Saturday, July 21, 2012

It was a Sunday evening.

The caller identified himself as the sheriff from the  Brookings 911. The time was 5:30 p.m on Sunday, July 17, 2011.

Are you Rosaria Williams? 
We need to talk to you. 
What is this about? Can't you tell me on the phone?
Do you still live on Circle Drive?
I never lived on Circle Drive. You must have the wrong Rosaria Williams.
Your birthdate is...
We need to talk to you. We'll be there in a half hour with the local police car.

I immediately thought someone had been impersonating me, had committed some crime or other, and the police was coming over to take me to jail. Ken, I said, as I changed and put shoes on, Ken, follow us to the county jail and bail me out.

Within fifteen minutes the local police was in our driveway. Officer Rose was alone. He always joked with us on the streets of Port Orford, in his patrol car, as Ken and I took our daily walks.
He asked if my husband was home. I called for Ken to join us in the living room.

Sit down, were his first words.
What is it? I still thought he had a warrant and was trying to be friendly before he  took me away.
I have bad news. Your son Brian was found dead this morning.
You must have the wrong person.
Brian Williams, from Fullerton.
He must be some other Brian Williams. My son lives in Long Beach.
I want you to talk to detective Malone from the Fullerton Police Department. He can provide you with details. Here is his number.

Ken called the Fullerton Police Department. His face was somber and tense. He listened for a while, and then took down some names and numbers. He looked at me and nodded.

It must be a mistake. How tall is this person? Ask them that. Ask how much he weighs! I was now shouting at Ken, angry at him for taking the other's words as facts. No way, I kept saying. No way. He'd be with Janet, with other friends. Who was he with? What happened?

Ken kept talking on the phone. I kept looking at him and shaking my head.

When the call ended, Ken shared these facts:

Brian was at a party next door to Kalen's brother's apartment. After the party, a neighbor got angry, followed Brian out the door and hit him hard, causing him to land flat on the pavement. The police thought there had been a fight. Kalen and his brother took him home to sleep. The next morning, Brian couldn't be roused, and the boys called 911.

We could have left for Long Beach the same night, but Ken needed refills on his meds, and we waited for the next morning before deciding how to travel.
We called our other children.
We walked to our neighbor to alert her of our situation.
We left messages cancelling appointments coming up.
We cleaned house.
We left messages at the Coroner's office to learn more.
We packed.

The next day we drove our SUV south, to gather Brian's animals and things, and to plan for his funeral. I was on the phone the entire trip, talking to my children, to Janet, police, coroner, funeral arrangements.

By the time we arrived in Long Beach we were exhausted. Neighbors met us at the door.

The place was clean; the animals well cared; the refrigerator and freezer totally stocked, thanks to Janet. She had a detailed design of the Memorial when she joined us a few hours later. We were united on this goal, as people began to show up that same evening to talk about Brian,  to express their sympathies.

For the next three weeks, our energies went to support the work of the many volunteers organized by Janet, to order materials and tools, to select plants, to meet with police, funeral personnel, Brian's work,  to share meals with as many people as remained late in the evenings after it was too dark to work.

Johnny, the neighbor boy who kept walking Butters for us, kept showing up with more tools, more materials that were needed. He and his family were there for us every step of the way. Neighbors put up with a lot of noise; with people coming and going; with cars lined up all over the place; with dump trucks being delivered empty and picked up full; with materials being delivered.

After the funeral and memorial, after the house was emptied of furniture and goods, after Butters was adopted, after the garden was completed, after the last dump truck was filled, Ken and I turned the house key to the bank that held the mortgage, packed a few things, and with Newkie whining in her cage, we deposited the probate materials with our son Scott who would later deliver them to the attorney, and  headed back home,  north to Oregon, to a quiet time to mourn.

This morning, as usual, we talked about Brian. We'll be talking about him until we can't talk anymore.

Monday, July 2, 2012

A year ago...

Brian and Janet on the deck in Port Orford, July 4th weekend, 2011.
Butters and Walrus 
just below this deck.
You two enjoying the scene.

Walrus watching Butters.

Butters watching Walrus.

We had just had our Fourth of July lunch, after the parade:
BBQ ribs, Boston baked beans, fried artichokes, green salad,
hummus, pizza bites, corn on the cob.
You and Janet
Pia and Jason
Dad and I 
Walrus and Butters.

We celebrated our many blessings together that week:
Your Dad's and my 45th Anniversary;
Your engagement to Janet the previous spring;
Dad's upcoming birthday;
and our nation's birthday.

You and Janet had just returned from our little town's parade, llamas' and tractors' and horses' and a  musicians'  parade. In the afternoon, you thought of joining the Jerry cans race, or the golf on the beach, or the square dancing in the moonlight. You had made plans to join Claire Davis, Janet's school friend, to watch the Fireworks Celebration at Battlerock Park.

It all felt like a golden time, with all of you, (minus your brother and his family), a family reunion of sorts I could look forward to every year. We had never had a proper reunion, with all our relatives, close and far.
We talked about saving the 4th of July to spend together.
 Every year.

 Before you two drove back to Southern Cal., you took apart the big monster rototiller that had been too big for us to bring down to Long Beach the previous winter in our SUV. You packed it in pieces, and stuffed it in the trunk of your BMW, knowing what you wanted to do to that yard of yours,  you and Janet building dreams, to and from Oregon.

After your sudden death, we could have used many rototillers. Friends and colleagues spent days and days trimming trees, removing debris and old sheds, cutting up  soil, adding amendments, turning the soil over until the place was ready for new plantings.
A trellis and  boardwalk were erected, (thanks to Janet's father and brother who did all the construction work,)  and loving messages  were inscribed on the back of each plank, each step from the house to the trellis, all written in silence and in prayer on the day of your memorial.

People you had known in elementary, high school and  college,  friends I had not seen in decades, dozens of new people I never met before, people you worked with, neighbors and friends of Janet, parents of friends, people I worked with and knew about you,  everyone came to say goodbye in a personal way, by penning their farewell message, by building the garden, donating money for resources and special plants, doing all they could do in your memory.
Even Butters pawed her message, on the last board, before it was nailed down.

The house  in Long Beach is going up  for sale this month.
The new owners will never know the dreams contained in that space, the love shared under those trees,  the generous outpouring of resources and labor that went  to create a lasting tribute to your generous and loving soul.

Your Dad and I, your brother and sister, relatives and friends who came from everywhere heard about the wonderful adult you had become, a thoughtful guy who was always willing to lend a hand.

We will gather every July, son, in your memory, in your honor.
You will always shine brightly in our firmament.
Much love.