A year ago yesterday, Michael Olver moved his son's furniture into the garage. He cut out the beige carpet and padding and carried it to his utility trailer for disposal.
There was still blood on the floor. He would have to clean it.
Mikey was his son. He watched the boy's birth, wondering if all babies look weird and beautiful like that. He coached little Mikey in soccer. He watched the boy grow into a man and go to college and have a baby of his own. He was 24.
His son. So he had to clean the floor.
• • •
Has it really been 365 days?
Those first few weeks, Michael Olver couldn't get out of bed. His stomach hurt. He cried. He was angry, short-tempered. He thought about the signs. Was there something more they could have done? Something else they should have noticed?
Grief and questions. That's how the year passed.
• • •
Mikey was bald until he was 2. He didn't fuss much and didn't need a spanking. He went to Christian school through eighth grade, then transferred to Osceola High School. He got an associate's degree and talked of becoming a sports agent.
In January 2009, he was in a car wreck. A woman hit him from the rear. No big deal. He said he wasn't hurt.
But then he started complaining of neck problems. And then he started taking over-the-counter pain medicine. And then that wasn't enough.
• • •
Mikey's grandfather, Hal Olver, 78, took Mikey to a chiropractor. He said he felt better.
Hal took Mikey to an acupuncturist. It seemed to help.
Hal paid for the oxycodone, 180 pills to a bottle, when the pain was unbearable. He had never heard of it before he plunked down the money. Mikey said he couldn't handle the hurt without the pills, so his grandfather continued to pay.
He bought the last bottle the day before Christmas.
By Jan. 4, the bottle was empty.
• • •
"We were naive to it," says Hal Olver. "People our age never had a problem with these drugs."
"We blame ourselves," says Michael Olver, 49. "We have a guilty conscience because we were uneducated."
"He seemed happy," says Carolyn Olver, the grandmother, who saw him die. "He seemed fine. I said, 'What's up?' or something like that. Then his knees hit the floor."
• • •
He had been living with his grandparents since he came home from college. He left his room clean. A picture of an old girlfriend sat on the shelf, by a movie ticket stub. No note.
They found Mikey's cell phone and on the cell phone were text messages and those text messages amounted to a world unknown to his family.
The messages sounded frantic.
He was asking his friends for drugs. Over and over and over.
There was more on the cell phone. They found a photo of a list of collectible gold coins, worth some $1,200 each at the time, that Mikey had secretly stolen from his grandfather's collection. And they learned that Mikey had stolen $6,000 from his grandmother's stash. They learned he had pawned his grandfather's trumpet. Even his class ring.
• • •
Hal couldn't pray at Thanksgiving. He wakes early and clips drug stories out of the papers, datelines from Mexican borderlands to Afghan poppy fields.
He thinks Mikey planned his suicide, that he was ashamed and realized he was about to hurt them. They would have paid for rehab had they known. Instead, they bought a memorial ad in Wednesday's newspaper.
"We only wish we had known how the legal drug oxycodone could have been so fatally addictive," it said. "Our mission now is to inform everyone of this problem so your death will not be in vain."
Michael Olver knew this day was coming. He got dressed, had a sausage muffin and sweet tea and went to work. He owns a floor maintenance business. There were floors to polish, but he could not bring himself to do it.
He visited the cemetery and talked to his son.
Ben Montgomery can be reached at email@example.com and (727) 893-8650.