“There’s something happening here. What it is ain’t exactly clear.
It’s time we stop, hey, what’s that sound? Everybody look what’s going’ down.”
Stephen Stills, “For What It’s Worth”
An armed gunman storms into a school, a church, a concert hall, just about anywhere. A steady burst of mechanized explosions sets the tempo for panic. People scream, run for cover – people strop and sink into a puddle of their own blood. Eventually, a deafening quiet settles over the scene as everyone left tries to figure out what just happened.
That’s about how shootings go down in real life, but also in the news cycle. A flurry of activity settles into silence as the world tries to absorb the scene and understand it. But not this time. This time, for some reason, it’s all different.
My brother, Brad Hare, died this week from an apparent suicide. The news came like a ghost as my phone rang early in the morning as he had no contact with his family for the last 18 years. Depression clearly wracked his last years on this earth, but he made his passage slowly for reasons he never told us.
Though the grieving process started years ago, it is only fitting that I have some kind of wake. We are Celts, after all, a people who have raised suffering and depression to such an art form that we always find a way to celebrate it. This is an occasion to relate a few stories from our childhood together south of Miami in a world where craziness crackled through the air and condensed around us as reliably as a 3PM thunderstorm every languid summer day. It made us who we are, and in the end we are all nothing but stories like these.
This is a story I like to tell, and it seems appropriate on Dr. King Day. It’s hard for those of us too young to remember “how it was” to understand the progress we have made – and how important Dr. King’s legacy is.
The rumor spread down Flagler Street with a sense of urgency. Miami was a city of rumors, each of us trying to stay ahead of the latest in unrest. There was a way these things came through, a procedure. It came to me in broken Spanglish, filling the pause between the order of Café Cubano and the exchange of money. “They found the shadows yesterday. I think they’ll just leave it.” I wasn’t sure exactly what they were talking about, but I knew it was exciting. “It was the old Colored fountain.” What?
The journey starts at the funeral for my Grandmother, Arletta. I was a punk kid from Miami not at all used to the damp cold of a Pennsylvania January and all the relatives who drunk junk cars and spoke with a deep accent. Truth be told, as much as I loved my Grandma I was worried about missing the upcoming Superbowl, Dan Marino’s first appearance with the Dolphins. There was a lot going through my mind as I had to sit quietly waiting for the service to start.
My Mom broke the whirl of contemplation in her usual quiet way. “You see those people over there, in the plain dresses and hats and prayer caps?” I nodded, they were damned hard for me to miss. “They’re your second cousins.” What? I have relatives in the 17th Century?
I’d like to say what direction my thoughts went from there, but I can’t tell you. Suddenly, a whole lot of things made sense. This was the first time it sunk in that my Grandfather had left the faith, Santified Bretheren but Amish as a decent shorthand for us Englischers. I was one of … them.