Learned yesterday that a friend and classmate passed away over night. We just entered our 30s!!! He lived through the beginning of “The War on Terror,” being one of the first on the ground in Afghanistan, doing and seeing terrible things that were not in his nature, simply because his country asked him to do it… and then he died in his sleep.
I’ve tried to go to bed a few times, but I can’t seem to fall asleep. I keep seeing all of the people that love him and how much they’re going to miss him. As a new mother, my heart absolutely breaks for Kim, his mother. To lose a child must be the most terrible thing in life to go through. Kim raised a great young man that I witnessed work hard to over come his struggles. He suffered severely from Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. He was an alcoholic. He made no beefs about either of those things. He would post on Facebook about how he was in rehab and how the counselors didn’t get it. They hadn’t been to war. They hadn’t seen the things he’d seen. Many of us encouraged him to stay. He didn’t go just once. He went multiple times. He tried so hard. Anthony had the greatest soul. Having grown up with him, I have a few memories I want to share that I hope will make you smile.
In third grade I had a crush on Anthony. I had just broken up with my long term boyfriend (seriously, we’d been together like 6months!!!), Ricky Vanderwater and was looking for a new guy. I chose Anthony because he was a cutie and was one of the few guys that would always choose me early to be on his football team at recess. I always liked to think it was because he liked me back, but it was because I was good at football. He would give me hi-fives when I schooled the boys that said I shouldn’t be playing because I was a “just a girl.” He was a young male feminist. Summer snuck up on me and I hadn’t told him how I felt. Maybe next year I would tell him.
That summer I got my first fish. It was a Beta fish. A gorgeous maroon and blue color. (Oh crap this is embarrassing! Other than my family, there is only one other person that knows this story.) I thought long and hard about what I was going to name it. I came up with the perfect name! Yep, Anthony Visconti. I didn’t even try to be sneaky about it. I could have called it Tony or even Anthony. Nope. Straight up named my fish Anthony Visconti.
The Beta fish died when the bowl fell over. I gave him a great burial. I decorated a shoe box with as many stickers as I could get my hands on. After my dad placed Anthony Visconti, the fish in my beautiful box, we headed to the backyard. My three family members were there for this sad time in my life. I placed popsicle sticks, glued together in the form of a cross with the words “Anthony Visconti” on the horizontal portion and “I love you” on the vertical stick, on top of the box in the ground. Dad covered the box and I said a few words. I remember my brother trying not too laugh.
This process was repeated two more times over the next year. What do I mean? Well, I named my next Beta fish Anthony Visconti II and the next, Anthony Visconti III. They each have their own stickered box and popsicle stick cross in the backyard of my childhood home.
As fourth grade was about to get started, I learned I would be in a class away from the rest of the fourth graders (except for the other twenty kids in my class) because of over crowding. Anthony wasn’t going to be in my school! My heart was broken.
When fifth grade began, I was so excited I would get to see Anthony. As soon as school started, I was going to tell him how I felt. I loved him!!! I was going to ask him to be my boyfriend. Somewhere between third and fifth grade he had gotten more popular and I had gotten less popular. When I realized this I decided every body would make fun of me if I professed my feelings… so I didn’t. Not until the winter. It just came over me. I was standing behind him to head inside from recess. We were wearing our hats and mittens. I took a breath and asked him to be my boyfriend. I did it in front of every person in our classroom! As soon as I did it I felt like a fool. I got ready to cry. I knew the answer. I knew he would point and laugh at me for even thinking he would be my boyfriend. I wanted to crawl in a hole. His friends, the cool kids, were all staring and waiting for his response. This was like a bad teenage movie.
Then he spoke. While I don’t remember exactly what he said I remember how it made me feel and what the idea of his response meant. He was flattered I had asked, but that he liked somebody else. He also said I was smart and he liked that, but since he liked somebody else, it just wasn’t a good time. He let me down easy. I was able to hold my head high to that response rather than cry in the bathroom. It would have been so easy for him to go for the laugh at my expense.
That was Anthony. He never hurt people on purpose. He had a huge heart and allowed anybody to take up residence there.
When we both lived in Seattle in 2005 or 2006, we got together a handful of times. He told me about some of the terrible parts of his life at war and how life was different after. He told me about his “Ma.” I can hear him saying, “Ma” right now. We went out to some bars and drunk dialed a few old classmates. I was drunk, but he was beyond drunk. That’s when I realized a bit of what the war had done to him. He went from being super sweet and funny, to a guy that was super depressed and lashing out. We talked about it later and he said he knew he should stop and that it wasn’t helping anything.
When I told my mom that I had hung out with Anthony Visconti her response was priceless. “Anthony, the fish, Anthony?” Yep. Anthony the fish.
After I moved back to MI, I emailed with him a lot about how great it was to be around family and suggested he do the same. When he decided to move back he sent me an email about how excited he was to be coming home to be around those who loved him the most.
I only ran in to him a few times after that. He was always pretty drunk and we had an unspoken bond that I knew it was hurting him. We’d step outside and have a smoke together along with a hug. He let the “Everything is great and this is the best party ever” act down for a few minutes. I did too. I’m so lucky I got those extra days after high school to get to know him better.
He was so much more than a fish.
Disclaimer: I hope nobody takes offense to me referring to his problems in life. I know if I were to pass and nobody mentioned that I was a blunt bitch some of the time who spent 99% of her 20s in a drunken stooper… well that wouldn’t be including parts of me that people know to be true. I’m (and Anthony was) so many great things, but great is not the whole story. Anthony was a jackass. He was blunt to a fault. He swore like a sailor. He pinched so hard I he left bruises. Clearly, he drank too much. He also gave great hugs. He made everybody laugh. In the end, he has given his life for this country. I am well aware that’s not the whole story. It’s only a tiny glimpse of the Anthony that I knew and named my fish after.
I don’t know any actual facts about Anthony’s passing. Everything I’ve heard is third or eighth hand gossip. I haven’t talked to him in over two years and don’t know what his state of mind was in his final days/weeks/years. I am only assuming that the emotional and physical pain he had from his time in Afghanistan was a strong reason for his alcoholism, which is known to cause brain annheurisms. When I put it like that, I realize that his body, literally, could not handle the pain of war. Tragic. Absolutely tragic.
Please feel free to share your stories below. I would love to read them.
Pictures from 2005-2006 when we hung out in Seattle. You will be able to see that I especially “hung out.” Anthony took that photo and then announced to everybody in the room that “Your tits are hanging out, Jen!!!” Jerk. Funny. So Anthony.