Monday, December 17, 2012
"Do you know Aaron Hoffart, born February 20, 1984?"
"He's my brother."
"He took his own life." There may be more to this statement, but that's all I can remember.
My legs gave out on me. I literally fell down. Yet as I sat there, my mind racing, I couldn't say that I was actually surprised.
He was a happy child. We played with G.I. Joe and Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles toys together. We saved up our allowances and bought a Sega Genesis, and played Streets of Rage 2 for hours upon hours. We played with Legos, and my son now plays with the Legos that Aaron bought after I felt I had outgrown them.
He was also quite gifted. Not quite as smart as I am, possibly, but then again I am one of the smartest people you could ever meet. (I say that without boasting.) He was more gifted than I in science and math. He became a Walter Scott Scholar at the University of Nebraska, Omaha. He was doing quite well.
And you can, ultimately, trace his demise back to this: His program was eliminated. He had to start essentially from scratch. He didn't deal well with failure, with setbacks. He started struggling with school. He lost his scholarship, which was like a free ride on steroids. He beat himself up over it, particularly because he had a couple years earlier seen me squandering my own free ride, although everything ended up working out well for me after I met the right girl.
He came to live with us for a while, taking the last classes he needed to get his degree. When I found out he had dropped the class, I told him he needed to move out. That was, I thought, an implied part of our arrangement. This was four years ago, but I now regret it.
He seemed to be better. He found a job, working security. He completed his degree, without debt. He was well loved, calling me and coming to see me and my family about once a month. But he couldn't find the perfect job. He was someone who had always had things work out well for him, because he deserved it. He was very gifted, after all. But that one setback ruined it. (Thanks a lot, Chancellor Perlman.)
He quit his security job, over some issues he had with it. He seemed to be happier for it. My parents spent Thanksgiving with him. I talked to him for 22 minutes and 17 seconds on Wednesday the 5th, when he called me at 6:57, but I had to cut him short to bathe the kids and get them ready for bed. We made plans for Christmas; he thought about bringing a mincemeat pie, and got ideas for Christmas presents for my kids. I tried to find out what he wanted for Christmas, and surreptitiously got him to suggest a bottle of Knob Creek. He said that would be nice, because he hadn't had any for a while. If I could go back, I would have talked to him all night, and invited him over for the next day, paying for his gas. His friends all seemed to be moving to the next stages of their lives, and his friend's dog (Aaron walked it regularly) had gone elsewhere. He had no responsibilities, nothing to do every day.
So on Friday night, he put a sign on the door to the garage where he lived with a friend, warning of toxic fumes. That is very, very Aaron of him to do. He started up two cars, so the carbon monoxide was a failsafe. And he shot himself in the head. This is also a very, very Aaron thing to do, to have a failsafe like this. I also can't help but think of Dust's "Suicide," wherein is described multiple methods of committing that act.
No one thought ill of him. My wife, Laura, she loved him. My kids loved him. Halsey, my little girl, loved to go up to him and sit in his lap. Now, my only hope is that the tree he gave us will live a long and healthy life in our back yard.
I'm still trying to wrap my head around this. It doesn't seem real. I'm still trying to decide if I want to see his badly mangled body, or if that will be too traumatic. I feel bad for his best friend and roommate, who found him. I want to call Aaron, and talk to him, but I can't.
I love my little brother, and I miss him. I want to play Legos with him again, with my son too. I want him to come on Christmas, and eat all the food I've bought.
Aaron, I miss you.