When I reflect on my childhood, I think about my late afternoon lunches with my Uncle Anthony every Sunday. I remember heading to Church in the morning with my Mom and then driving over to my Uncle’s house for lunch directly after. We would drive up to my Uncle’s apartment complex and then knock on the door with a response of “c’mon in” from his gruff, husky voice. After greeting each other with jokes and hellos, we would sit on the couch, munching on crackers and cheese until my Uncle finished cooking. Typically, the meal was mashed potatoes, ham, rolls, sweet potatoes, and salad, finished with cheesecake. We complained about his often repetitive weekly meal at the time, but it was delicious and I would give anything to eat that same lunch again.
After chowing down on my Uncle’s lunch, we would head over to the living room nearby and watch the Patriots or some TV show I would complain about, like Deadliest Catch or River Monsters. Together, we would laugh about the shows and the latest moments in our daily lives; it was always a time of bliss. I often wanted to leave before it got too late, to finish my homework and to prepare for school the next day. Toward the end of high school, after getting a job where I worked 11-5 every Sunday, I missed out on many opportunities to see my Uncle and my family. At the time, Sundays were an “opportunity” to make time and a half, not an opportunity to spend quality time with my family. I try not to regret, but it is hard not to kick myself for wasting time working for meaningless money instead of being with the people I love.
Besides on Sunday afternoons, I would spend time with my Uncle at miscellaneous times, whether that be at family parties or when he was helping my Mom around our house. As someone who did not graduate from high school, my Uncle constantly told me growing up that I needed to attend college after graduating high school. I did not think much of it then, but he encouraged me greatly to do well in school and make my family proud. I am thankful that he watched me walk at graduation and knew that I would be attending Bryant University in the fall.
Although my Uncle was a daring teenager and a “macho-man”, he was incredibly caring to the people he loved. He mowed my Memere’s lawn and shoveled her driveway without a blink of an eye. He helped my Mom with yard work every year, assisting her in opening the pool, cutting wood, and fixing problems within the house. He cooked us lunch every single Sunday and never asked for help. He was a father figure and a support system for many that he met in his late life. And he loved those he cared about, unconditionally.
The memories I have of him will always last. I will never forget picking worms out of the yard with my Uncle to go fishing with. I will never forget going to Portuguese feasts with my Uncle and Mom in the summer time, feasting on malasadas and cacoila. I will never forget going to Iggy’s and eating delicious clam chowder, or receiving images of my Uncle with a clamcake shoved in his mouth whenever I could not go with my family. I will never forget watching and celebrating when the Patriots won the Super Bowl in 2015 with my Uncle in my living room. Unfortunately, I will never forget receiving the scariest phone call of my life from my Mom, telling me to leave work immediately and to head home. I will never forget the feeling of being so helpless, confused, and unsure of what was happening while rushing to my car to drive home. I will never forget standing in my kitchen after driving home, listening to my heartbroken Mother announce to me over the phone that my Uncle had been killed. I will never forget the images of my Uncle and his motorcycle being crushed by a drunk driver, five minutes down the street from my house. I will never stop replaying the scene and torturing myself over the brutal crash my Uncle endured.
When I found out the news I was in total disbelief. I remember crying by myself in my house before my Mom came home. I was in shambles with not only my Uncle’s death but by the reaction that I knew would come from family; there is nothing more painful than seeing the people I love broken-hearted. I almost did not believe it. It is a cliché statement, but the thought that ran through my mind was “how could this happen to us?”. How could our rock be killed by a drunk driver? How could someone do something so cruel to someone so loved? I question almost daily why this happened to my family, but my questions will only be answered by a heavy heart.
Finding out that a family member has passed away is an absolutely gut-wrenching feeling. The only thing worse is finding out that a family member has been killed, recklessly. Drunk driving is perhaps one of the most irresponsible things any person can do. It is not only careless and foolish; it is unforgivable. There is no excuse for drunk driving. It is avoidable in so many different ways. My Uncle’s killer could have called a friend for a ride, used Uber, or simply avoided drinking alcohol. Instead, he decided to consume alcohol, become negligent and thoughtless, and murder my loving Uncle. All deaths are terrible, but this particular type of homicide is inexcusable and deplorable. How could someone risk not only their life, but also the life of others, just to drink? The anger, anguish, and agony my family and I face will always resonate.
This essay is a call for help and a request. I strongly encourage all readers to imagine one of their loved ones as my Uncle. Imagine the pain and misery. Imagine the loss. Imagine the time with lawyers and detectives instead of mourning with family members. Imagine the emptiness. Its morbid and unpleasant to think this way, but we have to collectively understand how irresponsible drunk driving is. We need to protect our neighbors, family, and friends by encouraging safe driving and disapproving of distracted and drunk driving. Although driving under the influence is appalling, it can be stopped. There is hope, as drunk driving is a pure choice. We are the ones who make our decisions. For the sake of our families, I plead that we stop the carelessness of drunk driving.