“What’s so new about Mexico”?
That is the question Sonny posed to me while driving down Washington Blvd. Though I was no geography expert, at 16 I knew the states pretty well. I was laughing, assuming he was making a joke. When I turned to look at him he was staring at me seriously. “Are you being serious?” I said laughing. “Yes! What the hell is so new about Mexico?” I couldn’t breath I was laughing so hard. “Sonny, it’s a state!” I replied. “No it’s not.” Sonny was two years my senior and definitely a smart guy. Why this failed to make sense to him still has me laughing today. He didn’t believe that New Mexico was a state until I went home (to my parents house) and looked it up in the set of encyclopedias my parents owned. Even then he thought it was some conspiracy against him.
Or the time he came home from the police academy and was complaining of his calf hurting. We looked and he had two small red marks on his calf. Sonny looked at me with all sincerity and said, “I think a snake bit me.” I started to roll around on the carpet in laughter and said, “You didn’t get bit by a snake.” Sonny’s retorted, “You DON’T KNOW, you’ve never been bitten by a snake!!” I was in tears from laughter and said, “…Neither have you!”
Sonny always had the ability to make me laugh. His sense of humor was off the wall and his wit was quick. We spent so many hours just driving around and talking about what we were going to be when we grew up. We’d listen to police scanners, knowing that this would help us learn the 10 codes, and just dream of the day we’d become cops. For me it was a way to show every teacher that said I couldn’t be a cop I could, but for Sonny it was a way to help those less fortunate.
When Sonny was finally hired on as Salt Lake City Police it was one of his most proud moments. Unfortunately it would be our marriages downfall.
I met him when I was 13, married when I was 21 and divorced when I was 22. Those 9 years were pivotal in shaping who am I today. We both taught each other so much about life and though he couldn’t take the strain of living anymore, I’ll always remember him as the “Dr. Pepper” guy. It wasn’t until our divorce that Sonny turned to alcohol to medicate his emotional traumas.
In our numerous conversations in the last few years I would encourage him to get help. Hell, I even wrote to the TV show Intervention hoping they could give him the help the rest of us couldn’t. But in true Sonny fashion he refused help and bull headedly claimed he was doing fine. But those of us that really knew him where aware this was a lie. Knowing the pains he suffered as a child, the pain of our divorce, the suicide of his wife clearly led me to believe that Sonny, yet again, was suffering.
I’d take his calls at 2am and listen to his woes. I’d listen to him speak about work, the meaning of life, the downfall of people in general. In all of this I’d know, and tell Sonny, that he was hurting. On numerous occasions I told him that he was acting tough when he just wanted to be weak. Most times he’d mock me for saying such things, but I stood strong in my opinion and usually, he’d concede that he was lost.
He’d ask me over and over why I loved life. I’d try to explain that it’s the people, groups we involve ourselves in and passion for anything that keeps people going. I tried explaining that his love of animals could be a passion. I told him to volunteer to anything he liked, but he just didn’t seem ready to involve himself in anything.
We spoke frankly about Aimee (his wife who committed suicide) and on most occasions he’d try to down play this traumatic event. Well downplay isn’t the word, he’d try to act as though he were ok with it. We all knew better.
On Dec. 16th I got a text from a friend that grew up with us asking if I’d heard about Sonny. Immediately I knew. I knew that the burden of living was just too much for Sonny and that he had taken his own life. When it was confirmed that he was dead I didn’t even need to ask how, I knew. I’d known for years that Sonny wasn’t meant to remain here with all the trauma he’d endured in his short life. But even knowing this, I couldn’t help but wonder if I’d done everything I could for him. Could I have called more often? Could I have had him over at the house more? Could I have text him each day to make sure he was ok?
And then reality hit me. It wouldn’t have mattered. None of those things would have helped Sonny. Those things would have helped me cope better. Only Sonny could help Sonny and he was tired of trying. And truly, who am I to judge another person and their decisions? Who am I to say this was the wrong decision for him? Selfishly I wish he would have chosen some other way to cope, but that’s not for me to decide right? Selfishly I want to get more phone calls from Sonny (even the annoying early morning ones). Selfishly I wish I could have had the perfect words to change Sonny’s life. But none of us have this power.
So with tears in my eyes I will say goodbye to you. I still have every single letter we ever exchanged, and when I won’t become a slobbering mess, I’ll go through them and think of you when you were happy. I have a lock of your hair, and I’ll touch it remembering how safe you used to feel. I still have a motorcycle key from the accident, and I’ll remember how endearing and protecting you were when tragedy struck. I still have every picture from every high school dance and I’ll protect and preserve them for the remainder of my days. But most of all, I have 9 years of incredible memories from when we were kids to becoming adults. I had ALL my firsts with you. First road trip, first dinners out, first date, first hand holding, and my first sexual experiences. You’re an amazing man Sonny and my life would never have been the same without you. Thank you for loving me. I consider myself lucky that I had the chance to love you back!