My Brother’s Keeper

The call came on Thursday February 5th, at about 3:30 in the afternoon. Up to the point in the day it had been a typical Thursday; cleaning, laundry, quick trip to the cleaners and Waitrose. I had chosen a lovely pork loin roast for dinner and was just starting to season it, when the phone rang and everything went terribly wrong.

When I answered “Hello,” the sounds I heard on the other end were unintelligible. I knew it was a human and believed it to be a female, but the sounds (or the “words” if you like) could not be understood. It took several seconds for me to realise it was my sister-in-law, Sharon. I then heard and understood only two words, “Tommy” and “dying.”

I will never forget the feeing that poured over me as the meaning of those two words entered my consciousness. The next several seconds (which now feel like they lasted hours) were filled with more unintelligible words and what I now realised was pure, unadulterated grief. I remember thinking to myself that her words no longer really mattered, I had already heard the only two words I needed.

I remember screaming at Sharon trying to get her to calm down and speak more slowly. (Note to self; screaming at someone to make them calm down, is not a good technique!) She tried her best to help me understand what had happened… Tuesday, doctor, maybe blood a clot, maybe pneumonia. Hospital, ICU. Wednesday he had stabilised, he was being moved to a regular room. Thursday morning, call from the hospital, he had taken a “turn for the worse” and she should get to hospital.

Now, I must stop here and say that my brother Tommy, got mostly “Grassel genes.” If you’ve met any of us, you know the ones… The stubborn, pigheaded, mind of his own, can’t tell him anything, stick your head in the sand genes. Charlie and I got our fair share, for sure, but as the firstborn, Tommy got more than his share.

I had been trying to prompt him for weeks Please let me come home and help.” “Please give the oncologist permission to speak to someone about your condition.” “Please pick someone (anyone!!) to be your medical proxy, in case anything ever happens to you and you can’t make important decisions for yourself.” For fuck sake Tommy please let someone get close enough to you to begin having discussions about what you might want and not want, should things “take a turn for the worse.” Unfortunately, none of that ever happened and so here we are.

I don’t know what I’m going to find when I reach my destination, but I just keep hearing what I believe is an old AA saying; “One day at a time, one day at a time. “

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