. But hear me out. there is more to this confusion. Otherwise I wouldn’t be here to tell you. My Dad brought me to the hospital psych ward for the second time. As I sat in the waiting room I saw those whom were experiencing pain. I could see it on their faces. Thats what made it so difficult. For those accompanying their loved ones were giving me what I like to call “death looks”. Outwardly I was showing no signs of experiencing pain. To them it could easily be construed as a waste of a bed or an overdramatic kid who doesnt get enough attention. To me it was an inner conflict that had been building up much of my whole life as far as I can remember. As the doctor came to ask what was wrong i could give him no answer. I told him I felt extremely anxious inside. He told me to wait. As I waited with my Dad I lied on the hospital bed in the waiting room and broke down. Screaming at the top of my lungs my whole body tensed up and I fell to the floor. 4 EMTS rushed in the room and held me down as my body convulsed due to the tension. I could feel it though. And as painful as it was I kept saying “ I cant stop! Its all that I can feel” as one EMT said to the other “This is like nothing i have ever seen”. Me too I thought.

  5. I was in my room at the psych ward this for my second time.When I found myself praying for the first time as sincerely as I have ever prayed before. It was a time of need. And I needed something to get me through. An answer in the midst of why I was feeling so tense. My prayer was as follows. “ God, show me my pain. Im not asking for a cure. Just show me my pain”. As always afterwards I felt abandoned. Only this time I walked out of my room into the hospital hall and proceeded down to the end. As I passsed the room next to me a woman peeked her head out and looked at me as if with something to say. Taken aback by this I continued walking. She approached from behind and touched my shoulder asking “Are you Andrew Cunningham” Shocked I said that I was. She then told me these words “God told me to tell you you don’t have to be like your parents”. I couldn’t believe it! An answer to my prayer! I left the hospital and went back to work once more. This time reflecting on her words daily. What was I doing that my parents do that is making me tense and unfulfilled?
    Months pass and I find myself at my brother Andres’s house where he is attempting to connect. Through no fault of his own it seems impossible to get through to me. Im sitting there trying desperatly to connect with him but something is missing. We sit there and a National Geographic special comes on the air. We are at a part when a lion is taking down a gazelle when my brother shouts “Get Him!” In this moment something strange occurs inside of me. I feel a strange urge to laugh. At the moment I am so unsure of what to do I ask to be excused for a moment. I drive down to E.Genesse St in syracuse. Its 2am. Fresh snow, golden streetlight. I begin to laugh for 15 mins straight for no particular reason that I am aware of. All I know is that I have never felt like this before. The tension subsides. A fellow walker passes me on the street. I can’t stop laughing. I didnt want to stop laughing. I dont stop laughing. He begins to laugh. Not in a malicious way but in a friendly warm way. One that suggests we both are lauging at a shared joke. He nods and I am the only one on the street again. My first connection! At this time I think to myself that I have reached the pinnacle of my thinking and that the moment at my brothers suggests that internally I have died. Meaning my mind has figured out everything that can be figured out in a lifetime. Irrational and alittle crazy. But at the time it was the only thing that made sense. I drove home with the intention of waking my family up to tell them the life-changing transformation that had just occured. Its important to realize how little i knew at the time. All I knew was I had experienced something I had never experienced before. I found my Dad downstairs perusing the kitchen at around 4am which is not altogether uncommon. And I proceed to tell him what had just occurred. I tell him that I have reached the pinnacle of my thinking and that i am a direct link to those who have a hard time expressing their thoughts. But something was missing once again. I struggled in those 45 mins of reaching out to my dad with the issue of realizing that you need emotion to connect. At the time I didnt believe I had any emotion. It was so new to me that sense of connecting on the street with a perfect stranger that I was baffled and confused once more. I told my dad as soon as I found out what was wrong I would tell him. I was close! So goddamn close I could cry! Wouldnt that be nice I thought.

  6. As I proceeded up the stairs I picked up a brochure for “Boys Town” an organization that helps boys in need. To help them on their feet and assist them where others have failed. I opened the brochure and read a story of a boy whose father had deserted him when he was 3yrs old. he joined a gang to provide for his family at age 14 and at 19 went to college without notifying his gang. this of course resulted in him being beaten senseless almost to the point of death. Upon his recovery at Boys Town he had a strong desire to help boys in similiar situations such as his. Why am I telling you this? Well, I felt that I had gone through a similiar situation such as his. In my mind. All the times I would reach out and try to connect to be met with a confusion. Or a misunderstanding. Or a distance far between us when all I had intended to do was to connect and love. I felt I had been beaten senseless in my head. I felt I had struggled with my thoughts with the same intensity as this young mans life. But how could I convey that to him if I was to meet him? At this time I believed it was impossible to connect for lack of emotion. I had alot to learn. Yes, I understand I am missing the picture at this part of the story. but The story is not over.
    The next morning I awoke to hear my parents talking in the kitchen. I had never felt such fear in my life! Fear becuase what was I? A lifeless body that verbally transmits sounds suggesting that he is hungry or sad or angry? Without being able to emotionally transmit these things to another. I immediatley went down the backstairs and into the garage. Inside I found a snowsuit, a pair of gloves, a hat, boots, and a scarf all perfectly lined up in the garage. Which is no easy feat in a house full of 8 kids. I was on my way to a place where no human would be. In a search for what all humans need. I was searching for God.

    As I walked on the road trying to find where I would veer off into the woods the thought was ever present in my head. Where can I find you? Why am I here? When will it be made clear? I entered the woods on the worst snowstorm of the year and proceeded aimlessly through ravines and frozen brooks. Through briar patches and thorns. When suddenly I heard a baby crying. Shocked by this I paused a moment to let it sink in that that was indeed what I had heard. I walked towards where I thought it had come from. And found no baby or animal that would make such a sound. I heard it again. This time from further into the woods.Again I found no baby. But I did find a place where I could be alone away from all others so as to search for a meaning to all this confusion.... I was in an old snowmobile trail and I proceeded to walk back and forth the length of about a halfmile pathway. I began thinking. And the first thing that came into my head was the story of Adam and Eve.

  7. In the story of creation stated in the bible there is God’s first man and woman. Adam and Eve. I remember thinking to myself what if Eve, upon eating the apple off of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, refused to know anymore then what she knew. Meaning upon knowing everything possible she told the devil “I know everything and now I would like to go back to not knowing anything. You may have your apple back. Im going with God” I imagined an old VHS tape upon rewinding that scene finding the apple particle coming back out of Eves mouth and back onto the apple. The apple receding back onto the tree and the devil receding back into the woods. I thought to myself if I can know good and evil to the extent that Adam and Eve did when they first ate of the apple and then refuse to know more. i could disappear into nothing and be with God. For God, in my opinion, knows everything and nothing at the same time. He is and always was. That is why the devil cannot fathom him and wants to be him becuase he knows everything but cant know nothing. Think about it. Nothing is a concept no one can understand. But it is beautiful in the sense that with God it exists and is a part of him. And so I didnt have to know gas prices, or math algorithims, or what the price of ground beef was at wegmans. I simply had to know good and evil to the extent that God and the Devil knew and I would dissapear when the devil tried to get me to learn more of what God knows. I would be with him becuase that was the only way. I had no purpose on this earth aside from that. I believed at the time that I simply could not connect.(Furthur discussion on the topic of good and evil if we ever end up meeting).
    And so there I was pacing back and forth fighting the devil with all I had. Pausing to hold my breath and outstretch my arms in the hopes that I knew what it would take to dissapear. Its important also to note I was not in this to prove anything to anyone. I was leaving and that was that. After 8 long hours I outstretched my arms for a final time, held my breath, and cleared my mind. In hopes that I would find a home. And then hunger set in. My physical needs from sleep deprivation to cold fingers and toes to hunger and a hot shower kicked in. Immediatley I abandoned my position and went home dissapointed and upset that I was crawling back to a life with no meaning. Or so I thought.......
    Drenched from head to toe and shivering I found my way home that snowfilled day to a house driveway full of cars. Two of which belonged to the Baldwinsville Police. At this point what could I say? They had been searching for 7 hrs for me. A man who was simply trying to dissapear. And when i say dissapear I do not mean kill myself. There is a difference. Call it a temporary confusion. But a confusion nontheless. And one in which killing myself was not my intention. It was over I thought. The police had asked me what my intentions were. Not knowing what to say I told them I had planned to kill myself. I was on my way to the psych ward for the 3rd and final time.
    Nurses, social workers, therapists, doctors. All questioning me as to why I had done what I had done. And in the first 3 mins of my arrival it was determined that I was schizoprhenic. This did not bother me however becuase I knew that the minute I stepped out of the hospital I was going to put a bullet in my head and that would be that. But that is not what would happen!

  8. On the third day of my stay at the hospital I was pacing back and forth down the corrider and I thought to myself “What happened that day on E.Gennesee St? “The day that I had laughed and experienced somethign completly brand new to me’. What I had realized is that my entire life I have had reason to think but have never had reason to feel thus giving me my first reason to feel! In other words for the first time in my life I could prove I was alive! and it was beautiful!
    Things began to change slowly. I had something to defend! I had an investment in why I was alive! I knew that I wanted to be alive! And I loved! But this was not over
    I ended up having to go to Hutchings inpatient in Syracuse for 3 months as my parents felt it would be fruitless to have me home after all that had happened. A feeling I am glad they felt. Currently I am in a program that helps get those struggling with a mental illness back on their feet. Do i Believe I have a mental illness? Absolutly not! I believe I have stumbled on to a life worth living at a very early stage in my devolpment. However, this leads to my conclusion.
    The other day as I was in session with my therapist she exclamied” Your reading me! Your looking for a reaction to a truth you know nothing about for yourself” She was right. I have been constantly looking to others to verify that I am alive for awhile now. It will take sometime to overcome. But one thing is clear. I am aware that I am alive! haha weird I know. But true. And I couldnt be more grateful...
    I urge you to go listen to Voodoo Child as a side note... That makes me feel like a newborn in awesome wonder of life. I hope this can shed some light on where im at. And if in anyway it helps you that is amazing and wonderful. I am growing my love constantly. I am mine. And hopefully in time will be yours fully. From one struggling human to the next


    1. "You are not your thoughts but rather the gap between two thoughts"..."No thing". Echart Tolle.

      Sometimes we unconciously turn away from God/Being/Life/Love. Perhaps that time when you so freely laughed you were finally with Being again, and the man laughing with you was none other than you and Being all at once, laughing and rejoicing at your had awakened to life Being. It's you and more than you.

      "The word God has become empty of meaning through thousands of years of misuse. I use it sometimes, but I do so sparingly. By misuse, I mean that people who have never glimpsed the realm of the Sacred, the infinite vastness behind that word, use it with great conviction, is if they knew what they were talking about. Or they argue against it, as if they knew what it is that they are denying. This misuse gives rise to absurd beliefs, assertions, and egoic delusions, such as my or our God is the only true God and your God is false.
      The word God has become a closed concept. The moment the word is uttered, a mental image is created, no longer, perhaps of an old man with a white beard, but still a mental representation of someone or something outside you, and yes, almost inevitably a male someone or something.
      Neither God nor being or any other word can defend or explain the ineffable reality behind the word, so the only important question is whether the word is a help or hindrance in enabling you to experience That which it points. Does it Point Beyond itself to that transcendental reality, or does it lend itself too easily to becoming no more than an Idol in your head that you believe in, a mental Idol?
      The word Being explains nothing, but norather does God. Being, however has the advantage that it is an open-concept. It does not reduce the infinite invisible to a finite entity. It is impossible to form a mental image of it. Nobody can claim exclusive possession of being. It is YOUR VERY ESSENCE, and it is immediately accessible to you as the feeling of YOUR OWN PRESENCE, the realization that I am that is prior to "I am" that is prior to I am "this" or I am "that". So it is only a small step from the word Being to the experience of Being. - a excerpt from The Power of Now.