Within 30 minutes of arriving at the ER I was told Dad had a tumor that covered half of his brain. He snored with his usual roar on the gurney next to us as the doctor spoke to me. I repeated the words to my mother who sat in stunned silence in the waiting room. I called my husband, my elder brother, then my son. Brother One phoned Brother Two.
I didn’t ask anyone to do what I was willing to do and didn’t expect out-of-county and out-of-state brothers to equal my assistance minute for minute when mile for mile they were further away. I was explicit in saying this.
But I thought we’d find geographic parody, each doing what he could from his corner.
greater, Brother One stepped up his support, coming from Arizona at scheduled intervals while Brother Two’s assist slowed to a trickle. His wife said we lived too far away to help. She'd need to drive an hour.
He was warm. Kind. He smiled. Nodded in understanding. He did not answer and I wouldn't hear what was in the silence.
Then I emailed.
While he offered none I devised excuses for him.
I could fool myself no longer. It didn’t matter the reason. He wouldn’t be part of the care team. It wasn’t about distance. Or ease. Or schedule.
I promised me I'd keep him out of mind, prevent myself from inventing relationship that was not there; I'd stop expecting or hoping. Or agonizing.
If I thought of him by accident, I ordered myself to stop. To make the pain go away.
I was wrong.
Mom spoke for the last time. “My baby,” she whispered when she saw him.
Just not my family.
As time has passed and others tell me their stories, I hear a version of this one again and again. Questions left unanswered. Dreams and expectations dashed; disappointment deposited instead.
I don't pretend to understand. Why, if a chance exists that the journey could be made easier, do families not use each other as a splint to prop the broken spirit? Why splinter, fracture, and wither away?
Do they come back together again? And heal?
I hope so. I don't like being wrong.