I have a younger brother, Tom who was my hero. I emulated him and really believed that he was the smartest and brightest of the three Kizer boys even though he insisted I was the smartest. Eight days ago he wasn’t feeling well and his long time Partner, Martina insisted that he go to the nearest Urgent Care. This morning at 8:55, April 6th, 2011 Tom passed away at Summerlin Hospital in North Las Vegas. He had leukemia and the doctors said that he died comfortably and quickly.
We were born in Ventura Calif. Our mother left 3 small boys alone in this world to live her life and we only met our father once. All we had were each other. We grew up on “The Avenue” part of Ventura that was the poor side of town. We lived in government housing and our rent was $33 per month. Why I remember those little facts; but couldn’t tell you what I did yesterday still baffles me. Our childhood neighbors were heroin dealers, drunks, parolees and we loved it. We had friends like Googie, Burtis, Marcella, Tomasina, Flaco, Sleepy, Payaso, Psycho and of course we had the neighborhood drunk who directed traffic yelling at drivers to slow down because they were in a residential area.
We were wards of the court and spent the better part of our formative years shuffled between foster homes and Juvenile Hall; which is where we called our home. I once ran away from a foster family after only being there for a few hours. I had no where to go but back to Juvenile Hall. The reason? They tried to split us up because it was almost impossible to find a foster home that would take three young, rambunctious boys. Apparently the powers that be didn’t take me seriously when I told them I was going to leave the foster home, I actually made it back to Juvenile Hall before my probation officer/case worker made it back. They had stopped for dinner, I just wanted to get back to see my brothers. They put me in “Lock-up” but I didn’t care because our family of three was still intact.
Eventually we did split up but always stayed in touch. Tom went on to become a star in basketball, long distance running and held records for the high jump. He was the first California high school athlete to adopt the Fosbury Flop.
I took a different route but Tommy never looked down at me, if anything it was just the opposite, he stuck up for me. After high school we got our first apartment together, the first of many. While Tom went to UCLA I was managing a men’s store and each school break I would hire Tom. I don’t think he came to work once but I made sure that he got a paycheck. Yeah, yeah, I know, it was wrong but brothers take care of brothers.
Eventually I became a sales representative in the “rag” industry, was making a ton of money and travelling all over the country and ocassionally to Europe for fashion shows. Tom went on to law school, became an attorney and once he passed the bar he opened up his own office. He was doing incredibly and we decided that we would become partners in 3 law offices. We had alot of fun, made alot of money and enjoyed life to it’s fullest.
Once we sold the offices our lives drifted apart but we always stayed in touch. You see my brother Tom was my best friend for many years. People were always amazed at how brothers could be such close friends.
He and his first wife introduced me to my first wife and we hung out together alot. He was the best man at my wedding as I was at his.
Fast forward to more recent times. Tom had bought some oil leases and found himself finding oil and then selling the leases. We didn’t see much of each other but stayed in touch. I re-married, got divorced and have two beautiful sons; Tom got together with Martina who was his partner for 20 years. He moved to Las Vegas a few years ago where Martina is a union organizer for dealers and Blackjack dealer in one of the casinos on the Strip.
Martina called me the day before my birthday, April 1st to tell me that Tom was in Centennial Hills Hospital and wasn’t doing well and asked to see me. I was there the next day where we spent a couple of days laughing, telling stories and just enjoying each others company one last time. He was diagnosed with Stage 4 non Hodgkins lymphoma. That was changed to leukemia. While I was there his liver had started to shut down. As much as I didn’t want to leave I had to get back to San Diego and was preparing to go back 2 days ago when Martina called me to say that Tom had passed that morning. The doctors had said that the chemo was either going to kill him or cure him. Unfortunately his body was too weak for the chemo.
I spent most of the morning yesterday crying between necessary phone calls. I’m glad that Tom didn’t suffer long and that I had chosen to go see him. He talked to my sons, his nephews on the phone while I was there and they were making plans for when he was released from the hospital. Now they won’t get to carry out those plans. But according to Martina, those phone calls were very important to him and he was glad that he got to talk to the boys.
His passing has left a hole in my heart, one that will never fill in. He was much too young to leave this earth, but unfortunately we don’t get to determine the day we pass.
I know that he’s in good hands now. I know that he isn’t in pain, but I am. I’ll always remember Tom as the brother that we should all be fortunate to have. I know that I’ll be okay, but as I go forward it will be without the love of a kind and loving brother.
Please treat your family members as though they were your best friend. Tell them you love them, take care of each other because once they’re gone there’s no going back to try and make up for lost time.
Rest In Peace my dear brother and if there is a place called heaven I hope that you’re at the gate waiting to welcome me home.
To borrow a line from the movie “The Bucket List” ~ He died with his eyes closed but his heart was open.