Last Thursday, July 28th around noon, Francis Xavier Miller, Sr. lost his battle with addiction. I sat in Bay 15 of the South Shore Hospital ER and whispered in his ear that I wasn't leaving him, just passing him over to Mama Kelley his beloved great-grandmother (my grandmother) and Grandma Marie his loved and missed grandmother (John's mother). And that I knew there were plenty of friends lost too early to the same insidious addiction to load up the roster for a wiffle ball game where he was going. I pulled Frank's left arm out from under the sheet and rested my hand in his. Between the weight of his hand and his fingers being slightly curled, I felt just like he was holding my hand.
Frankie wasn't my plan. He was the result of a hard fought campaign by his brother Tommy, with support from my sister Grace and my ex-husband John. I thought just one was just fine. I used to joke that children aren't like Lays potato chips, you could have just one. But Tommy didn't appreciate being the only - only child in the neighborhood. And Grace was ready to have a boy, so that with her daughter Deb (my goddaughter) she would have the matching salt-n-pepper shaker set. The final battle was pitched at my birthday party in 1987.
Frankie was born January 21, 1988. At the end of a ridiculously short labor during which I acted like it was the scene from Aliens where the alien eats it's way out of Kane, there was Frankie. Dr. Grady asked "It's a boy, what's his name?" I replied "Francis Xavier" and Dr. Grady repeated that and said it reminded him of a priest or a crooked politician. Well we all know which way that ball bounced.
Frankie was handsome, so was Tommy, but while Tommy was the spit of his father, Frankie had my coloring. And he was so friendly and adventurous. When he was three he was in love with Cindy Crawford. I remember him dashing from the bathroom, foaming at the mouth in mid tooth brushing session at the sound of her Pepsi commercial. She was his girlfriend. When someone pointed out that Cindy Crawford didn't know him, he replied "But if she knew me, she'd love me." Such confidence. At the time Crawford was married to Richard Gere and they were building a house in Duxbury. We were afraid someone would tell Frankie and he would set off up Route 3A to steal her away from Gere.
People kiddingly called him "The Mayor of Rocky Nook". Like Red Rizzo, he knew everyone and everyone knew him. He took it seriously, not in a power kind of way, but in a responsibility kind of way. People asked him favors and he always tried to help them. When there was a beach association task, he never questioned going and doing his part. But most of all, he believed in "Everbody plays or nobody plays." Frankie didn't allow other kids to be left on the sidelines. And that never changed. During this last week, people have called and texted and sent Facebook messages telling me how Frank did this that and the other thing for them. Always things he didn't have to do but did anyway with a smile.
I have never been ashamed of Frankie and his fight with addiction. Frustrated? Bewildered? Helpless? Oh yes! Frank had a hard time getting sober because he had a hard time giving over power. He would go down many paths and say "This will work, I'll just change this." or "I'll just do this step before that step." But finally he found the right path and surrendered himself. The last two years he was largely successful. Unfortunately, with addiction, you are never free, you are never fixed or cured. Sometimes the best you can hope for is longer periods of sobriety and shorter falls off the path.
The part that was hardest for me to accept was the fact that your recovery includes going back and pulling others up and out with you. But Frank embraced that. And now I see clearly - OF COURSE HE DID, lol! It was the adult version of "Everybody plays or nobody plays."
Frank wasn't some mythic figure. He stumbled. He hurt people. And he wasn't universally loved. There were people who disliked or resented Frank for one reason or another. Not the least of which was his struggle with addiction. There were people who turned away from him.
But Frank forgave everyone. I used to joke that Frank was sadly born without the gene that allowed a person to hold a grudge.
This isn't the best pic of either Frankie, Senior or Junior. But it's recent and it was a happy and fun day. Bunker Hill Day, 2016, at the parade in Charlestown.
Sadly, my much loved son is in the building you can see over his left shoulder. Carr's Funeral Home.