On 18 February 2010, in Whangarei, my little brother Dave decided that life wasn’t worth living. In fact, he’d most likely made that call in the days or weeks prior, but that was the day he did something about it. My mother found him — a horror I can’t even imagine — my other brother found her and was second to see Dave’s lifeless body, then the police were called and, finally, my phone rang.
That was the first time I fell to my knees and cried.
None of that explains why the cap is so important. Let me go back a little further.
The Chicago Cubs play at historic Wrigley Field. Its high walls are red brick and ivy grows on them. In 2005, I went to see the Cubs lose to the Colorado Rockies. On the way into the game I bought a cap from one of the street vendors across the road from the main gate. Official Major League Baseball merchandise, a red ‘C’ on the front, the word ‘Chicago’ embroidered on the strap at the back.
I wore the cap for the rest of what turned out to be one of the most incredible days and then nights of my life. I saw the now notorious Sammy Sosa hit a home run, I bought hot dogs and drank Budweiser and met Americans, and I went to a bar afterwards where I sang ‘Brown Eyed Girl’ on the spur of the moment with a live band. All the while I wore the cap.
But that’s not why it’s so important to me.
When I came back to New Zealand a few days later, I caught up with my brother Dave and I gave him that cap. He was a collector. He had caps from all over the world and I figured it would fit nicely. I have pictures of Dave wearing the cap on that day, holding his baby daughter.
Honestly, after that I didn’t think much about it, if at all.
After he died, and after the funeral, and after most of the well-wishers had gone back to wherever they came from, I went with a friend to help sort out some of Dave’s things. His rented TV had to go back to the shop, for example.
His house was tiny. I remember the kitchen and how well organised it was, everything in its place. In his bedroom, in the wardrobe, was a long wooden box full of caps. Maybe a hundred of them, from everywhere you could think of.
There was one cap, though, that was not in the box. It was hanging on the wall opposite the bed. A single cap, alone on a hook on a blank wall, blue with a red ‘C’ on the front.
That was the second time I fell to my knees and cried.
On 2 May this year I’ll be boxing in an effort to raise money for suicide awareness. I’m old and uncoordinated, and the idea scares the crap out of me. But I’ll be doing it for Dave, and so I’m going to keep him with me right up until the moment the bell rings.