Friday, December 24, 2010

What I Did for Love

The phone call came in just as I was leaving for work last Wednesday. My brother - my "baby" brother - was in the hospital after suffering his second stroke in 9 months. Further conversations confirmed that this time the recovery might not be quite so effortless. His throat, therefore the swallowing mechanism, was paralyzed. By the next day, I found myself also paralyzed. How could I get to Ohio on such short notice? And Christmas week to boot. I had to be there but also had to be out of the way - a help and not a hindrance.

For only the second time in my life, I rented a car, mapquested the directions, got myself to Pittsburgh, hopped in and drove. Going out, the weather was with me. Twenty five years in Florida has severely weakened my ability to even contemplate driving in snow, let alone in a strange car in a strange land. I was a wreck but being with my brother and sister-in-law were the top priority.

You see, ten years ago a similar call came in but it was about my dad. He too had lost the ability to swallow but had refused a feeding tube and slowly, over a two week period, slipped into a coma and died. My brother, like my dad, is one of those soft spoken, amiable men that everyone likes. Loyal, steadfast, willing to give up the great passions or dreams for the life of a homebody, reveling in being the good provider, a husband, dad, grandad. So, the question is, would he be a fighter? Would he rage against the machine?

While all that remains to be seen, I could leave Ohio yesterday knowing that before the day was out, my brother would be home in his recliner, in the arms of his family. Yes, he has a feeding tube but it is expected to be temporary. Yes, he faces surgery, but not until his brain has healed from this latest insult. Yes, he's depressed but his wife is a rock. Now I could relax and fall apart, which I did, clutching the wheel in terror and cursing as semis passed me going at the speed of light  through snow, sleet and freezing rain.
 I slid slowly into the parking garage at the Alamo rental car return not even caring that the fool behind me was so impatient that he swerved around me inside the garage, almost running down the poor young man who was retrieving keys.

Back in Florida, surrounded by my books, facing another day of endless sunshine, listening to Don whine about the chill in the air, I can laugh and thank whatever Fates brought me to this place. I'll write my review for Library Journal, sit out back this afternoon in the warmth and prepare for my book discussion on The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, and envision a springtime when my brother and his wife will join us for some R and R, eat some good food and enjoy some red wine - working on keeping those arteries clear!

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