I am a 19 year old girl living in southern Georgia. I have been through many things in my short life like losing my older brother to a drunken car wreck, my father disowning me, and trying to make sense of relationship problems. Out of all those thing it is my brother who made me the person that I am today.
I am the youngest and only girl out of my father’s six children, out of my five brothers I only talked to two of them. My third oldest brother Stephen dropped out of high school when he was in the ninth grade and started to work non-stop after that. When he turned eighteen, Stephen started drinking alcohol and going to parties with friends after work. He started drinking and driving home late at night without telling our mother where he was going or when he would be back.
I remember Stephen and his friends coming in the house one night, at around one in the morning, so intoxicated that his two friends had to walk on either side of him to hold him up. He told me then, “Melissa when you turn eighteen, I’m going to take you to a real party, and not one of those lame sleepovers you have now….”, while his friends practically carried him to his bed. When I looked at Stephen I saw everything that I didn’t want to be an alcoholic, a drop out, and a felon. Stephen had earned three DUIs and had his license taken away from him twice, before he was actually sentenced to a year in jail and a six month period in boot camp.
Stephen was always getting in trouble about his drinking, on one night in particular him and one of his friends came home from a party, Stephen stole the keys to his truck from his friend and drove the truck into the front door of the convent store at the end of our street to steal cigarettes and beer. His friend woke up my mom and they drove down to the store while Stephen was there, he backed his truck up running over a gas tank, and flipping three times less than a mile from our house this wreck was the first of his three intoxicated wrecks. On September 25, 2005, my brother Stephen Bynum died in a car wreck. He was drunk from a party and was driving home anyway; this was his third and last wreck that he got into while intoxicated. I remember that day like it was yesterday; I woke up to a knock on the front door thinking it was either my boyfriend or Stephen who frequently forgot their keys, I looked out my bedroom window to the blue flashing of a police car. When I walked out of my room I watch my mom open the front door and automatically ask if her son was alright, when the cop said that he was sorry my mom almost fell on the floor crying and I had trouble breathing when I understood what was going on. Until the actual funeral I was in shock and did not really believe that my big, strong brother had actually died in a wreck.
My mom still blames herself for Stephen’s death; she thinks that if she had been stricter on him about drinking and school that he would still be alive today. I learned from my brother that drinking and driving is one of the worst things a person can do in his or her lives. My mother would have never let me drop out of high school even if I had wanted to, because she did not want me to turn out like Stephen. Stephen was always pushing me to be a better person, better than him. He wanted me to be the first person in our family to go to college and not have to work myself to death trying to support a family on a low paying salary. Every Monday my mom goes to Stephen’s grave and puts fresh flowers out and just sits and talks to him, I miss him everyday and sometimes still expect him to walk in the door and throw something at me. The good thing that I try to remember about Stephen’s last wreck is that he was and still is a loved member of our family and if not for him I would not be the person I am today.