Cousin Byron 2

Byron 2

As an adult I lost contact with Byron, just seeing him once when my brother got married in the late 1980s. In general, he only held itinerant jobs and never got a steady career off the ground. Similar to my cousin Jimmy, the only thing he seemed to succeed at was failure. Truthfully speaking, I never really knew what he ever did for a living. He did get married and had stepchildren, but seemed to drift in and out of a serious depressive disorder that did not contribute to the overall stability of his life.

In about 2005 he called me to let me know that his depression had relapsed which explained why he had not returned any personal phone calls for the past two years. Apparently his wife could not even stimulate enough interest for him to return calls from friends who only wanted to go fishing. The point of the call was to let me know that he was on a new series of anti-depressant medications that seemed to be lifting him out of that twenty-four month funk. He also wanted me to be sure to know that he was OK and if I had happened to call him in that period of time, he was simply trying to catch up on the vacuum this non-interactive time lag had created in his social life.

That part I could certainly understand. Even without being depressed I have a peculiarly bad habit of avoiding phone calls, but my aversion is career related and due to the fact that the telephone is the worst enemy of the physician’s privacy and peace of mind.

This was different however; as endogenous depression is a serious medical disorder that can truly incapacitate or destroy a person’s ability to lead any kind of normal life, much less sometimes even preserve the will to live.

Both sides of my family have been victimized by this disorder, including my great grandfather and “Aunt” Margaret; both of whom committed suicide; while Aunt Kay, as well as Cousins Jimmy and Byron, were just left withering on the vine of wasted lives because of its devastating effects.

No one knows the biochemistry of depression and most treatments never really seem to offer a resurrection of one’s real persona or even a permanent cure.

However the part I could not understand about Byron was his allusion in another phone call, just after his father had died, that all his problems stemmed from the fact that my brother and me made him play The Poot Catcher when we were children. I was shocked to think that for decades Byron felt as though his psyche had suffered irreparable damage by being forced into that particular role or that this thought was forever smoldering in his subconscious like a small lump of burning coal.

I thought, “OK Byron, when in doubt, always lay the blame on some scapegoat for your own shortcomings in life. No, it couldn’t have been more the case that the rod was spared and the child was spoiled.” Conversely for him, it was by not sparing the hot-rod, which ended up being his spoiler. But instead feeling a bit of compassion for his immediate grief and also not wanting to suggest it was because his father had bought off his childhood with material goods, what I said instead was:

  • Don’t be ridiculous. That was only a child’s game, and it seemed to me we were just having fun.

Although he undoubtedly thought that an overdose of human methane was the culprit for his mood disorder, I was more of the opinion that as children, we all probably had shit for brains anyway.I was forced to hang up on him because the conversation had become too obliquely absurd to continue; and never heard from him again.


Potiac GTO


(Byron’s first toy: The GM Pontiac GTO)


She’s got a competition clutch with four on the floor.

And she purrs like a kitten when the lake pipes roar.

And if that ain’t enough to make you flip your lid

There’s one more thing, I go the pink slip daddy.

And comin’ off the line when the light turns green,

You know she blows ‘em outta the water like you never seen.

I get pushed out of shape, and it’s hard to steer

When I hit rubber in all four gears.

She’ my little deuce coop

You don’t know what I got.

(Little Deuce Coop: The Beach Boys)



Photo source

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