February brings a variety of emotions. I’d like to start by stating how desperately I feel that all of our stories are told, even for the voices that have been silenced.
I am the very proud parent of my son and daughter, as well as 4 grandsons (and a granddaughter on the way). My story isn’t necessarily about me, but about my son and our family. My son was born on February 22, 1986 in Phoenix, AZ. His father and I soon parted ways, and his father never actually played any type of role in my sons life thereafter.
I relocated my son and I back to our hometown in Canton, Il where our family lives. My son, Richard T. Long Jr, also nicknamed “Duney”, grew up in Central Illinois as a healthy, energetic, intelligent (Honor roll student), amazing sense of humor. “Jr” started experimenting with illicit opioid pain pills his sophomore year of high school. He and his friends would meet before school started in the morning, and swap out pills. These pills were obtained out of my medicine cabinet and others medicine cabinets. I did not recognize this was happening.
His grades dropped, the friends and group of friends changed a bit, and he started to distance himself from me. At the beginning of my sons junior year of high school, he left me a note on the computer at home, stating that his then girlfriend Kel, was pregnant. I was shocked, and overwhelmed. “Jr” dropped out of high school his junior year, promised he would get his GED and continue his education at a local community college.
My first grandson, Ehan, was born, healthy and resembled my son in so many ways.My son became a father at the age of 16. After my grandson was born, my son moved in with the mother of the baby (Kel), and never returned back to school. During this time and over the next 2 years, my son continued to distance himself from his family and I. The relationship he held with his sons mother, deteriorated and they parted ways.
My son moved back home with me and my daughter, and continued to use illicit drugs, and I had no idea. In early 2007, my son received a package that I accepted from FedEx. Minutes after receiving this package, my front door was kicked in, shock grendade launched into my living room 2 feet from my 13 year old daughter–our house was being raided. I remember to this day, hearing my son yelling from his room in the basement, “I’m down here!”, as my daughter and I laid on the living room floor, handcuffed as “men in black” stomped over the top of us.
My son was taken to jail and I was transported by ambulance to the ER, 27 stitches in my leg from all the glass that was broken out of our front door. My son accepted and opened a wired package that was crustal meth sent from Arizona. So my son went to jail for 6 weeks, first offense, and asked if he could come home once released. In the meantime, I had to move, my landlord evicted us, didn’t want a drug dealer living in their house and I have my 13 year old daughter that I had to consider as well.
I gave my son permission to stay with us for a period of time, so he could get his GED and get a job, basically get on his feet. Within a week of release, my son had a new girlfriend, Brooke, with whom he ended up moving in with. I actually spoke with my son and his girlfriend, asking that if they are in fact abusing drugs, that they get help, and I would help connect them. This brought a huge barrier between my son and I-his new girlfriend didn’t like me, and was never honest with me about their lives.
By 2012/2013, my son was well known for being a huge connection to purchasing methadone and benzos. My son and his girlfriend drove 60 miles every day to dose Methadone, at a for profit clinic that did not monitor my sons health and basically refused to taper him at any given time.
August of 2014 my son and his girlfriend became parents to a beautiful baby boy, who was born dependant on Methadone, and was hospitalized for the first month of his life. 2 months after the baby was released from hospital, my son was arrested and sentenced to 6 months in the county jail, due to unpaid fines. I visited my son several times, each time he was discussing how he wants to get help, wants to be a good father, get a good job and live his life! He and I both spoke to jail staff about setting up treatment, etc, upon his release…they could not, would not, help with any of that. My son was released on Super Bowl Sunday in 2015, my daughter and I drove in an ice storm to pick him up. He stayed at my house for 1 night, then connected with his girlfriend, and spent a day there. All the while promising he was going to get help, treatment of some sort. By mid-week, I had not heard from my son, and made several attempts to contact him thru his girlfriend and another friend. Neither of them had heard from him for 2 days. Saturday night, February 7th, 2015, my son went to his girlfriends house–showed up not feeling well, and wanted to see his son and just lay down. His girlfriend woke up at 3am February 8th 2015 to the sound of my son throwing up and not able to breathe. He died from overdose laying next to her, with his 7 month old baby in the room.
I was woke up at 6am by a test message from a friend of my sons, asking me if it was true. Moments later, the county coroner called me, 3 hours after my son died. Nobody came to my house, nobody called me. To this day, my sons girlfriend and I are not close and it has put a strain on my relationship with my sons youngest boy.
My son leaves behind 2 sons of his own–one is almost 5 years old now, the other is 16 and recently got his drivers license. 15 months after my son died, I had to go tell my grandson Ethan, that his Mom died from a heroin overdose. Ethan lives with me, and fuels me to continue to tell my sons story, as I watch this young man hold his head up every day, with strength to push on to the next day.
I am not alone, others have similar stories, that need to be told. Tomorrow is the 4th anniversary of my sons death.
-Sue Tisdale, Parent, Grandparent, Wife & Community Educator