Monday, October 24, 2011

my way of thinking: Phil part 2

Part one was about my brother Phil's life as a child. I left off with him beginning High School as a very troubled teen, constantly in trouble and doing drugs.

Half way through High School our Mother passed away after her very long battle after having an artificial valve placed in her heart. Her body finally rejected the artificial valve and there was nothing back then (1972) that doctors could do. Mom's death changed our family forever.

While I went immediately back into rehearsals to reprise the role of El Gallo in "The Fantsticks"( I had played the part in repertory the summer before) , Phil continued his downward spiral. I was in turmoil but worked through it by getting back to work with even more determination. Phil reacted by getting into more trouble, smoking cigarettes and pot, taking pills, and lots of alcohol.

When our father remarried just 5 months after our mom's passing, Phil and I both reacted with horror. I moved out but Phil was stuck. Dad sold our home in Arcadia and moved to Fullerton, California. Phil had to change schools. That could have been a fresh start but Phil only became even worse. My father couldn't deal with him and called me to say that he was going to put Phil in foster care. Today I'm not sure if that was an idle threat or a foregone conclusion. Either way, I couldn't allow that to happen. I moved out to Anaheim and took Phil in as my roommate. It was the only decision I could make.

Phil was graduated at the end of his junior year (an interesting way for the school to get rid of a trouble maker). Once away from school he seemed to straighten up and I breathed a sigh of relief. I was in college and working as a directory assistance operator so I didn't have a lot of time to supervise my kid brother. It was every man for himself time. My relief was short lived.

On my 20th birthday, I was taken to see a musical at The Schubert Theatre in Century City. Nothing could have made me happier. When I arrived back to our Orange County home, I found Phil completely out of it with two empty bottles of over the counter sleeping pills on his nightstand. It was only 5 days before his 18th birthday and we had been looking forward to getting Phil a place of his own so I could move closer to U.C.L.A. Instead I took Phil to the hospital where he was admitted to their psychatric unit. No matter how much love I gave Phil, no matter how much help I offered, I couldn't heal the hurt he felt inside. I had to get out. I secured him a chance to live with our Aunt Ruth Lee and proceeded to pack up and move back to Arcadia.

After Phil's release from the hospital, he moved in with our Aunt, stopped drinking and doing drugs, and got a Realestate license. As always, I was hopeful. As always, I was disappointed. I forgot to mention that our father passed away shortly after Phil moved in with me. Another factor that had very different effects on the two of us.

When Phil began slipping into his old patterns, my Aunt decided that they would move to Hawaii. They left. I went on a 3 month tour of "My Fair Lady" and then I moved to NYC. After a year, Phil parted company with our aunt and followed me to New York. He stayed with me for a month or so and found himself a place to live. He was surviving by being a prostitute. A call boy not a street hustler. By this time I simply stuck my head in the sand and kept out of Phil's business. There is so much more to that part of the story but....

Phil spent a year in NYC and moved back to California after a failed attempt at a relationship. When I finished my last show in New York, I moved back to California too. Phil bounced from one car rental agency to another. He got bored so easily. I don't think he ever kept a job for more than 6 months. Somehow he always kept a roof over his head. We remained close and spoke by phone every day. Phil continued to have an on again/off again relationship with reality. He never did use that realestate license. He also never gave up the drugs.

By 1985 I had been with a partner, Paul, and Phil had been in a major car accident that wasn't his fault. He received a $113,000.00 settlement and proceeded to blow it all within a year. Oh Phil. You wouldn't let me help you with all that money. Things went from bad to worse in 1986. Phil was shooting up cocaine and his health was failing. My crying and begging him to stop fell on deaf ears.

Well, there is going to have to be a part 3 to this story. Give me a few days and I will bring this to a conclusion.

                                            Peace and Love,




  1. Oh, Bill. This is so hard to read . . . it must be even harder to write. My heart breaks for Phil and for you. To think of my childhood friend going through all of this. And for you, his brother who loved him dearly, to watch him do this to himself. God bless you, Bill.

  2. Oh heavens Bill! My heart breaks for both of you also. He was obviously such a troubled soul! Bless you for trying to care for him and help him.

  3. Hi Austin,

    it's easy to say, that he's responsible for his life... but as a brother you always feel responsible because you love him, you always want to help and never drop him, you always hope and see the light at the end of the tunnel. And those little words "if only" are the ones that comfort us but not until the next thing happens.

    I have a brother and I see all these great things in him that he could be but he continues to lie. I know when he's lying. Every sentence out of his mouth is not true and I know that he believes his lies himself and lives in this fake world creating problems that are getting bigger and bigger...

    How do you stop someone when you see the bad things coming? You can't. You can pray and send him love, support and help when they ask for it. Be there when they fall, love, that's all. If you continue to get involved all the time, it will eat you and you can no longer live your own life.
    Dear Austin, I am so sorry to read this tragic part of your life. I truly feel for you and I am sending you a virtual hug for all the things you had to experience and go through.
    Much love,

  4. Bill, This is such a sad and deep story. Each segment brings more horror. The idea that your father would put Phil in foster care is particularly shocking--how brave of you to stand up and claim your responsibility to your brother.

    All this is such a mixture of love and helplessness and reality against someone who is troubled and using drugs and fighting who knows what demons. You have risen to so many occasions and also faced the same dilemma many other families have known when wanting to help someone but being unable to do so.

    The trauma isn't just to Phil in this, but to you as well. Obviously your capacity to love has not been obstructed, but your heart has taken quite a hit.

    I will await part 3 with both trepidation and eagerness.

    Judy Stone-Goldman
    The Reflective Writer
    Personal-Professional Balance Through Writing

  5. Dear Bill Austin,

    What a traumatic journey! Both of you hurting and trying to get through it or get out of it any way you could. Poor Bill and Phil! I've seen Phil's journey with people in my life too and know how hard it it to struggle to support and uplift them.

    No matter how hard you try until the "Phil's" judge themselves worthy of love they cannot accept your love and attempts are rebuilding them or chances at rebuilding themselves.

    I must go back and read part I to see the start and hope that this all will give you some closure and catharsis. Not only that but I think this journey could well offer others a path to ease their own pain.

    Refresh and regroup my friend! Our hearts are with you.

    Laine D.

  6. Thanks to all for your loving comments. I debated with myself over writing this particular piece. I knew it would be difficult to write and difficult to read. I hope to wrap it up in part 3 with a nice Austin/Bill ending/beginning.

  7. Bill, my dear friend, your story stirs up so many emotions...the previous comments already express many of my own feelings, so I will keep this simple and just say my heart is moved beyond words. I am so very blessed to have you in my life! I also hope that the writing of this is bringing you comfort.

  8. Thank you Sandy. This story hasn't been a lot of fun to write but I feel that people should know that my philosophy came at a cost. Because I choose to be positive many think I didn't ever have problems to solve or challenges to face. We know that's not true.

    I love you too. Hope we can talk soon.

  9. I just read both parts and am a loss for words... They always say you can't help someone who doesn't want help & I suppose your (sad) story is an example of just that.

    I grieve for Phil's choices and the path they took him down. and I adore how, even with his foibles, you are able to write so lovingly about him.

    waiting for part 3...

    Heidi & Atticus
    "commentary to give you paws..."

  10. The love part was easy to share. The rest? Not so much. Phil's foolish choices were HIS to make. While difficult, he was always kind and loving towards everyone. He was "The Wind Beneath My Wings". Once you have my love, you have it for life, no matter what