Name at birth: Albert Ward Grant, III Date of birth: 23 October 1962 Place of birth: Boston, Massachusetts Date of death: 20 August, 1997 Place of death: Boston, Massachusetts Place of burial: Ashes scattered in Buzzard’s Bay, Massachusetts
Submitted by: Dawn Schramm (Bob_W_Schramm@amoco.com)
You are missed.
In creating this memorial for “Skipper” our purpose has been 2 fold. First a place to go to remember a life precious to us, and second to hopefully affect a life of anyone addicted to drugs. My nephew had many losses in his young life, his mother tragically taken from his life to battle cancer, when he was 3 yrs old, and her total loss to him thru her death when he was 4. A stepmother lost tragically to him as a young teenager. Skipper was born with huge feet and a huge smile, the first to carry his “hulk” of a body, and the second to win our hearts and connive pretty much whatever he wanted from anyone. His spirit was a gentle one and his heart tender. He loved the outdoors and all its many wonders. His father gave him his love for the sea, which remained with him for his life. He would choose his boat or the beach or a woodland ground rather than a bed to sleep. He always had a dog for a constant companion. He was not a student as he had a learning disability, and at that time little was done to compensate it. He was very smart and could make “things” work, and later was successful in his construction business. He gravitated to alcohol as a young teenager, and I am sure pot and other things. I think he thought it made him a “man” and compensated for his lack of self esteem. His friends were the same and still fight the battle today. The “good ole boys,” harty har har. Well it has not been harty har har, as their lives have all been compromised or lost because of it, and their loved ones hurt immeasurably. Skipper ran away at 13 and was gone for a year and a half. He came down my driveway one fall day, and I thought my heart would break. He was gone again within weeks, and married at 15. A father at 16. He was an alcoholic, a free spirit, and still a boy. Harder drugs became involved, but he was very apt with a “smile” and a lie, so we were never really sure. Another child, other women, a divorce all by 17. He lived by his smile and his wits and his whims, he was still a boy. Skipper was Skipper and we just accepted it—we talked and lectured but did not take action. Then it never occurred to us, not so much was available. There was no quality to his life. As I write this I can hear him say “oh auntie I have quality in my life—I am doing what I want” and grin at me like I was nuts. My quality, conventional quality, responsibility all evaded him—he was always a boy, even in the man’s body. He could eat you out of house and home, and drink even more, I had pot grow under my deck from his seeds. We loved him to pieces. Holidays he was stoned or drunk out of his mind because they were painful to him. He never talked much about his pain, but it was evident. Looking back, even more becomes obvious to me. I wish —I wish we had done things differently. We should have —we didn’t. He is gone. He was an awesome fisherman and there are many harried tales of people who have “survived” with him on the sea. He was at home there and had no fear, and the sea was kind to him. He finally achieved his dream—a 32 ft sailboat—he made money, lots of it, thru his talent with heavy equipment. He married again, he had his children. Life was good—he shot up. He lost his wife, and his girls. He ended up going to jail for a while because of his addiction. Jail killed him, he was not a criminal in his heart or spirit and he was never the same. He never said he was an alcoholic and would never put the beer down. Jail made him be clean and he looked good and came out clean—we thought. He had strange friends now—cringy type people. Do not bring them to “aunties” so I never saw it coming. Heroin. It becomes one’s love and lover, you yearn for it and it calls you and calls you. You can not beat it alone. He hid it for years. He went to rehab, he overdosed and died and came back. I did not know. Oct.1996 found him in the hospital fighting infection. He had been fighting the “flu” he told us—finally he went blind and called an ambulance. He looked like a cadaver—I was scared, and he was scared. He told us he got a bait hook in his foot and hence the infection. We shipped him to Mass. General and here begins a horrid horrid end. The infection caused from a bad needle ran rampant thru his body—destroyed his spleen and heart valve. He had the spleen removed along with a big portion of intestines. They gave him a pig valve to replace his rotted one. Many jokes sprang from that pig valve. He healed and thrived, he fought to come home with uncle and I. He was upset that he could not come home with an open I.V. line(feeding him high doses of antibiotics). He wangled and tried to make “deals” to come home. The phone rang at 7am, “look auntie just tell the social worker that I will be fine, that you and uncle will watch me all day.” Right honey bun! I’ll hop right on it! An open I.V. line is really convenient for a heroin addict! Of course he has not admitted to anything. New Years day he came home—we nursed him and loved him and he and I had our AA meetings over coffee every morning. I was so pleased that he took a liking to ice water—“see auntie I am drinking water” good boy! I have since learned that addicts drink water to dilute the heroin in their bodies! He gained 16 lbs in 2 weeks and was the old Skipper. We were so hopefull, but did nothing to deal with the addiction, we thought it was gone and he was clean and he assured us that he could handle it. After his open heart surgery and a second chance we did not believe anyone would gamble with that. Feb.he had difficulty breathing and went back to Mass. Gen. The infection was back—the drs. must not have cleaned it all out well enough. His other valve was hanging by a string eaten away by the infection. Another heart surgery a cow valve this time. He was not expected to live. He did—he thrived—he came home. He drank his water. I baked and bought oranges and he gained his weight back. Questions were asked about him using—we were “sure” he had not because we were with him and why would he do that after everything he had been thru! He began to take his lab “Moby Dick” on walks to the pond, as spring drew near. He realized that he could no longer do heavy work and hoped to get a captain’s licence and planned to live on his sail boat for the summer. We watched the spring flowers come up, he showed uncle where to dig for worms as he carried the can. They fished in the canoe with moby. He loved the sun on his skin. He stood by the grill while uncle barbecued, or sat at the table waiting for me to come home and have dinner. We took rides and ate ice cream. Things were looking good. He was damaged and more frail but strong in spirit. We laughed a lot and cried a lot, but the future was looking bright. He came home one night jauntily chewing gum and something was different—I could not figure it. He went to bed immediately. The next morning he slept—odd for him. Finally afternoon he came up with moby and he was pulling for breath. He called the Dr. and they did not call back. Next morning he was sitting funny and preoccupied. I said we have to go to the hospital. He said he had no feeling on his right side. We called an ambulance. He had a stroke. Pieces of the heart valve get infected and break off and go thru the body—in this case some hit his brain. Back to Mass. General we went.He said please feed moby for me. He cried when they told him the infection was back. We were just beside ourselves thinking the Drs. still did not clean it all out. By nite he had a 107 fever was in a coma and packed in ice and was yellow. Little hope if any. Had he reused—of course not we said. A week like this and his kidneys failed so he had dialysis. No hope was given to us. His sister came from Belgium and sat. We sat and I talked to him about how important he was and how much he meant to us. His toes were black and dead. His eyes opened one day and they were yellow—could he hear us—the breathing tube was in—he could not respond. Each day he grew brighter and it was a miracle they said. We had many. Breathing tube out—he started to talk and all he wanted was a drink—single minded. I felt like putting the tube back after a while. He was a con artist, a charmer, and stubborn, he would ask passers could they get him a drink, the nurses said it was ok. Liar,smiler he got that drink. He didn’t care if it would kill him. I saw the addict and his lack of self control. We laughed at his inventiveness, but it was not really funny if you thought of it in terms of drugs instead of gaterade. He was moved out of intensive care. Again we were hopefull. He would show us how he could move his leg and hand—he worked at it. We encouraged him—we loved him. Watermelon was his mainstay and he craved it. He failed again and the Dr. said another valve was damaged he would probably not survive the operation. 3 times and you’re out. He told us to sell his sailboat he was tearful and finally facing a life that would have to change. We sat with him, we prayed with him, we laughed and cried, and uncle stroked his head while I kept my hand on his heart. The clock ticked. Inside we felt like we were saying goodby while being positive on the outside for him. They took him and the nurse hugged me and cried. He was a legend and they all loved him. We waited all nite while they operated—he made it thru. Thank you Thank you God! He did well. They got him up and sat him on a trapeze thing—he said he felt like a bird on a perch. He never complained. He worked at moving his limbs. He was coming home—no rehab. He would do it himself in our pool. He wanted home. They would have to clean his chest wound every week to keep the fungus down so it would heal and it was one nite before they did this again that he and I talked and I told him how proud we were and how much we loved him, and that our whole family was glad he was a part of it and not one of his cousins ever complained about him being with us. He said “aw auntie” he was not comfortable with emotion. The next day was not the usual scraping and back to your room. They found fungus growing from so many antibiotics that they could not close his chest. He lay for 6 weeks with his chest open, breathing tube, and 1/2 paralyzed. They would bathe his heart everyday to fight the fungus. Watermelon and gatorade became his joys. He worked at writing to us. He was so strong, and fought so hard. He always had a smile for us and kept his wonderful sense of humor thru it all. We told the nurses to watch out for his wink as he was apt to pinch a butt when he could. The Drs. were cautious he kept rallying and his chest was clean and they could close him. What a wonderful gift that day was. We were hopefull as was he. I never stopped being sure he would come home. Just one more setback to get through. He did well for a while but in the long fight he was failing—would we consent to a trach to ease him. We struggled with that and said yes. I feel now that he lost hope then. Too much. He blew up like a balloon he returned to normal. Up and down on a roller coaster we all went. One sunday in Aug. he begged us to take him home “just put me in the truck uncle” we said we would bring him home. I tried but he would not have made it. We waited too long to try and bring Moby to see him. He would listen to the dog on the phone and tears would flow. I brought him a lucky stone from lands end and he held it and while his eyes puddled up. We lost him on a wild and windy day—Aug 20, 1997. The ocean was wild. He was awake and responsive—he knew we were there and that we loved him and he loved us. He was given many narcotics to ease his way into eternal sleep. He would not sleep he waited until Dawn his sister once again came from Belgium. She gave him watermelon juice and he closed his eyes and quietly went to sleep. He came in love and he left in love surrounded by family and close friends. I hope anyone fighting addiction will benefit from his life. We cannot hide our knowledge of someone who uses and we have to confront it hard and fast with love—unconditional love. Skipper hid it and lied because he thought he would lose us—he did not we lost him in the end. He wrote his feelings and I have some in his poems.Through them I hope you can experience his depth and his heart.
A POEM BY ALBERT GRANT
THE ROLLERCOASTER CALLED JAIL
In the morning you’re up.
Life is simple.
Mid-day you’re down.
Life is straight.
At night your feelings can be spread all around.
Life is so fucked up,
you don’t know who to love and
who to hate. I just hope
that it’s not too late.
The islands they call me
The wind blows my name.
The ocean, she crys for me in the same way.
Her tears hit the beach every single day.
I think I’ll go.
I know I’ll leave someday,
maybe this fall, in my own special way.
As fishes that are taken in an evil net,
and as birds that are cought in the snare,
so are the sons of man snared in an evil time.