Riley’s been a little extra smiley this morning, even randomly giggling to herself as she looks up toward the ceiling – at what I’m not sure but I like to think it’s my mom and my cousin Jeffrey. Today I think she laughs a little more because it’s Jeff – today would have been his 35th birthday and I wish every day he was still around, but like countless others he was caught in the grips of an addiction that eventually took his life.
I know too well some of the depths Jeffrey’s addiction took him to because there were days I was right alongside him.. ironic because all my life I wanted nothing more than to save him from the very thing that took him away from our family for days and weeks and months at a time.
Jeffrey and I had this bond long before our addictions crossed paths – he was 6 years older than me and I admired the fuck out of him – he was the epitome of cool. I mean he ate cocoa pebbles out of a red solo cup – and even though I hated chocolate I would eat them that way too because that’s what he liked and that was how he ate them. His hair was ever changing in color – red, blue, pink you name it and he had friends that got to live with him. Like how fucking cool is that. But my favorite was always how he introduced me “this is my baby cousin, Alexandra.” Baby cousin. Until the day he died.
Jeffrey wasn’t always there but when he was he would help me defeat levels in the lion king or sonic on sega. I remember when he was into tie-dye and the Grateful Dead and he gave me this yellow Grateful Dead bear and I had no idea what it was but I loved it because it came from him.
As we got older Jeffrey disappeared more and more – he was away at rehab or just away I don’t really know for sure but I’d often receive letters from him saying how sorry he was, that he didn’t mean to do this to the family. And even though it would happen again as I child and as someone who wholeheartedly loved him I forgave him every time and hoped with every fiber of my being he would stay clean forever.
Jeffrey was 27 when he lost his battle, I was there that night – our demons dancing together on silver spoons. For years I carried around an unbearable weight wondering if there was something I could have done differently, if it was my fault. I remember hearing those dope rasps, unaware of what they were, thinking he was just snoring. I remember leaving him in the morning believing he was still asleep, and my aunts call later on confirming my worst fear – that he was gone. And then the rest became a blur.
Losing Jeffrey was one of the most difficult experiences I’ve ever endured – he was truly a bright light in this world, anyone who ever met him will tell you that. He had one of the biggest kindest hearts I’ve ever known. And so much fucking personality. Even as an adult I still looked at him in awe – he was so fucking cool.
When I think of Jeffrey now I choose only to remember the good parts and there were many good parts. I think of pink flamingos and leopard print, doc martens, singing Britney Spears and Lil Kim, Hooters trips, his oh so contagious laugh and that damn lip ring he would flick around with his tongue. I think of all the good times we shared together – especially our trip to California. We literally begged my aunt for months to take us so we could see a great white shark exhibit in Monterey Bay – well she finally caved and wouldn’t you know when we arrive (naturally with no itinerary) the exhibit is no longer there. We thought it was hilarious – my aunt, not so much.
Jeffrey was and continues to be my protector, he taught me so much in his short time on earth – especially how to just be yourself and to say fuck it to whatever anyone else thinks. I wish with my whole heart he was here to meet my sweet Riley, buy her her first pair of docs and like any good uncle teach her completely inappropriate things.
So in honor of Jeffrey and to celebrate his birthday today I have my sweet girl dressed in flamingo jammies –
I love you Jeffrey Michael Giovinco.
And Please if anyone is struggling – reach out, there is always help available. This world does not need to lose any more beautiful people.
Love and light