“Close the door” he said in a small weak voice.
I closed it and sat back down, not sure where to put my eyes.
Should I look at my brother who lays pale and thin and dying in front of me, or my husband who is sitting on the window seat with his face in his hands, or maybe my sister-in-law who has her eyes riveted on her husband of more than 45 years.
“we’ve made a family decision”, he said now looking straight at me “we are stopping the meds that keep me alive and just sticking with the good stuff”, he winked at me smiling in his “make it all ok” way.
“Then he said “I’m sorry. I know it’s selfish. I love you and we are always thinking of you”
He was always that guy – the one who made me laugh when my first mother died – also his mother – also my grandmother – same person, many different roles. He made me laugh that day, I remember, when everyone else in the family was loosing their minds unable to handle the pain of it all, even after they had me me, only 14 years old, hold her hand through her death. They could have told me sooner, the day before isn’t exactly time to get used to the idea of someone dying.
“I’m sorry for being selfish”, he said.
I didn’t quite understand how he could say that – dying people are just not selfish.
But my insides were quaking at the thought of being left behind without him here.
“I know everyone is going to die”, I said to him choking, “But the world is REALLY going to suck without you.”
he grabs a Kleenex to wipe his eyes but decides instead it would make a better Yarmulke.
We are both incredibly sad.
I love him so much.
My brother and I have always been the “go-to” people – every family has the need for this. My family is abit complicated. I was adopted, into my biological mother’s family. Except that i only knew I was adopted (and not related) until i was 13.
When I was 14 my first mother died.
We were in Florida, and a rotund black orderly came in to clean up the room within a few minutes, while the family was whisked away to some “therapy” room so a psychologist could talk to us about “our loss”.
We are so fucked up about death in the west.
I wouldn’t go to the room, and neither would my brother. Something in us wanted to stay with her, so we did. When the big black orderly came in to clean Johnny said:
“Hey – do you drink?” with his shining funny blue eyes.
“No sir!” she exclaimed with a big white smile.
“Well..” he said looking at our emaciated mother’s corpse “I think now is a good time to start”.
We have seen allot of death my brother and I. And together I feel like we do it with humour and love.
I’m not so sure how to handle it without him.
Our “mother” was my grandmother actually – but I only found this out later too. As a young child and growing up, I was determined that both of my brothers would love me, and be my valiant protectors. In my childish visions we would do fun things together like camping and hiking. I would learn about cars so they would think I was cool. I would help with their kids so they would think I was helpful.
Something about all adopted people wants to “do something” to be accepted and make people want to keep you.
Of the two, my brother Johnny was fiercely dedicated to the idea that I was his sister, his real sister – and that’s how it felt to me.
The other brother of the family, perhaps unerringly honest, refused to acknowledge me as a sister – probably because he knew where I came form in the first place. We are born exactly 20 years and 20 days apart and I was distant family to him. Maybe a niece. I don’t really know.
I spent most of my Christmases after my first mother/grandmother died with my brothers’ family. I loved his boys and they became like my own brothers because we were the same age.
My brothers wife taught me about horses when I was young, and for many years I would call her “sister”, no understanding what “in-law” meant.
Now my brother is in a bed, and it is likely that in a couple of days he won’t be here in that body anymore.
We talked about my bio-mother – his sister, who died nearly three years ago. We were saying we were happy she was there ahead of us to greet him.
Yes- I really felt that.
And although it feels like I am barely out of the quagmire of grief that her death resulted in for me, I am entering a whole new kind. But for the first time, I am so grateful because I know she will show him, be there and he won’t feel alone. Maybe I’m a little jealous.
After he dies, it feels a little like I will have no family of origin left. He and my mother were the ones I felt could rely on – their love was pure and didn’t need anything from me.
My family has changed many times since I was young, but only since my mothers’ death have I truly examined the meaning of the labels we give our relationships. What is a mother or a father? I have had four of them – so – what are they? And what is a brother or a sister? I mean – for normal people like you, when you go out and someone says
“So – do you have brothers or sisters”, your answer is easy.
yeah I have two sisters and a brother
No i was a single child
Ask me that question.
“Um…well – ok, do you have a pen and paper?” is what I would tell you first.
“Hunh”? It’s what everyone says.
“You need a pen and a paper to understand my answer. Trust me. I’ve tried this without the teaching aids, it doesn’t work. I only have to repeat things over and over and then you will look at me like I am an alien”.
“Seriously? it’s not a hard question. Do you have brothers and sisters?”
For most people – pretty rudimentary.
“I started with 6”, I say.
“Siblings. Four sisters and two brothers. Until I was 13 that’s what i had.”
“Oh my God, what happened to them?” I like creating the dramatic entrance into the maelstrom that will inevitably confuse you.
“When I was 13 my mother told me that one of my four sisters, in fact, one of a pair of identical twins, was my biological mother”. Hold on tight now…
“Which means – my sisters are my aunts, my brothers are my uncles, my nephews and nieces are my cousins and my grandparents are my parents. I call them mom and dad.”
“Oh…so you’re not really adopted?” I see confusion start to lighten your face.
“Yeah – I am adopted. It’s part of how I came to understand the world and myself in it”.
What I did not know or understand was that most of my family members did not know. The siblings were only told when I was told – all except for of course my mother’s twin and my eldest “brother”. No wonder he could never see me as his sister. There was lots of pretending around the fact that I was a “bastard”. I remember when I would tell kinds at my catholic school that i was adopted – they would call me bastard. It’s how I learned what it meant.
Child born in shame.
I always felt there should be a feminine derivative of this like – Bastette or something.
In the bible it says kids like me and all of my children and my children will all burn in hell.
Um. Fuck you.
But it is what my parents believed – my grandparents I mean.
They believed that – and they believed that my (grand)father was a high ranking political advisor and no one wanted a “bad reputation”.
God how many times did my (grand)mother tell me to “watch my reputation”. Yeesh. My bio mom/sister would never have said any such thing to me.
She would have said – “If you can’t be good – be good at it”.
Her favourite saying tells you more about her than a whole book could.
And while the rest of my family may have tried very hard – some saw advantage in their relationship with me until they didn’t get what they wanted anymore (money? Support? Attention? cudos?)
Those relationships have long since dropped off for me.
What did stay solid was my brother.
Until recently, when I panicked.
I have not been present for my brothers death.
This is the problem with the complicated nature my story is I have no clue who i am to anyone and what my role is supposed to be.
My sister/aunt last week, when I suggested I would call her if anything happened said quickly
“NO o that’s OK my brother and sister will call ” She said referring to my “bruncle” and “saunt”.
Um – they used to be my brother and sister too. At least in my head.
I am very confused.
And it feels like once he dies – then I am pretty much on my own, which is just a weird mental shift from being “the youngest of seven” to “a single child with no parents or family”.
So now I am frozen. This whole issue of labels and wondering who I am and where to be has been tortuous.
India is looking really good.
Since my mother’s(bio mom/sisters) death my family doesn’t have to worry about how she feels anymore. They were protective of her for so many years, that the kindness trickled down to me so she would be OK.
But she is gone and that is over.
For the first time i am no one.
Since her death i discovered my bio father – he died when I was three. and IN reality – biologically – i don’t have brothers and sisters.
OK that’s my big (part) story.
I won’t stress you with the whole thing, but I just came back from palliative and johnny says it could be tonight that he dies.
The thing is, he never did anything spectacular. he never won any awards he never made allot of money and he didn’t look to be more important to anyone else but his family.
He was the King of that.
There should be awards for loving-kindness.
My brother is my protector and the world without him is going to feel – frankly, – terrifying and shitty.
And much much less funny….
God bless all the brothers in this world.
(Please God – take especially good care of this one.)