As a teenager, I lay awake in bed, listening with dread to the vague, cold clanging of apparatus being prepared in the bathroom I shared with my two older brothers, Stephen, the eldest, and Robert, our middle sibling.
Like the popular ’60s TV situation comedy with Fred MacMurray as paterfamilias, we were our dad’s “My Three Sons.”
But, on the eve of the 1960s, our family life was about to become situation tragedy.
In September 1959 our mother was stricken, like a bolt of lightning, by a massive brain hemorrhage. I was eerily scared, not by what I saw, but by what I didn’t understand was happening before me.
One moment, she was fine. The next moment, she couldn’t speak. Soon, the ambulance arrived. That’s what greeted my traveling salesman dad when he came home from work in the age before mobile phones.
The ambulance took our mom away. Just like that, she was gone. I never saw her again.
When my dad picked me up at a neighbor’s house, as we crossed the street, a friend of Stephen’s drove by, stopping to ask out the car window, “How’s your wife, Mr. Apar?” It was his turn to lose the power of speech, from being too choked up. It was the first time young Bruce saw his dad cry.
But it was the inconsolable, primal wailing that screamed out of Stephen, as he writhed in endless anguish in a fetal position in the basement, that to this day sends shivers down my spine.
Stephen never recovered. He had just entered senior year of high school. By spring, this motherless man-child was so distraught by how his life had been turned upside down, two months before graduation he dropped out of school.
Worse yet, he dropped in with a crowd that knew how to ease his pain—artificially, momentarily, evilly.
Before long, Stephen was a hard-core heroin addict, stealing to support a habit that cost him, in the 1960s, $50 a day (the equivalent now of $400 a day). It also cost my father his eldest child and me my brother.
Shooting Up Takes You Down
The deeply unnerving noise I heard nightly from the bathroom was Stephen shooting up while handling a spoon, tourniquet and needle. Once my mother was gone, so was Stephen.
One cold December day, the year I graduated college, I picked up the phone at my first job to hear my dad say Stephen had crashed into a tree in the middle of the night and was killed instantly. The tree didn’t kill him. The car didn’t kill him. Heroin took his life long before that fatal crash.
Demons Must Be Beaten
Stephen’s demons got the better of him. Heroin’s demons get the better of each of its victims. It’s not an even fight, it’s not a fair fight.
There are two results from messing with heroin: If you are lucky, it only will ruin your life. If you are not lucky, it will end it.
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not saying using heroin is a fact of life.
I’m here to tell you, and Stephen’s not here to tell you, using heroin is a fact of death.
New York state Senator Terrence Murphy (R-Yorktown) co-chairs the Senate Task Force on Heroin and Opioid Addiction. For further information, visit murphy.nysenate.gov.
Media and marketing specialist Bruce Apar, also known by his nom de blog Bruce The Blog, owns and operates APAR All-Media, a Hudson Valley agency for advertising, content, marketing and public relations. Follow APAR All-Media’s Hudson Valley WXYZ on Facebook and Twitter. Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org.