So long 32, hello palindromic 33.

Palindrome: a word, line, verse, number, sentence, etc., reading the same backward as forward.

Eleven years ago was my last palindrome age so this post will be a reflection piece of where I was at 22, and the palindromic eleven-years in between.

It was 1999 (pre-iTunes, so Prince’s 1999 album had a good year) and by the end of it I was 22.  Wow, I’m smiling now as I think back to myself back then.  Not because it was an exceptional age, but rather it truly was the very last year of my life in which a full-bellied laugh was simple; depth was seen in every single particle; chasing ideas of love that had not yet materialized were immortalized through music and writing; passion held the key between you and me.  Life was different for me then, but I was hell-bent on living this notion that happiness didn’t write books and being lonely was better than being miserable with disposable relationships.  In fact, most everything was disposable then.

2000 and 23 came, I spent an exorbitant amount of time by myself.  It’s pretty intense where the mind can take you if you let it, but fascinatingly enough (and once you get through usual symptoms like Agoraphobia) there’s a level of serene brilliance achieved.  I wrote directly from the Holy Ghost that year.  Learning was my drug, and theories like Astral Projection were my heroin.  There was no better time than to discover my mind, but the soul would come later.  At this time in that year I was unaware it would be my very last birthday where I had the freedom to allow my mind to go into those crevices completely unaware of heart and soul.  I could push to the edge of the mind, expand it until it exploded, and float freely above cerebral debris.  Then it happened, Law and Order was on one minute in my dark TV-illuminated apartment and the next minute my brother was a missing person.  There’s just no way to experience the mind that freely when you’ve discovered  heart through mortality.  It’s too powerful and once you get to the edge in this state the infinite lure of immortality could push you over entirely.

I won’t make this a tear-jerker post about my brother, but I can’t help but think of him when I think back to this incredible 32nd year.  So let me skip from 23-32 (you like that little palindromic trick I just did there?).  I had made a resolution to shed skin, so I put away that novel I had been writing for the past ten or so years because it wasn’t going to, likely, ever be finished.  I started an entirely new novel, unlike anything I had ever written (take that for what you want) and I finished it in seven months.  In March of this past year, I had finished a novel – my first one.  The Great American Novel, except it’s actually about a Canadian and probably not ‘great’ in terms of literature but it’s certainly a viable commercial fiction novel.

In a long-shot effort to get into a prestigious MBA program I applied to a university I had dreamed of attending but the barrier of entry was the GMAT  and it’s just not in my DNA to score well on standardized tests.  By the time I get comfortable with the space, set up, lighting, etc., the test time usually dwindled significantly and I spent the remainder of time frantically clock watching.  I don’t do those types of tests, but I found a loophole and applied to get it waved.  Somehow I convinced NYU that they needed me in their program sans GMAT scores.  It worked, I applied and got accepted.  The prosperity of my 32nd year didn’t end there.  After years of being under-appreciated at work, I went out and got a better job. A better job that afforded me some material possessions (and finally a savings account to which I no longer live paycheck-to-paycheck) that I never had before, and while it doesn’t mean as much it means much more when you don’t have it.

For the first time in my life there wasn’t a struggle.  I always knew there would be a season like this, hoped, but without all the struggle I know I wouldn’t be as grateful as I am for it.  I wouldn’t be able to say I’m proud of myself.  I wouldn’t be able to look around and see these wonderful people who regardless of where they’ve seen me in life feel I’m deserving of their love and I am.  I’m not sure I knew that before.  More importantly, I see them. There is an extreme joy in listening to someone speak their truth (even if your truths are different), understanding without judgment who someone is, and not giving up on people.  32 was a successful year for me, but in a few short hours I’ll be 33 and it’s going to be full of meaning. Less ‘me’ and more ‘you’ because I want more than anything to reach a level of connection that brings an incredible lightness of being that I can only get from others.

After all it was age that Jesus was crucified and Krishna died to repurchase the Karma of Humanity. In his Divine Comedy, Dante attributed 33 songs to the Purgatory and 33 songs to the Sky. It’s the number of days of the “intellectual” cycle in the biorhythm. 1933 was the year prohibition ended. Virginia Woolf didn’t publish her first novel “The Voyage Out” until she was 33.   In Numerology, 33 is the highest of the “Master Numbers” as it symbolizes the ultimate attainment of consciousness.

So goodbye 32, you were good to me.  Let’s do this, 33.

Happy 28th Birthday my beautiful brother…

Today you would have been 28.  I’m awake and beginning my first class toward my MBA.  I’d call you after breakfast and wish you a good day had life worked out differently.  Instead, Jeffrey, this day and all it’s about it reserved for those (like myself) whose life you immensely touched.  I’m so very grateful to have had the eighteen years of this life with you and I feel you in the simplest of breezes, the massaging of the summer sun to my skin, the breath between every thought, the comfort of the night sky, and the love within myself.  If love could have kept you here…you would have lived forever..you are so very loved by many people whose lives you’ve changed in even subtle ways and that is what life is about.  So despite your short eighteen years, bubba, you have lived a full life.

Today is reserved for you.  Happy Birthday (you’re in everything every day for me, but today maybe others will be inspired to love hard).

Justice for Jeffrey

Dignity

As I pack, yet again, to move to another place to put my stuff, I pack my brother’s urn into his green-velvet box with the words ‘Dignity’ written inside.  I suppose it’s the name of the boxmaker, or the company in which the funeral home orders from.  The words I only see as my little brother travels from place-to-place with me.

Dignity; an oxymoron that his few bones in that pewter urn, which were scattered over the Oklahoma mountain after decomposition from one (or two) that threw his dead body out like a sack of rotten potatoes, rests in such a capsule being that he was 6″3.

I think about that scene in Face Off where the kid, so innocent and unaware, is amidst the gunfire and chaos as Over The Rainbow” blares through his headphones.  That’s how I imagine my brother spent his last moments; innocent of the pollution around him.

Although at times I think about one of the most famous Shakespearen quotes, “Et tu, Brute?” I wonder if my brother felt the ultimate betrayal like Caesar when he realized that someone (or two) he deeply cared about was the hand that took his life, and LET ME ASSURE YOU IT WAS SOMEONE (OR TWO) THAT HE ADORED.  The moment he realized he was going to die, he also realized he was betrayed.  Can you imagine leaving the world with that knowledge?  You die alone, this much is true, but it probably feels less scary to see those you love around as you make the transition into the afterlife.  The last look of this world my innocent brother got was deception.   It makes it hard for me to not betray my opposition to capital punishment, I’ll tell you that!

It won’t be long until I unpack by brother, yet again, and read “Dignity” on his green-velvet box as I place him on my desk where he belongs; beside me as we write his story.

From The Archives: The Road Of Faith (Short Story circa 2001)

This is a short story from 2001 that resonated with the people that knew my brother and his case.  My mom claims it made me famous in our hometown, which really means only 2,000 people read or know about it.

The Road of Faith by Alisa Olander –  A short story written about my brother, Jeffrey Lee Ben, missing in 2001.

Publish at Scribd or explore others: Creative Writing jeffrey ben road of faith

Not Just A Picture On The Fence

My Aunt Lulu is having the below published in the Clayton Today newspaper–the paper in the town in which my brother’s (alleged) murderer lives and where my brother proudly called home.  You will get to know my Aunt Lulu via my 1st book (a memoir), which is nearing completion and currently in the hands of agents.  Additionally, you will grow to love my dear Godmother as you read about her in my brother’s case biography (book #2).  I urge all of you to visit the links on the left of your screen (Missing Links) and just take a look at those missing –it takes one person to heal the heartache like in my brother’s case where loggers found his skull.

It’s also worth mentioning that I had NO CLUE my inherent writing abilities were genetic; I thought it was an anomaly.

Not Just A Picture On The Fence

by Levie Allen  (“Aunt Lulu”)

As we go past Allen’s Used Car lot, you can not help but see the picture of Jeffrey Lee Ben. As memories of my sweet and special nephew race through my mind, I can not help but look up to our heavenly Father and tell Him that Jeffrey was your son first and I am sure he is your son now in heaven, but here on earth, he is not just a picture on the fence. He was a mother and father’s son, a brother to a sister and two younger brothers, a grandson, a nephew, a friend and cousin to many and so on.

You who took his life, I am sure, have asked your self “Why?”– it was not worth it to take his life and face the judgment that you will surely face. Jeffrey had his whole life ahead of him and his life was not yours to take, only God’s. This act was a murder not an accident. The killer did not even have the decency to even bury him but instead threw him up on a side of a mountain like trash to be eaten by the varmints. You thought it would be the perfect murder didn’t you? You thought Jeffrey would never be found, but by the grace of God, he was and God is not through yet, believe me. He has your number and vengeance will be His. Until you, the person(s) responsible, confess and take responsibility for this heinous crime, I will continue to pray for justice for Jeffrey, God has already answered one of our prayers and made way for his body to be found. Jeffrey deserves justice because he is not just a picture on the fence.

jeffrey-smile

My brother’s Missing Person Poster circa 2001

My second book is a biography based on the case of Jeffrey Ben (my brother), which I will begin interviewing, researching, recollecting, and writing about on the anniversary of what I presume was his untimely death (January 29th). In the meantime, feel free to Google his name or visit the links to the left of here and support our efforts to help find the missing.

missing-poster2

The Missing

I added a category of links called “The Missing” and felt the need to detail why it was such an important addition to Wrestling The Hyperbole.  It’s not just a ProSocial effort, but each one of the sites I have linked have become a family member in a sense. 

On January 29th, 2001, an eighteen year old boy disappeared and wasn’t heard from for five years.  Merely five months into his eighteenth year, Jeffrey Lee Ben, was no longer a child by the legal system and not an adult by ways of the world.  Nonetheless, he was considered a missing adult except to former Sheriff and felon, Elvin Flood, who chalked it up to a runaway case.  Flood was at the reigns of the very first missing person case in Clayton, Oklahoma, and due to the aggressive campaign of Jeffrey’s loved ones (lead by Jeffrey and my mother, Linda Miller), the highest profile missing person case in Oklahoma. 

We spent five tortuous years searching for Jeffrey even when the legal system worked against us and those hired to protect-and-serve proved to be incapable of just that.  I can’t even count on two hands the number of times my mother was told she would have to drag a body of water herself for her son, and she did, because they had more pressing cases like what to have for lunch.  They most always supplied the tools for searching for Jeffrey, minus the compotence, but it was my family in the trenches earning your hard-earned money for those that protect-and-serve.  Once the Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation got involved, which was typically always after mom got some national press, they promised us and the world that they “would find Jeffrey Ben.”  As soon as the cameras were off, they stopped returning our calls.  The only investigator that invested in my brother’s case was bogged down by protocol and ultimately forced to become a paper pusher. 

Thankfully, our mom never stopped searching and pushing forward enough to put a small visual in the back of the head of a common logger.  In March of 2006, by an act of God, two loggers did everything they typically never do at their jobs that resulted in finding a human skull.  Two months after the five year mark of when my brother went missing, his remains (that mountain critters fed on after his body was dumped–like garbage–less than a mile from the last person to see him–my cousin’s house) were positively identified and we had our answer to the five-year question; where is Jeffrey?  The family was allowed up the mountain where Jeffrey’s skull was found, the same mountain that the  law enforcement had not deemed a crime scene, to dig for more remains.  The evidence we found could not be used (a cigarette butt that indicated someone else was there that night, coins all before 2001 that had fallen out of Jeffrey’s pocket proving he was dumped by the way they were scattered down the mountain, threads of his clothing to answer what he was wearing, and other evidence) since it wasn’t indexed by a police officer or ‘investigator’.  The great State of Oklahoma permitted us to pull ribs, teeth, and other pieces of my brother from their soil without any involvement because since we got our answer it was good enough for them.  Hell, the killer was probably less than a mile away and probably would require a lot of work and since we were too busy mourning the death of our loved one we wouldn’t be going to press.  Our family didn’t even get a mental health specialist assigned to us for grievance and trauma for the unimaginable torture we had just gone through.

The above  true story is pretty damaging to the system and certainly to one’s soul, but it is by no means a unique story.  My brother, Jeffrey, was a smile in the hearts of so many people that offered so much of their support and searched in the trenches with us to find this boy that had somehow touched their lives.  The links to the left of these words are amazing people or organizations that selflessly educate and advocate for the missing and their families.  I do hope you will take the time to visit their sites because all it takes is one person, like yourself, to change the status of a person missing.  Much like my brother’s status that changed in March 2006 to ‘deceased’–after five years of cyclic mourning without any means to the last stage, acceptance–we were finally able to lay my baby brother to rest (April 5th, 2006).  Many families are not this lucky (how’s that for wrestling with hyperbole).

I will be posting more about my brother as the months come.  I’m buttoning up my first book (Divide Community, a memoir), but on January 29th, 2010, I will embark on a missing person story like no other so keep checking back for updates.

 

jeffrey2

The Devil’s Smile.

This is a little poem I wrote after seeing a photo of the last person to see my brother alive.  Look at him…how could ANYONE hurt such a wonderful kid.

RIP

RIP Jeffrey lee Ben (DOB: 08/23/82; Missing: 01/29/01; Laid To Rest: 04/05/06)

The Devil’s Smile.

Your voice drills a hole in my heart,

I hope I never hear it ever again,

Imagery of your life conjures up hatred I never knew existed,

For you took the life of someone I loved,

Dropped his body off at the top of a mountain for a critter’s treat,

I hope you taste my brother when you eat,

When you’re sad and all alone,

May you feel that January cold like pins and needles in your eyes,

As you lay your head to rest, You feel the rocks stabbing through your spine,

I hope you feel every pain you gave to my brother,

You murdering piece of shit,

You’ve raped my spirit,

You’ve killed a saint,

You’ve lied through your teeth,

I’m trying to bite my tongue,

But the lasso of grief has tied my feet,

Karma is my only ally,

Your maker one day you’ll meet,

In the meantime I hope this you read,

As you walk in hell at God speed.

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