We took care of him when he was little a lot, and I remember so many things vividly about my afterschool adventures with him. I would force him to stand in my mom’s hallway, where I would take a snapshot of him almost every day. We watched the Mighty Ducks 2, a monster truck video called Big Foot vs. Snake Bite. I always wondered if he would grow up and be an evil person because he often cheered for the villain. Never mind, I was forcing him into letting me put him in dresses and into fixing his hair. We rode in my brother’s big green truck, and he loved songs like “Fred Bear” and “Highway to Hell.” We were pals, and I often thought of him more as my little brother than my little nephew.
Eventually I would see him less and less. I became a teenager, and he was a product of two parents who didn’t love one another anymore, and who fought over him. They went onto have their own families with new daughters, and I often wondered if he felt like an outsider. Of course, by this time I was obsessed with my boyfriend, scoping out colleges, and getting ready to start my own life. I was too busy to think about anyone but myself, and too self-absorbed to care.
As I got older and came home from college, and later on Chicago after I moved, I often sought him out at family functions. I didn’t feel connected to anyone in my family because I felt so different, and I think in some ways, that is what brought us together. He felt like someone who didn’t belong, and so did I. We formed a friendship, and it occurred to me that I might actually care about someone other than myself. I remember when he graduated from high school, I was the only one from my side of the family that showed up to his mom’s graduation party for him. It didn’t matter that she had been removed from my family for many years, I grew up knowing her as my brother’s girlfriend, and he was still my little buddy. At that party, I gave him a card that said if he ever wanted to move to Chicago, to not hesitate to let me know. I wanted more for him than Oregon, Ohio. He deserved more than Oregon, Ohio.
We stayed in touch and he visited on occasion. We took him to Vegas for his 21st birthday, and he brought his friends to Chicago for a fun boy’s trip. I’m not sure what triggered his eventual desire to move, but 3 years after that note I gave him at his graduation, he decided to move in. I wasn’t sure what to expect. I had never lived with a 21-year-old boy and my husband before. I wasn’t sure if I had to set boundaries or expectations, if he would be respectful, or even if we would get along, but I knew I wanted him to have a shot at something different.
He moved here in August 2012 before we even knew things were bad. We were blissfully unaware of the monster at the door, and we had a great first 9 months together. We visited bars and had parties; played on softball teams. We went on a trip to California and Las Vegas; we laughed until we cried. He was integrated into our circle of friends and we did everything together. But suddenly, things changed and Jeff turned into someone that neither of us knew. The laughing until we cried stopped, and soon it just was replaced by crying.
Despite this, Lukas stayed. He was there for me when Jeff could not be. He is the only person that witnessed some of the worst with me. We have this shared experience that no one else will ever know or be able to comprehend. Every time Jeff went to the hospital, every time Jeff relapsed, every time Jeff hurt himself, he was here, taking care of the house, and most importantly, without even knowing it, taking care of me. When Jeff went to rehab for two months, I made it through with his help. I didn’t have to shoulder this burden of caring for two dogs, a cat, and a household alone. Before my recovery program, he was the only friend I had; the only person I could count on. He made me laugh again, and reminded me that I could still have fun, in spite of the dark abyss that had surrounded me. When Jeff almost died, I knew I could count on him to take care of things so I could be with Jeff. He understood without me having to speak a word.
After Jeff became sober, he was there for the special challenges sobriety posed. In those first months, without a job or any clue if he could stay sober, Jeff found in Lukas what I had found when Jeff was gone: a friend. We were a team, a family of three, and we lived together as such. We went on a trip up the California coast when Jeff was newly sober, and shared that meaningful journey together as we all figured out what life would look like, post suicide attempt and post drinking. There was no judgment and no fear. We fumbled our way through that first year together.
A lot has changed in the past year. Lukas has started to yearn for something different, and Jeff and I did, too. Lukas decided that his dream is to move somewhere warm and to start somewhere new, and around the same time, Jeff and I got pregnant. We would have found a way to make it work if he had decided to stay, but our journey together has come full circle. With Beaker dying a few weeks ago, and now Lukas deciding to strike out on his own, this chapter of our lives together has come to a close.
It is so powerful for me to see the universe at work, to know that all of this, our whole experience together, has had a purpose. I’m not sure if he knows it, but I believe we were brought together for a reason. He needed a way out, and I would come to need him. He taught me how to love something unconditionally, how to be selfless, and what it is like to care for someone else more than you care for yourself. I learned not to take myself so seriously, that there is always room for laughter, and to look at things from a different perspective. There aren’t many things I love in this world, and he is at the top of the list. I feel sad that he is leaving, but happy that he is finding his way. I hope he finds everything he is looking for. Because of him, I was able to find what I was looking for, too.
"I hope you learn to make it on your own
And if you love yourself just know you'll never be alone
I hope that you get everything you want and that you chose
I hope that it's the realest thing that you ever know
Hope you get the pretty girls, that's pretty at everything
Million dollar cribs havin' million dollar dreams
And when you get it all just remember one thing
Remember one thing
That one man could change the world
That one man could change the world" One Man Can Change the World, Big Sean