- by Marsha Ortega
This is the story of an American family at war and the son whose life, and then death, are haunted by the specter of PTSD.
This book is dedicated to my son, Brent. He had a laugh that you couldn’t forget; it was contagious. It was exactly what the world needs these days. His way of speaking and putting things in perspective was, at least to me, unique. He had neither fear nor regret in telling someone “like it is.” He was direct and to the point.
I’ll give you an example of Brent’s directness. One of my employees, a young lady that didn’t know him very well, told me about a conversation they had while working together one night.
“We were working behind the bar together and it was slow. I started complaining about my relationship at the time and how unhappy I was about how my ex was treating me. Brent said to me, “Stop being an idiot and ditch the guy! You are way too pretty to waste time with some douchebag who doesn’t know how to treat you! If you are unhappy, it’s your own fault for staying with him!” I was in shock at how direct he was… He walked back over minutes later and said, “Why don’t you ditch the zero and get with a hero…” And winked. I even wrote it down in my journal because even my best friends aren’t that direct and honest with me… He really was a good guy Marsha. I regret that I had not gotten to know him more.”
A good acquaintance of mine (much younger than I) told me how much she would have liked to have gotten to know him, and not just know him as a friend, but also in an intimate way. She felt a strong attraction to him. She felt that he was so unique, intelligent and special. She didn’t want me to take it disrespectfully and I didn’t. I took it as a compliment and understood what she meant.
I wrote this book to honor my son who left us too early at the young age of 21. It is also to honor all of our men and women in the military that volunteer to protect our freedom. As you may already know, there are many heroes among them. Many have died while away at war. What you may not know is how many die here after returning home, because of the war. It is this that I want you to understand. Even though their deaths are not by a mortar attack or an IED they are still dying here, at home, of psychological wounds. In my opinion the military isn’t doing enough to prevent these tragedies, nor are they providing enough help for those in uniform when they come back. I’m not saying that they do nothing. I just believe that since service members have been faced with this problem a lot more than the average person, the government should do more. Yes, they do have reintegration for the soldiers’ return back home after deployment; however, I’ve been told by more than one soldier, including my son that, “It’s a joke.”
It’s sad to think that as hard as our Vietnam vets fought for the many benefits that our vets get now, our military still hasn’t taken care of a huge issue, like PTSD, Post Traumatic Stress Disorder, TBI, Traumatic Brain Injury and finally the high suicide rates that are taking place. I realize that the military is meant to be strong and that’s how they train these men and women, so I’m not saying the military should become weak in their training, but because of how bad the problem has become, I believe they need to be more involved with a cure.
These men and women are no less heroes than the ones who died at war. They aren’t weak, but are made to feel weak. Anyone that knew my son knew he was a strong individual, mentally and physically. When diagnosed with PTSD they can forget about moving up or trying to further their career in the military. Many have to seek help outside the military so that it doesn’t go on their record.
I started this book 14 months after my son passed away. My intent for the reader is to meet Brent. Although he was unique to me, he also represents so many young men and women these days. You may or may not relate to him or my family but what I truly want you to get out of this is that there’s a problem that exists. Brent had his whole life ahead of him with goals and dreams. But he got robbed of them due to his PTSD, and an unknown physical ailment that was never determined. I’d like you to also learn what happens to the survivors; the family and friends.
There truly are no words to describe the pain involved of losing a loved one, especially your child. The disruption rips through the entire family’s life. Our lives have been drastically changed forever. We will never be the same. The sad thing is that it could have been prevented. I remember while working on this book, I started researching PTSD’s history, which used to be called shell shock. This goes back as far as World War I; I’m sure further than that. What amazes me is that since it’s such an old issue related to war; how is it possible that the problem is getting worse? Although the military does have types of therapy on bases, and interventions for these men and women, it isn’t an easy process to go through, especially when a person is already suffering with it.
Many of you may have already been affected by this or could be in the future. Our soldiers come home and they are our sons, daughters, fathers, mothers, sisters, brothers, sons-in-law, daughters-in-law, neighbors, etc. This will eventually affect us all. We need to hold the military accountable for not addressing this more. I can’t even begin to tell you the amount of negative comments that arise when speaking of a VA hospital. I’m not going to say all, but I have to agree with the negativity, at least in my experience, both with my son and my father. I guess it proves that government should not be in charge of these things.
I must thank everyone involved in their support, not only for the book, but their support through this very painful time. My husband Bobby, my sons Brandon and Tico, my mom, my sisters, my brother, Jessica, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephews, friends, employees and TAPS, Tragedy Assistance Program for Survivors. I’m forever thankful to all of them.
Finally, I ask all men and women who have PTSD to please find help. You mean a lot to your families and friends and you should especially mean something to yourselves. You to need to get help for yourself for your own health and for your family and friends. You deserve to be happy.
“With every choice you risk the life you would have had; with every decision, you lose it.”
-Messiah’s Handbook by Richard Bach
It was March of 1989. The decision was made. I got on the plane with my 5 year old son, Brandon. We were about to have a drastic change in our lives. We were moving to Cerro Azul, Mexico, in the state of Tampico.
I was moving there because that’s where Bobby was going. He was the man I fell in love with. He went back to Mexico with the plan that Brandon and I would join him there. Things weren’t going so well here for him. Also my family didn’t accept him. So I decided to follow him, even though everyone under the sun told me not to. Did I have doubts with what I was doing? YES. Did I think I was crazy? YES. But I thought that it would be a great learning experience for Brandon and me. I also have to admit that I loved it there. Brandon was 5 and I knew he was at the perfect age to learn the language fast and I needed practice because I had just graduated the year before with a Spanish major. I wanted to be a Spanish teacher.
Little did I know the lives that would be affected that day by my decision.
Celebrating Brent’s 21st birthday at our business. Ten months and twenty days before that unforgettable day.
A Mother’s Nightmare
They say a wife who loses a husband is called a widow. A husband, who loses a wife, is called a widower, a child who loses his parents, an orphan, but there are no words for a parent who loses a child.
It was Thanksgiving, November 24, 2011. An unusual one for that matter, because most of my family, including my mom, sisters Tina and Angela, their husbands, my brothers-n-law Mike and Tony and their kids, my nieces and nephews , Angela, Michael, Jenna, Gianna, Nicole, and Matt were in Florida. Normally everyone is together for Thanksgiving but they decided to do something different that year. We were invited but having a restaurant/bar business made it hard for us to leave.
We decided that Bobby would cook and we would eat at our restaurant. It would be my husband, my 3 sons, Brandon, Brent and Tico, my Brother Anthony and his wife Kuni, my Uncle Frank and I. It was set for 3:00 P.M., because we didn’t open the kitchen that day, we just had to open the bar at 5:00. Bobby and I were there, my uncle showed up a couple of minutes later and then Tico came in. Of course Brandon would be late and, even though Brent said he’d be there, we weren’t sure because there had been some problems.
I texted Brandon and Brent at 3:34 to ask if they were on their way. I knew the exact time because I still have it on my phone. Brandon replied, be there in 15 min. No response from Brent, so we waited. Brandon came we started serving, of course wondering if Brent was going to come.
It was almost 5:00 P.M. now, I was talking to my uncle and we were finishing our Thanksgiving meal. Bobby was turning on the signs and lights getting the bar ready to open, Tico and Brandon had gone in the back after Tico saw something on his phone. They were acting weird. Bobby had just got done asking me what was going on with them when I was on my way to the back to find out, and then I heard Brandon yelling. It wasn’t a normal yell, it was a yell of pain, excruciating pain. I ran in back and Brandon was beside himself and Tico in a state of shock. Tico informed me that Brent was in the coroner’s office.
I yelled out “DAMN IT BRENT, I KNEW IT.” This reaction may seem insane, but Brent had not been well the last few weeks and things had gotten very bad the last month. Apparently, Tico had gotten a call from a friend of his from out of state who had heard Brent had passed. He of course knew nothing about it. This friend had heard from another friend who had heard from another. So Tico called Marilyn (not her real name), the person Brent had been with the night before and found out that it was true. He was gone.
“A baby will make love stronger, days shorter, nights longer, bankroll smaller, home happier, clothes shabbier, the past forgotten, and the future worth living for.”- Unknown
It was January 3, 1990 at 9:30 p.m. My mom was at the gym; Bobby had just returned from Mexico that day or the day before. I’m not sure because that was 23 years ago and all I remember is that I wasn’t even sure that it would work out between us. Brandon and I had already returned from Mexico back in August, that drastic change just wasn’t for us. Bobby kept telling me one more month, one more month. I knew he was upset because I didn’t stay or at least wait for him to so we could return together. All I wanted was to be home in the U.S.A. with my family. Also, Brandon had to start first grade in August, so I had to get him registered.
My water broke. I called my mom at the gym to tell her that it was time to go to the hospital. I called Bobby too to let him know. So on Thursday, Jan. 4, 1990, 1:44 p.m. Brent Anthony Filipello was born, 20 ½ inches and 8lbs 10 oz. I had front and back labor with him which was quite painful. He was not a happy camper. Honestly, when I first saw him I thought to myself how dark he was and that he looked very Indian. I mean no disrespect, but it’s just a crazy thought that entered my mind. It’s amazing that I gave birth to 3 beautiful healthy sons, but each one entered the world differently, Brandon was singing, actually cooing. Brent was angry, as if to say, “I REALLY didn’t want to come back here again.” And Tico entered as if to say, “okay here I am everything is just cool.” I know there are moms out there that can relate to this, because our children are connected to us; the umbilical cord, although physically cut, spiritually it isn’t. I’ve always felt connected to my 3 sons whether they wanted to or not, LOL.
My Little Indian Boy
I left the hospital with Brent and we went straight to my mom’s house. I didn’t have anywhere else to go. Bobby was just back from Mexico, and we had lost the business that we had started there.
We moved into an apartment when Brent was 2 months old. We had a car, a crib, 2 beds and Bobby got a job. We sat on the floor to eat. When Brent was 4 months old Bobby informed me that I had to start working because his income just wasn’t enough. I knew this was true but I really wanted to stay home with my boys. So I got a job as a server part-time at the same place he was working. It was difficult because our hours were different. I had to find someone to watch Brandon and Brent. My sister Tina and our friends Sharon and Wayne came to the rescue. Also, my sister-in-law Socorro, Bobby’s bother Mario’s wife, helped out.
Brent was 6 months old, and Brandon was 7 when I got pregnant again! Well, at least we had our $89.99 special kitchen table and 4 chairs. We had a couch and TV! Woohoo, living the American dream. Brent was finally getting over being colicky. Only parents who’ve had a child that has colic can truly understand how difficult it is to have a child that cries and screams and nothing you do helps them. One day, so tired and unable to solve his problem, I put him in his swing while he was screamed away. I decided to vacuum just so I could drown out the crying and 30 seconds later he conked out. I was thinking, you’ve got to be kidding me, all this time we suffered, Tina, Sharon, Wayne & Socorro suffered with Brent’s colic too, and all we needed to do was put the vacuum on. So from then on that’s what we did to calm him down.
It’s funny how when we look back at someone’s life how we can sometimes come up with answers about them and their life. I truly believe that Brent finished his mission on earth. Whether it was a debt he had to pay from a previous life or lessons he had to learn or teach all of us. I know we are still learning his lessons and I know that he is still with me every day; helping me.
Finally, the colicky episodes stopped. They were replaced with crying and holding his breath until he turned purple. One time he passed out from holding his breath so long. He scared me half to death. He started this when he was about 4 or 5 months old.
As the months went on he became quite humorous, he used to make this face that we named the monkey face. Everyone knew about it, even the doctor’s office. I remember the receptionist asking us to ask him to make the monkey face. Everyone would laugh.
The Famous Monkey Face
On May 4, 1991, Tico was born. Brent and Tico are 15 months apart, to the day. Of course Tico isn’t his real name, its Robert Jonathon. I had wanted to name him Brian because I didn’t want any of the boys to have nicknames. There isn’t much you can do with Brandon, Brent and Brian, but Bobby wanted Robert after his name and since I won with Brent, I let him have his way.
It’s strange but I’ve always felt that my boys were mine. It’s selfish I guess, but I still feel that way.
Tico got his name from Sharon. We called him Robertico, “little Robert” in Spanish. My friend Sharon said that she couldn’t say all that, it was a tongue twister. So she started calling him Tico; and that name stuck. There went my plan for no nicknames.
Brent was to be named Michael, at least according to Bobby, but I named him Brent Anthony. For the longest time Bobby would call Brent, Miguel which is Michael in Spanish. He told his family to call him that as well. He told them that his name was Miguel, until finally one time when I was in Mexico with Brent and 7 months pregnant with Tico, our niece Veronica asked me why I was calling him Brent and so I told her because that’s his name.
I remember how when I would feed Tico Brent started leaving the room and would go into another room with his bottle. I used to have to bring him back by me. Brent was so used to lying on me or next to me that I think he was confused or jealous. He would just go in the other room and lay on the floor. He looked as if he were meditating or looking into another world in deep thought.
I wonder if he knew what was yet to come and how he was going to complete his mission or debt in this lifetime. I wonder if he knows how much I miss him. Yes, he does.
One of the things I started noticing about Brent was his intelligence. Tico started on the bottle around 3 months, even though I breast fed all my kids, I had to stop earlier with Tico because pumping just didn’t work well with me and I had to work. So we discovered that Brent would take Tico’s bottle when we weren’t looking. Fortunately he didn’t realize that sound travels yet and that’s how we discovered that. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not like I shoved a bottle in my kids’ mouth and let them be, but there were occasions they might all be watching TV or something and I went to the bathroom and lo and behold Tico would cry because big bro took his bottle. On one occasion we had had some guests in from Mexico staying with us and my husband’s good friend Joel was laying down and Brent had gotten Tico’s bottle and shoved it in Joel’s mouth, I guess he didn’t want to get caught with it and gave it to the wrong person. What makes this even funnier is that Joel was an older person, probably in his 60’s at the time, with the old fashioned ideas (what we here would call a macho Mexican) and there’s our Brent shoving a bottle in his mouth. I’m sure Brent and Joel are laughing now as I tell this story.
It’s sad but Joel passed away 5 months after Brent. I remember how difficult this was for Bobby and of course Joel’s family. I bring this up because 2-3 weeks after Joel passed I had an appointment with a psychic-medium. I went of course to see if I could communicate with Brent. This person came highly recommended. So when she started to tell me things first of my dad, my grandfather, then she tells me that another man joins me to let me know that all is well. She described him to me as an older man, all gray hair, and he’s bald but always takes his hair and combs it over the bald spot. She tells me that he is known for this. I of course can’t for the life of me figure out who she’s talking about because I was obsessed with talking to Brent. It wasn’t until I was driving home that it hit me like a brick, JOEL!! I felt rather bad that I didn’t realize who she had been talking about, but anyone who has lost a dear one knows that la la land is the way of life for the living after the death of a loved one especially your own child.
I was in a daze for a long time. I still am at times. I believe it’s what helps us get through this. It must be something in the body or soul, so that we can deal with the pain, because when I’m not in a daze, oh my God, the pain is horrendous. I might add for those of you that don’t believe in psychics that this was probably the most convincing piece because there’s no way that she could have found this info out. Even when describing Brent, I was amazed at how much she knew. She described how she saw him, his mannerisms and behavior; things she couldn’t have known.
Time was moving on, when Tico was born we had a very small 2 bedroom apartment, Brandon was 8, Brent 15 months and my newborn Tico. I told my husband we need to get something bigger and I wanted to move back to Naperville so that Brandon could go back to school there and I would be closer to my family. Obviously a house was out of the question, especially in Naperville, we were definitely not in that income bracket. So we found an apartment on the south end of Naperville. It was still 2 bedrooms but definitely had more room, so we moved.
I can remember how Brent started to learn language and speak. One of the things that I always thought was so cute was when we would get home from me working or grocery shopping or taking Brandon to sports. We lived on the second floor, no elevator and I used to say to him “You want me to carry you”. Well sometimes he’d walk up the steps and other times wouldn’t. When he started talking and expressing himself, when we’d get to the stairs he’d stop and put his arms up and say “carry you.” The first time he said it I was confused, but there he was at 1 ½ figuring out language and repeating what I had said “carry you.”
Brent loved chocolate cake, I mean he loved cake in general, but chocolate would put him in heaven. I have a couple of pictures of him eating cake and you can see the glaze over his eyes and excitement he had for cake. Besides that, he never had an appetite problem; I guess he got that from me because I love to eat too. I can honestly say for his entire short period of life that he had he always loved chocolate cake. I remember going out to eat through the years and it would always be Brent and I ordering the chocolate cake and we would so enjoy it as others would just look at us, I guess they just couldn’t understand. Jessica knew too, how much he loved chocolate cake but she came to realize even more of it on the day her and I were preparing pictures for his service, she was amazed at how many pictures there were of him eating cake.
My mom recently reminded me of how Brent, at around the age of 2, had a problem with things ending. I basically mean anything that he truly enjoyed. You’re probably thinking well that’s normal for anyone, but here’s an example. We would only watch a movie he liked on the VCR, because we had to be able to rewind it so that it wouldn’t end. If it ended Brent would just stand there and cry, “I don’t want it to be over”. This happened to the point that the whole family knew about it. The worst was ET, this movie definitely couldn’t end. One time we had Tico’s one year old birthday party and he was watching a Van Damn movie (thanks to Brandon’s influence), thank God it was on video and the movie ended. Well the world came to an end because all anyone could hear was Brent crying and yelling “I WANT VAN DAM”. My sister Angela tells this story to this day and does a great imitation of him and we laugh and laugh. This was her husband’s first meeting of the family; I can’t imagine what he was thinking, but I guess it couldn’t have been that bad since he married my sister.
I can remember one time we went to the Renaissance Fair and they had a puppet show, Brent was no more than 4, probably more like 3 ½. He was so fascinated with the puppet show, Punch & Judy that when it ended he fell apart and started crying. He wouldn’t stop. We even brought him to the workers that were doing the show so that they assured him it would be on again in a couple of hours. We of course brought him back to see it again. It took him quite a while to stop crying from the end of the first show. I guess I find that peculiar. I did then and still do. I haven’t met anyone yet that had that issue.
Well, now it’s less than a year after we got the apartment, when I inform Bobby, that we need a house. I told him that the kids need a yard. He looks at me and says but you said you’d be happy here. Bobby could never understand my way of always setting goals and trying to move ahead, not just financially but in all aspects, I had wanted to grow and had the same ideas for my boys. It wasn’t until years later that Bobby could understand my ways or should I say, adjusted to them.
The School Years
A Letter from Heaven
“When tomorrow starts without me,
And I’m not here to see,
If the sun should rise and find your eyes,
Filled with tears for me.
I wish so much you wouldn’t cry,
The way you did today,
While thinking of the many things,
We didn’t get to say.
I know how much you love me,
As much as I love you,
And each time you think of me,
I know you’ll miss me too.
When tomorrow starts without me,
Don’t think we’re far apart,
For every time you think of me,
I’m right here in your heart.”
Words of Wisdom-www.Facebook.com/Daveswordsofwisdom
We moved to the house in Romeoville. Brandon was 9, starting the 4th grade; Brent was 2 ½, and Tico 1 year. I was so excited and scared. I was happy to have a home for the kids but at the same time I didn’t know anyone other than my good friend Sharon and her husband Wayne in Romeoville. I was also fearful of how the schools would be for Brandon. Unfortunately, he would have to transfer again.
We lived in our Romeoville home for 12 years. I took Brandon out of the public school there and he started St. Andrew the Apostle Catholic School. Their classes were preschool through 8th. We were very happy with our decision, but of course my husband was worried how we were going to afford it. I gave my usual response that I wasn’t sure but we had to find the way.
Well the day came for Brent to start preschool. I have to say it went well, but of course it did prove my thoughts of how intelligent he was. The teacher told me at the end of the year that he would’ve been fine had he gone to kindergarten but we kept him with his age group.
I can remember when he was in kindergarten, Brandon was in 7th and Tico was in preschool which was only a half day of school. I was in my first year of teaching, so I left at 6 in the morning and got home at 3 and Bobby started work 11:00 a.m. He worked until 10:00 p.m. So there was always someone home for the kids. Getting Tico however, was a challenge. My mom and dad helped a lot through the years so I was fortunate to always have family watching the kids and never had child care costs which of course, we couldn’t afford anyway. My dad would come to pick up Tico which was about a 20-25 minute ride well suddenly Brent started “feeling sick” around 11:30. So my dad who was picking up Tico and already home or just about home would end up going right back to the school to pick up Brent. There were no cell phones then. This started to happen frequently, and I was feeling bad because my dad was going through this, and of course Brent would always be fine shortly afterwards. So, I decided to ask the teacher what was going on in class at this time, she responded, that it was coloring time. Well Brent didn’t like coloring. He enjoyed it for a while up to preschool, as a matter of fact he won first prize in some contest, but after that I guess it ended. Typical Brent, he accomplished something and then on to the next new thing. The teacher and I chatted that unless he had a fever or appeared REALLY sick he wasn’t going to bama and papa’s house. I also spoke to Brent and of course I was right. He wasn’t happy about the coloring but knew he didn’t have a choice.
Obviously, I need to explain the name Bama before I continue. My mom who the kids call Bama or we say when talking about her, “The Bama”. She was given that name because when Brandon the first grandchild was learning to speak he like many toddlers couldn’t say grandma, it came out Bama. The name stuck and now all 9 grandchildren call her Bama. Actually it was great until Obama got elected, because sometimes the kids might say Oh Bama and that sounds like the president’s name.
First grade started and that’s when the kids would be put into reading and math groups depending on their ability. The teacher that year told me that this was the most challenging class that she had had yet, not in a bad way but that she had to pace things faster because they learned so fast. They also had 4 groups instead of 2 or 3 because of size and classes advancing so much. Brent was in the fastest group and she did tell me confidentially that he was the brightest. Again that doesn’t mean better. He would just hear or see something once and retain it.
The school liked to have plays every year so that year they were doing the Old Testament and guess what Brent’s part was? God, yes, God. To this day I get such a good feeling from that time. It was humorous and yet great. I mean really imagine telling people that your part in the play is God. Mind blowing, but it was just up Brent’s alley.
As we all know, technology was really coming in to being in the 90s. Computers were becoming a common thing in the home and schools were incorporating them in the classroom to the point that kindergartners were learning keyboarding, etc. Video games became more and more popular and my home was no different, however my 3 year old Brent could play a video game and become somewhat obsessive over it. He learned so fast and of course having a big brother that was 7 years older made it even easier to learn. I did have limits on how long they played but Brent was one that liked to be great at something until he accomplished it and then would get bored with it. Remember, just like his coloring: been there, done that was his attitude. He was so good that by third grade he was beating Brandon’s best friend Kenny. Imagine what a blow that is to someone 7 years older. He also had the expectation that since things came so easy for him intellectually, that all things would be that way. Unfortunately, unlike his brother Tico, physical activities were not his specialty.
He kept bugging me for roller blades when he was around 5 years old. His big brother Brandon was great at roller blading, so I guess that’s what he wanted to do. I explained to him that it would take practice but as usual he thought everything would come easy. He could barely stand in them, but I kept working with him. He started to cry and said he didn’t want to do it. That doesn’t go over to well with me. I’m not one that gives up easily and I definitely wasn’t going to teach my son that it was okay to give up. So I helped him to the sidewalk and showed him how to fall on the lawn, even though he had a helmet, knee and elbow pads I wanted him to feel safer and where I lived there was grass on both sides of the sidewalk. Even though he didn’t want to do it after bugging me for so many months we stayed out there until he could balance and skate a little. After a short time he was able to do it and succeeded at roller blading.
I felt that this was a lesson for my son to learn that we can’t give up easily; we must try to realize our goals and dreams, however, as usual with Brent I had to explain it to him because he was so smart. Once anything was explained to him, he got it. It never had to be repeated.
There are so many things I can say of his intelligence. When he was 6, my sister Angela told me I should take him in to get his tonsils and adenoids out. She is a P.A. and I agreed with her 100 per cent but this was during a time when doctors were against it, so she found me an ENT. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not that I wanted to put my kid under the knife so easily, but he had suffered since birth with allergies and sinus problems, he had always been breathing through his mouth.
The surgery went well, but for the next month or so I started to notice that Brent was kind of weird with me. So one day he was on the couch, I can’t remember what exactly brought it on but I knew it was my chance to ask him what’s up. He informs me that he’s angry with me because I had him get that surgery and they took out his tonsils and adenoids and that I wasn’t very nice for doing that. This is my 6 year old. My mind was blown. I explained to him why he had to have it done so that when he was older he wouldn’t have lung issues and how the surgery is much worse and more dangerous for an adult and I also brought out how he was breathing so much better, finally through his nose. He understood and that was that. He was fine with me. Again, I just had to explain it to him in an intellectual way.
Brent could have adult conversations with people by the time he was 11. People would always be amazed and make comments to me about his how smart he was. They could converse with him in ways that most people his age you couldn’t converse with. There was a negative part of this too. We tend to be a bit sarcastic in my family, in a fun way but some people don’t get it. I recall Brent getting himself in trouble sometimes because people thought he was being disrespectful but he was just saying it like it was. I had no problem with it but Bobby and some of my family members didn’t quite get it. It’s funny that it’s one of the many things we all miss about him. You couldn’t bullshit Brent and he had no problem letting you know if you were being a hypocrite or for that matter just plain stupid.
Brothers, the BROVOSONS
“All for one and one for all, My brother and my friend, What fun we have, The time we share, Brothers ‘til the end”
When Brent was 4, I started my high school teaching job. The first year was a horror story for both my family and I. It was a part time position. I was very excited but at the same time nervous. I hadn’t gotten my state certification yet, meaning they hadn’t sent it, I had applied 2 years previous. Also, at the same time Bobby got his manager job, so not only were our schedules going to be different, but what we didn’t know was that it was about to get insane.
In the mornings before work I made sure clothes were ready for kids, teeth brushed, lunches made, and off I went. Bobby would make sure they got to school; they started at 9. A month into the job and I found out that the state wouldn’t certify me; I was deficient 21 semester hours. If you have experience dealing with college semester hours, you know what I was up against. Not only was that an issue, but what was going to happen to my job. I finally had my foot in the door.
The principal informed me that they would have to post the vacancy, but that I could continue. I would now be classified as a substitute with, of course, a decrease in salary. My mind was racing, trying to figure out what to do. To make a long story short, I had to go back to school. Schedule change. Now I prepared the clothes and lunches the night before. I would leave at 7:00 to get to my first college class, then go to the high school and teach my 2 classes, then go back to the college for my other class and once a week on Mondays (thank God this is Bobby’s day off), after that class I have to meet with a former professor and she would teach me another class. I would then go home, feed the kids, check what homework they have and then I sit at the dining room table and study for my classes and do my prep for my high school classes. So every night Monday thru Thursday this is my routine.
In order for me to accomplish this Brandon, my oldest, truly became big brother and father. Remember Brandon is 12, Brent 5 and Tico is 4. I talk to them all and tell them that if they need a drink or something to ask Brandon, that unless it was an emergency they needed to depend on Brandon so that mommy could get her work done. I was doing this not just for me, but I wanted to have a career so that I could better provide for my children who are and were my life.
This is when I truly believe they became so close. It’s not that they weren’t before, because they were. Brandon was always great with helping me and he loved playing with his brothers. I can honestly say that even though he was 7 when Brent was born, I never noticed jealousy issues; mind you he was the only child, grandson and nephew for 7 years. Because they had to depend on Brandon a lot that year in the house, I believe that’s what truly gave the final bonding which would last up to now. Some of their future friends found it unusual that they were so close; most people couldn’t understand their closeness which is present to this day, sadly of course minus Brent which made their trio. It’s a duo team now and they’re discovering a new relationship which I believe will become more powerful. They had and have a strong love between them, that no one can get in-between, not even me.
This is when the name Brovosons took place. I had to ask Brandon how this all started. It’s a little crazy but here goes. It started after they watched the movie Austin Powers. I guess the way he pronounced some of his words were over pronounced or stressed for example movie became mooovie, etc… So when the 3 of them would talk they would do that with many of their words. Then they started changing the words that began with m got changed to b, so movie became boovie. From there they started to say bravo instead of brother and then started to call each other the bravosons. Then Brent who was the middle child became biddo instead of middle, Brandon was mister so they called him bisto, Tico was biddoist for littlest.
The year continued like this to the point that by the winter semester, not only did this schedule of mine continue, I also had to take another class in which I learned on my own and met with a teacher once a week. My parents watched the kids on weekends so that I could study. I remember that I had 6 weeks left when I was ready to give up. I wanted to be with my boys. I had already given up keeping up with the house because every free moment I had I would spend with my boys. There was one thing we never changed and that was reading stories at bedtime, and believe me the last thing I had wanted to do was read another book, but that was our time to wind down and be together before going to sleep. Bed time was at 9. I remember their favorite stories were books called Scary Stories. We’d all go in Brent and Tico’s room and I’d read the stories. These are memories that I’ll never forget and they’re ones that they remember too.
Another thing we used to do was play the tickling game; the 3 of them against me. We would run around the house like crazy, jumping on furniture or the beds and running around the kitchen table. None of these things were easy to do since my house was quite small, about 1100 square feet. We had played this game for years of course until I couldn’t win anymore. Brandon used to get me and then Brent and Tico would tickle me, but I could usually get even, but then when Brent was about 8 he just got to strong, so I had 2 strong ones against me and I was always losing. And that wasn’t fair. We survived that year, but to this day even though I was proud of what I had accomplished, I regret the time I lost with my sons, however I believe it did help teach my sons independence.
The next 4 years went fine, I got the teaching job and I was able to get home always before the boys. I had them busy with sports after school. Brandon played soccer for 7 years through freshman in high school. Brent and Tico then followed with soccer when they were old enough but they didn’t like it as much as Brandon, They went on to play baseball and the all 3 boys participated in their school teams of volleyball and basketball. I have such good memories of sitting in the bleachers with the other parents and cheering our boys. One time we were at one of Brandon’s games and because Bobby worked 11-10 I would do all this as if I were a single mom, so Brent and Tico always had to accompany me. Sometimes they wouldn’t stay on the bleachers and they would go in the hallway. Well one time I saw a police officer questioning the lady that collected the entrance fee and she pointed to me. Good old Brent told Tico to dial 911 on the public phone. I was so embarrassed. But this wasn’t unusual for Brent to get his younger brother to do things; Tico was always eager to please.
The two of them were not only very close in age, but they were also very close friends, and brothers. This closeness came with its sibling rivalry too. Brent, Mr. Intellectual, and Tico, Mr. Athletic and and easily manipulated, made for quite a contrast. Not only were their personalities different, but their size difference was obvious. Brent was big for his age. Carrying him when he was a baby and carrying Tico were 2 different things. Tico was slim, compact while Brent’s weight was definitely dense. His 25 lbs. and Tico’s 25 lbs. were very different. Carrying Brent was like carrying dead weight. Brent had no problem using this to his advantage when they were little, but all in all I’d have to say their challenges were of the normal between brothers.
Sometimes Brent’s intelligence did get in the way because I believe it had an impact on Tico or should I say it caused insecurity. They were a year apart in school, so Tico always had the same teachers that Brent did. Well not only was Brent in the advanced groups but he never had homework, because he would finish it in school. Here comes Tico, I year behind Brent with the same teachers and homework and we are sitting at the kitchen table every day for 2 hours doing homework. This was first grade. At the time I thought it was because Tico was very active. He just couldn’t sit still. He had trouble focusing. But by the time Tico was in third or fourth grade, I could see Tico’s confidence going down, so we had a chat. I informed him that most people had to study or review and bring home homework. I let him know that HE was normal and that Brent was the one that was unusual, he laughed. This seemed to help Tico. I never had to help Brent with homework, only Brandon and Tico.
I finally was able to get the two of them to work together as a team, it started when Brent was in fourth grade. He had come home with a B in English. Okay, yes I know that’s not a big deal, but you had to know Brent. I never required A’s; I required their best, so I knew something was up. I went to school to find out why he had a “B”. Of course Brent was moaning and groaning, telling me “What’s the big deal? There wasn’t a problem.” I knew he had to be hiding something. Moms just know their kids, we have that sixth sense. I arrived at the school and asked his teacher. She looked in the grade book and found that he hadn’t turned in his project. I was confused because I had seen him do the project. I was able to vouch for that. So we looked in his desk and lo and behold there it was, minus the coloring. Remember kindergarten? Well, I get home to talk to Brent to find out why because this had been the second time he pulled a stunt like this. He had had another assignment in which he received a lower grade for not coloring it. So I asked him point blank, “Why didn’t you color it and turn it in?” He tells me that it HAD to be colored and coloring is boring and stupid. I decided to be creative this time. Tico loved to color and didn’t like doing homework that much so I told them to work together. Brent had to help Tico with homework more (not do it for him) and Tico could color his projects. This seemed to work better for the 2 of them.
During those 5 years that I had been teaching, Brandon started watching Monday Night Raw wrestling. Not something that I had been exposed to, but I’m not a guy. Well this became part of our lives because now all 3 were watching and they’d even have wrestling matches in our “huge” house. I would even video tape them doing their shows or I might just be the audience. We had fun, but I used to get upset with Brandon because he truly didn’t understand the danger in this sport. I would try to tell them that these guys were professionals that practiced their “routines” and it was also the angle of the camera. But according to the boys how would I know?
They liked wrestling so much that the day finally came that Ken, Brandon’s best friend Kenny’s dad, got tickets to a Monday night raw in Chicago. So Bobby, the 3 boys, Ken and Kenny went. The boys were ecstatic; they couldn’t wait. I remember when they came home they had each gotten something; a t-shirt. Bobby went on to tell me how they would do the X sign which was a D-Generation X signal, when they didn’t think he was looking because they thought they’d get in trouble due to the way the sign was done. It involved making an X using your arms and making the movement towards your crotch area. They definitely had a guy’s night out. This was in 1998 so Brent was 8. I’ll never forget Bobby telling me how Ken said to him on the side, “You know you’re not going find any doctors or surgeons here.” We laughed our butts off. You had to know Ken’s humor.
When the boys were little there was no way in the world that I could’ve accomplished what I did without the help of my parents, sisters, brother and my friends Sharon and Wayne. Bama and Papa; my mom and dad, what can I say about them? They raised us to be so close and in turn we’ve raised our children to be the same. We still are to this day so very close. I was fortunate to grow up knowing I was loved and that my family was there for me. The only issue I could say that I have is that my closeness with my sisters and brother is slightly different than what they have between them because they were much closer in age among themselves than I. I’m 7, 9 and 12 years older than them, which also meant that for my boys they were the only grandchildren and nephews for quite some time. They had no cousins to play with. However, had we lived in Mexico they would’ve had numerous cousins to play with because Bobby’s family is larger than mine. In some ways it’s sad that they never got to know their dad’s side of the family, other than his two brothers Mario and Adolfo. My sisters and brother were so close with my boys that they never were called aunt and uncle, by their own choice of course.
I remember one time after my sister Angela and her husband Tony watched my boys one weekend and when it was all over they decided they only wanted 2 kids instead of 6. Ha-ha. It’s not to say that they were bad, but as anyone might know to go from no kids to 3 boys in the house, believe me the chaos will be there. The oldest will usually start something to get one of the little ones going and that’s the end of that. The problem was if you got the middle one going, Brent usually became an ordeal because he was my dramatic one. You could always tell Brent’s mood, it was written all over his face. You knew when to talk to him and when you should wait. He was moody especially as a child which I still think it was his intelligence that caused most of his moodiness. He bored so easily. He had no problem saying what was on his mind in most cases.
An example of his dramatic ways was on one occasion my sister Tina told me how they had gone to the grocery store and somehow the cart fell over(these are the things that happen when you have boys), Brent started crying and yelling don’t hit me. My sister Tina is not one that wants the spotlight on her, she was already embarrassed that the cart fell over and now Brent is crying and yelling not to hit him, which my sister is telling the observers, “It’s not my kid and I don’t hit him.” This also makes it sound like we beat him. He had been spanked a couple times, but then again, he was dramatic.
My dad took the boys fishing quite a bit. He would bring them to the small ponds/lakes in the area. He loved to fish and so he taught the boys. At the time Brent liked fishing and had the patience to do it, while Tico at his young age always had ants in his pants and couldn’t sit still; as they grew up it became the opposite. Which brings me to another time at my mom’s house, she had just put new carpet in the house and it was like a light lime green. The boys were there; Brent and Tico not Brandon, because he was already in high school and working. So my dad was getting ready to take them fishing when something happened between Brent and Tico and the next thing you know Brent took the container of worms and dirt and through it and of course I just came in and what do I see but dirt and worms sliding down the white walls and also all over the newly carpeted stairs. I wanted to die. My mom was upset, which I didn’t blame her. I cleaned up as best I could and took them home. She says now that she wasn’t mad and felt bad that I took them home. I wish I had a movie camera for that day to see us all.
It’s funny how the two boys switched; Brent stopped fishing I believe after my dad passed, but Tico loves fishing.
We live on lake front property and he loves to go fishing. Recently I went to see a psychic medium and at the end of the session the last thing my father said to him was that they (my dad and Brent) were going fishing. It was this that finalized everything the medium had previously told me.
My dad in the Korean War, Brent in Afghanistan (My sister Tina merged the 2 photos)
I’ve often thought a study should be done on these highly intelligent people, I’ve heard they’re difficult to deal with at times. I’m not referring to genius, Brent wasn’t that, it’s just that he was so damn smart and learned fast, it used to just amaze me. I’d always laugh and joke that it wasn’t coming from my genes. I always learned visually and had to study, study, and study. By the time Brent was 11 people began to comment how they were amazed at the type of conversations they could get in with him. It was as if you were having an uplifting intelligent conversation with an adult.
Anyone having boys knows what I mean when I say that strange things happen in the house, especially boys that like to wrestle. I can’t tell you how many times there would be a hole in the wall or a door or something broken and yet no one knew how it had gotten there. We finally just figured we had a mischievous ghost in the house, because the boys NEVER broke anything and of course no one ever knew how anything happened.
Bobby used to put a lot of pressure on the big brother and also he would tell them that brothers don’t fight. Ha-ha, he learned quickly that that wasn’t how it worked. It was, however, always big brother’s fault if something went wrong. Some people might say we were tough on the boys and others might say, not tough enough. Everyone has their way of doing things and seeing things. Yes, each one of my boys earned a spanking at some point, not a beating, but they all had been spanked a couple times. It was actually Brent who got the worse. One time, he had decided to get very mouthy and disrespectful in public and was testing me, so I told him when we got home he wasn’t going to be very happy with me and of course he continued, so when we got home I had to let him know that I meant what I said, so he got 10 smacks on the butt. Brandon was having a fit with me and just then my mom came in and she got mad at me too.
I wasn’t beating him; I had just put him over my knee and gave him 10 smacks. The thing about this is I felt horrible about it because I didn’t really believe in hitting but he had gone too far. Well, whether or not anyone agrees with me, I will tell you that my son never did that again and we were still very close. I also never did that again because I just didn’t care for that type of discipline. After that they had to stand at a wall and put their nose against it. They hated that but it got them to calm down. It’s amazing some of the crazy things we do raising children. What many people don’t understand is how difficult it is to work full time and raise your children. I really do think that if it’s possible one parent should work and the other stay home.
My mom and dad were/are awesome parents and grandparents. Obviously, we couldn’t afford vacations, but there was my mom and dad inviting the boys and me to go along with them to weekend trips, which were with the business of course; my parents were in Amway, a phenomenal company and business. A business that taught me to believe in dreams and set goals to attain them, to work hard and never let anyone steal your dream, to have a positive attitude. Although I’m not active in the business at this time, I saw a lot of success and I watched it change my entire family for the better. Bobby never came, because he had to work and at the time I was teaching so I was off on weekends. During my teaching years at Willowbrook High School I have to say is when life was pretty damn good, stressful but good, my boys were young, my dad was still alive and we got to spend a lot of time together, meaning the family and I (exception was the first year teaching which I already told you about. Any way my favorite memories which I believe the boys would agree was going to Grand Traverse resort in Michigan. My parents would get 2 adjoining rooms, one for them and one for the boys and I and my sisters would be in another room. The boys would spend most of the time swimming in the pool. My sisters spent a lot of time with them so I could go to the seminars with my parents. It was like a break for me.
One time my sisters and I were getting ready to go outside with the boys and Brent ran ahead of us and ran right into a glass door, we laughed so hard I thought we’d pee our pants. It’s one of those moments I’m sure you’ve seen when a person can’t see the glass or screen on a door. On this same trip one morning the phone rings in my room, it was 4 in the morning and it was the front desk informing me that they had my son, I got up looking around and sure enough I was missing a child; Brent, I threw on a robe or clothes I don’t remember and ran down to the front desk. You have to realize that this was a huge resort with golfing, fishing, boating, restaurants, stores, etc… so I was panicked. I got Brent and he was panicked too. Until his adulthood he would still say he woke up and none of us were there, including my parents in the other room. We had been in a room with 2 beds, with 2 in each bed. It really scared me because he was I think around 5 years old. The lady at the front desk said she found him roaming around and that he said he couldn’t find us. This definitely scared me so I chained the door so it wouldn’t happen again.
Life continued on as usual until one day I really was on Bobby to let me be a stay at home mom for a few years. Of course Bobby never liked that idea at least that’s how it seemed to me. He would always say we couldn’t afford it which was true or he’d say “you won’t like being at home, you’ll get bored.” This could’ve been true because I was an active person. I couldn’t sit still.
But I’ll never know that. As I sit here on my computer writing this book and remembering, I wonder if it would have made a difference. I’ve been home now for 8 or 9 months because I was burned out from all the hours of work through the years. I’m also trying to deal with my son being gone. It’s destroyed a part of me that I don’t think can come back. I’m not sure how to describe this hopelessness; sometimes I feel like I’m walking around with a big X on me, marked, A PARENT WHO LOST A CHILD, It’s like a curse. Another way that a counselor told me is that it’s a club for parents with free membership that no parent wants to belong to. I can only say that the days that are okay are the ones when it’s not real, it just isn’t true. I guess it’s the minds way of letting you go on, but it’s not really going on; it only exists. One thing for sure and that is I wouldn’t wish this on my worst enemy. The hurt and pain that my husband, sons and family have gone through has been horrible. As I write this my boys still walk around with their “plastic” faces, trying to cover up their pain and the feeling of being lost.
It’s February of 1999, Bobby wasn’t managing the restaurant anymore because the owners had sold the business. He was doing different jobs to bring home an income and I was getting angry because I wanted to be home more for the kids. I know that many people might think that a teacher’s job is perfect for raising a family, maybe for some, but just because the school day ended at 3 didn’t mean that the job was done for the day. There were always lessons to prepare, grading papers, tests, etc…
So I decided to put the pressure on my husband and told him that I was going to resign from teaching, and he could basically find the way to keep us going so I could be a full time mommy. He didn’t argue with me, but I knew he wasn’t happy about it. Maybe I was wrong, maybe I was right. We’d soon find out.
I finished June 15, 1999. 2 months prior Bobby had been looking for a business, a closed down restaurant, so that he and his brother could have a business. Well, he found one in Joliet, IL. They started cleaning it up and putting it together. By the end of May, a day after I stopped teaching, I was in the restaurant cleaning with them. I was only there to help them on Sundays, when it opened. The restaurant opened on Aug, 19, 1999.
The business took up so much of our time that within the first month I started bringing the boys on Sundays to work with us, because I didn’t want to leave an 8, 9 and 16 year old at home. So the boys learned the restaurant business and how to earn money and be responsible. Brandon learned to be a waiter, Brent took cash (WITHOUT the register telling him how much change to return) and Tico did the toast in the kitchen. Now all this might sound easy, but our place sat 270 people, so on a Sunday from 8-2 we were packed: cooking breakfast and lunch for 270 people at all times. We had 5 cooks, 2 dishwashers, a chef, his assistant, 9 servers, an expediter, Tico, our toast boy, 3 hosts, Brent taking cash, Edith and I seating people, and I was front house management. And so began my leaving teaching and staying home with the boys.
When Brent was 9 or 10 I asked him if he would like to skip the 5th grade because it was obvious that everything came easy to him. He said no, because he wanted to continue with the same class. The boys continued working on Sundays and during the week they had after school sports activities. The boys also had to deal with me being their Spanish teacher because when I left my teaching job I had already set up teaching Spanish at the boys’ school. They had wanted a Spanish program so in exchange for tuition I created their Spanish program and taught 5th – 8th grade Spanish. Imagine how it must have been for him to have me as his teacher. I’m sure it wasn’t easy. I loved it, although Brent had challenges with it on a couple of occasions. One day I decided to let him know that just because I’m mom doesn’t mean that he could get away with things. I sent him to the office to call his dad and tell why he was calling. The principal gave him a detention for acting up in the classroom. Needless to say that corrected the problem. I taught there for 3 years and finally had to stop because it got so hectic with that, the restaurant, and trying to raise a family.
By 7th grade I was asking the teachers if they could give additional homework or rather something more challenging for Brent because he was getting so bored, this was per his request. Their response was no. This surprised me because I am a teacher and I know the book companies give numerous extra activities both for someone that needs the extra help and for an advanced learner. I even stated that it didn’t need to be corrected; he just wanted something more challenging.
So it didn’t surprise me when towards the end of 7th grade Brent asked if he could skip 8th grade. I said okay let’s see what we have to do. Now mind you, he did look the part. It’s funny because during 5th grade and the beginning of 6th Brent went through his heaviest time of life, he definitely got porky. He was never skinny but at that point I believe he was made fun of at times. But starting 6th grade he went through such a transformation that had you not seen him for 3 months you wouldn’t know that you were with Brent. At the beginning of 6th he was 5’3” and 160lbs. and by December he was 5’8” and 140 lbs. During that time he was always tired and hungry. He was sleeping a lot and napping often. I decided to bring him to the doctor. It was my sister Angela that did all kinds of tests including stool sample to check for parasites. The reason for that was because he and Tico had gone with their father to Mexico the summer before. They found nothing, but come December we knew why. It was amazing; I swear he’d take a nap and wake up taller. So in 4 months he lost 20 lbs. and grew 5 inches. I was honestly surprised by this because it’s usually the girls at this age that go through such a drastic change; and the boys between freshman and sophomore year.
Now I had to put things in motion. The principle at his present school was 100 per cent against it. The principle at the high school was fine with it as long as he could meet with him and he had to pass some entrance exams, to see if he was at level. Well as usual that was no problem; he passed with flying colors and was accepted. I wasn’t really excited about the high school he was going to. I remember both he and my oldest son Brandon had wanted to go to the catholic high school where some of their friends were going, but that was out of our reach.
The decision was made. Brent would start high school that fall. No 8th grade graduation for him. I think we still had a party though…
Part II of The Forgotten Hero by Marsha Ortega will be available in December.