John Prine described it pretty well when he wrote “Sam Stone” – “but the morphine eased the pain, and the grass grew round his brain, and gave him all the confidence he lacked. With a purple heart and a monkey on his back. There’s a hole in daddy’s arm where all the money goes…”
I remember listening to my dad’s best friend sing that song round the campfire with such passion. I didn’t understand why it meant so much when I was a kid. But it popped right back into my head the day we found out he’d died. We knew he wasn’t ok. He was a drifter and had spent the last few years on the streets, but he always popped by every few months to catch up and get a haircut. It had been over a year. He was still working when the pandemic hit, and his jobsite shut down and suddenly he had $1000/week in government subsidy and nothing to do. Over a year went by without a visit. We tried harder to find him when we knew my uncle’s time was running short (cancer). A week after he passed my dad and I spoke to a friendly cop who took pity on us and looked him up. “I’m so sorry, looks like he OD’d back in April… 2021.” It was September 2nd, 2022. They never bothered to try to find next of kin. He carried a little slip of paper in his pocket with my dad’s info on it since he’d cut all his family out years ago. We were it. I never knew how he got hooked, neither did my dad, but in the end, coke laced with fentanyl got him. The police report said they’d revived him with Narcan but didn’t take him to hospital. He didn’t wake up the next day.
My aunt OD’d early in 2022 as well. A split-second decision saved me from being the one to find her. She was living with my parents and going through a rough divorce and drinking more than usual. She took too many of her prescription tramadol and antidepressants with a beer chaser and wound up in the ICU. She made it through, thank God. I don’t think I could forgive myself if those 5 minutes between when I would have found her, and my dad actually did, would have made a difference.
My father-in-law was hooked on oxy. He crashed his Harley years ago and was prescribed it, and never stopped. When his doctor retired and stopped his supply, he started buying off the streets. Took a handful and went to bed one night. Didn’t wake up.
“Sweet songs never last too long on broken radios” – John Prine