Went into Glasgow’s Mitchell Library today to get the cutting from the newspaper where I recently talked about my Cousin Sammy’s death from heroin. It really did bring back memories when I saw the pictures of him in that double page spread. I loved him so much, I looked at his big cheeky smile in that photo and my heart lurched again. I miss him so much, even to this day.
He died in 2000, but I hadn’t seen him in about seven years before that as he had dropped off my radar when he had started taking heroin. It shocked me through to the core when I found out he had died and it still breaks my heart.
To make matters worse on this awful day which should have been less emotional as my wee girl went to University for the first time and I wanted to be happy, I found out one of my friends sons died today from heroin. It is still killing people and will never stop. My friend lives in London and it hurts to the core she has lost her only child.
It reminded me of how back in the very early 1980’s when heroin first came to my streets in the Calton area of Glasgow. It’s a relatively small place and I remember when all woke up to our first ‘Junkie’ and we were bewildered as to how it affected people. You have to put this into perspective, we had NEVER seen anyone who had taken heroin before and the results were devastating.
These were just wee ordinary people, factory workers, fish shop servers married to coal men and shop fitters; they didn’t know what was happening to their teenage kids. Alcohol was something they were prepared for, but this strange concoction that their kids were using with needles to pierce their new delicate teenage veins completely baffled this post 1960’s generation.
I can vividly remember going to visit a middle age mother who had recently lost her son to drugs. He had died in his bedroom after a fatal over dose; he was only 19 years of age.
Mrs Cuthbertson was a great seamstress and I had taken up a dress I needed shortened (I am small and dresses in the early 80’s were way too long for me). I sat in her smart two bedroom tenement, watching her feed my hemline into the greedy big sewing machine that she expertly managed. I smiled as I pointed to the picture of her recently deceased son and said “He was so handsome there; he always had a big shy smile”.
Mrs Cuthbertson looked up and smiled and told me how she always worried he would die from falling off his bike when he was small, how he always managed to crack his head on the swings, fall down the stairs and then she simply looked up at me with no emotion in her voice and said “who would have thought he would die in his bed wearing his favourite Celtic top, all cuddled up and safe”.
At that moment her husband walked in, a big square frame of a man, who looked broken, like someone had simply pulled out his life force and left the shell to stumble around carelessly.
“Don’t talk about him, he isn’t here now” the man mumbled as he let his bulky body sink into the chair with stuffed cushions.
Mrs Cuthbertson looked at me and shook her head. “He doesn’t know how to deal with it” she softly whispered to me.
“Do you?” I asked her, not really expecting an answer.
“No Janey, I don’t know, and neither does any the mothers around here, we just know something came and took away our kids and we will never know why”.
The grief was palpable in that house, it was like someone had came and left a big strange box in their living room and they all stepped around it, not mentioning it, never referring to it, like art they would never understand but just accepted that it was there for no real reason.
I hate what heroin has done to that generation of kids who will never grow up, they will be forever pictures on living room walls, smiling through gappy teeth and sporting a big knotted school tie.
They will live on in memory like Sammy does with me, I still hurt when I recall his funny laugh and wont ever forget how he held my daughter close as a new born baby and refused to pass her back to me as he told me “Janey look, a new wee life that you made and she is perfect, I cant wait to see who she will be”.
He never got to see, he died too soon.