Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Big Brothers - New Years News

The call came this New Years afternoon. I'd been asleep, taking a nap as I'd not felt well earlier, with a pounding headache that wasn't from New Years celebration as I had a single scotch and was asleep by 10:30. But I wasn't feeling right and after I'd taken a casserole I made to a colleague playing single parent for a couple of days, I crawled into bed and slept for a couple of hours, only to be woken by the phone. I thought it would be Partner. It was my Dad, my brother was in the hospital. Big Bro.

He had an"episode" while driving. Seizure or just passing out, I'm not yet sure, but his girlfriend got them stopped and got him to the ER.  He's lost a bunch of weight this last year, said he just had no appetite. He's always been a tall hefty guy, and he'd needed to lose about 70 pounds but he attributed the loss of appetite to a change to some type II diabetes meds.   He looked great with the weight loss and had no other complaints that we knew of.  Apparently there were other symptoms, ones he didn't pass on, not wanting anyone to worry.

It appears to be Non Hodgkin's Lymphoma.  The biopsy of the mass in his throat will confirm it, but they're already planning on chemo and radiation.  A very heavy smoker since his teens, we know how that stacks the odds against him, not to mention the many months this has likely gone undetected. 
Which brings me back to another call, also during the holidays, some years ago.

I realize I am not your stereotypical woman. I hate shopping for clothes or shoes. I'd rather just wear jeans, a pair of boots and an Irish knit sweater. I own just one dress. It's black, it was bought to accompany one of the IND bloggers to the symphony as his "non date" with Midwest Chick while he was going through chemo and didn't have a date for that special concert he'd looked forward to.  I love that dress, that memory of a fun night with good friends, but I've not worn it again.

I own more guns than I do pairs of shoes. When I was young, I mostly hung out with "the guys". I never fit in with the the clumps of popular girls who giggled and posed and used their bodies to attract before they were even old enough to figure out what the attraction was. They clustered together in their own little gatherings in which dolls and accessories and small fluffy toys held sway. Their interests were foreign and their forced interactions with me were tinged with derision. At that age their scorn had the finality of a curse.

My best friend was always my brother.. We were adopted together, coming out of a less than ideal home situation and we bonded before we could speak. Mom and Dad had planned on just adopting one child, they were of an age where all their friends were already grandparents. But given their older age, adoption wasn't happening so they put in to be Foster parents as well. So they ended up with not just one, but two of us, and we never left.  Though my brother likes to tell the story that on the drive home from the Children's Home Society, he, being older, got the lone child booster seat "because they liked me better".
We bonded together because we were survivors of survivors, and we took on the world like the Great Santini said . . ."eating life before it eats us". We played Secret Agent and Storm Trooper and Soldier, staying out until the mountain sky was washed with charcoal and we had no strength left in our limbs. He once fed me a dog biscuit, telling me it was "candy", but I stole his Rat Fink ring (he sent me a funny little note once that he wants it back, he knows I still have it).

But we never fought. Ever. For two redheads that says something. There was a code between us, that we would always be there for one another and our parents, as if we both knew how important the bond of family can be. If the girls at school were mean to me, because I was geeky and too tall for my age, someone put a possum in their bathroom. Not sure who, probably the same person who sent them the toad in the box. They might still not have liked me, but with my brother in tow, they respected me.

We grew up and continued as survivors, he as a Submariner . . .. . . and  me?  A few years later I was out playing with various aircraft that wanted to kill me.
One of us underneath the sea, one far above, both of us drawn to the blue and to order and duty. Though as adults, with much distance between us, the bond remained strong.

That cord that connected us developed its first fray on 9-11. The images of the burning Pentagon on TV, a building in which my brother spent some of his time. It took me hours to verify his safety. Hours, for I was someplace in gear, a dark place that my education had prepared me to enter but my innocence had yet to acknowledge was possible. But he was in another state that day, safe. My boss relayed the message out in the field that he was OK, and we were strong, invincible again.

Then there were the motorcycles. He was always big into riding. Myself, not at first glance, but after one year where I lost pretty much all that mattered, he took me on my first long ride. I didn't want to go. I had little energy for anything and I was more than a little bit nervous. . . .but he said he'd take care of me. He always took care of me.

By the time we got back, miles and miles with us both in leathers, myself wearing the lone helmet, smiles as wide as the road, I was hooked. It took about 3 days to get the grin off of my face. That was 16 years ago and we had many more rides together, cruising the high roads, racing down steep grades just as we did as children on our bicycles, plummeting down, fast and breathless, as if banshees themselves were at our heels. We road all day long, the brisk Fall mountain air whistling around us, past us, burnishing our checks, tickling the back of our throats as we laughed into the wind and were not cold.

The last time I saw him whole was for my birthday just a few years ago. We went for a walk out into the warm summer air to talk into the openness of a country night. As we headed back to the house he was suddenly engulfed in tiny bits of brilliance, a swarm of fireflies that we disturbed as we moved through the grass. For a moment he was all I saw, laughing as the glow of those small lights surrounded him, tiny dots dancing around his face. Then just as quickly, they moved away, leaving us there in the dark. With the darkness, came an unexpected chill.

The call came just before that Christmas.


I knew something was wrong before the phone rang. There was that chill again, tickling along the back of my neck, a heaviness at the base of my skull.   I just knew. I called my Dad to see what was wrong. Dad said all was fine as far as he knew. Fifteen minutes later the call came in, my brother had been badly hurt, no head injuries, with the helmet and luck, but a leg was crushed, among other internal injuries. The cold stunned shock of it flowed through me like current, sorrow rising into questions. Where is he? Does he need blood? Is he aware? And a thousand miles away, in disbelief, I lay down on the bed and felt the pain of my inability to protect him. After a round of surgery that stabilized him and five hours on airplanes, I was able to finally see him, hugging on the parts that weren't in a cast, feeling his large body gone soft and shaky, afraid that his ribs might break, like a snow man on the first warm spring day.

In ICU for Christmas, I bought him a tiny little crystal angel ornament that hung above the bed. It drew in whatever light could be gathered in that place, fragmenting them into tiny spots of light that shone around his face as he lay breathing, gathering strength as I simply sat next to him, praying the light would not fade.

It did not, and in later years,, though we couldn't  always be together, he'd find a way to remember, including a couple of years back, finding a very old Christmas stocking and filling it for me, with things that he knew I liked and most people never would think of.He's still, and always will be, my big brother.

This year, there was neither stocking or gift from him, unusual as he usually finds something silly to make me smile. But there was a card that I got yesterday with a signature I recognized and a  phone call.  He was having difficulty talking, his speech halted and painful. I was worried, but he told me not to, always concerned more about me, than for himself. Always laughing, always upbeat, always strong for me, the one that kept things together when we lost our Mom, when we both found ourselves, years later, unexpectedly alone, manning the lifeboats, together . . . survivors.

Now perhaps it's my turn to look after him for a change, for if I can't be his little sister then what would I become?

70 comments:

Dick said...

This is the pain side of love. One day there will be no pain side, only the joyful side.

eiaftinfo said...

I'm sure you've read my post on hearing the news about my wife with the very same cancer. There is such terrible fear attached to the "C" word . . . . stories, other's experiences, funerals. Yet, each person's experience is different.

Still, Susie had the same cancer - 30 years ago. Our doc said it was the "best type" to have if you were going to have cancer.

6 months of very agressive chemo resulted in the love of my life at by side each and every night to this day.

I'll pray for your brother. Tell him to be agressive, don't skimp on the treatment and to have faith.

Bill

Alison said...

Oh Brigid - I will add your brother to my prayers every day, may all be well and healing come... wish I could do more, (though I know what a difference it made, to know that many folks were praying for me during my cancer treatments)

Bob said...

I'll say some prayers for him, Brigid. I hope he's around for you for many years yet.

Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

Ouch.

You are his little sister.
Go.


Opinionated Grump (Rich in NC) said...

Ouch.

You are his little sister.
Go.


john bord said...

Well ... bummer. My heartfelt sympathy. I hope the meds... etc work and there is a recovery in the prognosis.

You and your family will be in my prayers.

Rogue Aviation said...

Brigid,
I have a little sister too, and I fear that when the call goes out, she will not answer. We are just too different, her and I. That is the way of things sometimes. I know that you will answer though.
Care for him now, and be there. Keep writing, too, as you are helping us here as well.
Thanks for your words, they mean a great deal.
--Matt

Brigid said...

Thanks everyone. I will know more after I get out and talk to his Doctors. (I'm not afraid to weld my own Dr. title if presented with bureaucracy and idiots).

Til then, there are some saved posts. I'll be on live when I can.
xo

Monte said...

When I was in the hospital, two years ago. Three people watched over me.
One friend's wife was there daily for thirteen days. We laugh and call her my sister by another mother, as far as the staff knew, she was my sister.
I four surgeries in those thirteen days, with horrible night-horrors caused by the anesthesia.
The first surgery left me in my mind pleading for someone to take my hand and call me out. As I started to wake, there was my redheaded sister(by another mother) all dressed up in gown, mask, and gloves, holding my hand and calling my name.
It was so nice to know that somebody cares enough for you to be there for you.
Faith,prayers, and caring people can do a lot.
God bless you and your brother.

Stephen said...

Oh Brigid. For several years I have thanked God for the blessings I have gotten from you via this blog, and have regularly prayed for your continued good health and well being. Now I will add your Big Bro to my prayers. My own Big Bro, is cornered is his own dark place right now. Meth. And with each episode of relapse/stupidity I feel more helpless. That's when prayer comes in handy. Prayer is a soothing salve on the most desperate feelings of helplessness, and by extension inadequacy. You are a great Sister, and I will be praying for both you. It's going to be OK.

armedlaughing said...

You know I had the same variety of cancer.
And chemo stopped it.
I've been more than lucky.

What everyone said.
Remember to take care of yourself, too.

gfa

MSgt B said...

He's lucky to have a sister like you.
Take care and good luck.

Cond0011 said...

Boy, I'm glad I lingered this time.

"Now perhaps it's my turn to look after him for a change, for if I can't be his little sister then what would I become?"

For what its worth, your brother (by law and spirit) will be in my prayers. I hope for good news...

Peter said...

We're here for you whenever you need us.

Sherry said...

God bless you and your brother. My thoughts and prayers will be with both of you.

Middleboro Jones said...

Prayers for the big bro and all in your family. This will be the toughest fight and with HIM all things are possible.

Be mindful that you are strong and he will need your strength at this time.

Gaffer said...

Friends are essential, but family is at the core of our being. Be there for him...it's what he will (and has done) for you.

julie said...

Prayers for him, and all of you who love him. I hope everything goes as well as possible.

Ed Skinner said...

I cried. Beautiful.

That Guy said...

Sorry to hear that, Brigid. Prayers sent.

Charles Craig said...

Fingers Crossed.

Charles Craig said...

Fingers Crossed!

Rev. Paul said...

Don't let the feeling of helplessness get to you - stay strong, go to him if/when you can, and have faith in healing. A positive attitude often makes all the difference.

Jenny said...

God Bless you both Brigid.

Praying for good news.

Stephen said...

I shall pray my heart out. I'm so very sorry. So young.

ProudHillbilly said...

This just sucks. But take heart - cancer is so much more treatable than it used to be.

What's your brother's first name, for prayer purposes.

Cactusneedle said...

Prayers for you and your brother. You will ALWAYS be his little sister.

CenTexTim said...

Thoughts and prayers for your bro, you, and the family. Hope all works out well.

Jon said...

My father was diagnosed with non-Hodgkins Lymphoma a while back. After chemotherapy and radiation, he's been in remission for over nine years now, so it can be beaten into submission. I'll be praying for you and him. In other news - You have a Rat Fink ring in your possession? My parents told me my middle initial stood for Rat Fink. LOL.

Mick said...

As the second of six kids, all born within 12 years, we have enough closeness to "be there" if need be, but no longer the closeness of being back-to-back in a barroom brawl, if you know what I mean. But when push comes to shove,no one is "there" for me more than family. I was the black sheep, but they were and are still there, as with you and your brother in his time of need. As you've indicated, you'll do what needs done to the best of your ability. Thank God for that, and may He bless you both.

A Girl and Her Gun said...

Ohh, Brigid, so sorry to read this. Praying!

Nate McKenzie said...

Good luck with the Big Bro! With some of the "miracles" they are hatching out these days, be hopeful!

Nate McKenzie said...

Good luck with the Big Bro! With some of the "miracles" they are hatching out these days, be hopeful!

mjrb said...

I am so sorry to hear this. I know of what you speak. I too have a little sister , and when I can back hurt , there she was . Our bond is strong though separated by miles.

The similarities are striking . I pray for the best for him and you.

Annie Mouse said...

Brigid, (((HUG)))
Pryers for you, your brother, your family, and the medical caregivers involved.

RonF said...

Prayers for your brother. And thanks be to God for what you have together.

Andie said...

Strength to your brother, and you. Will keep you and yours in my prayers, Brigid.

naturegirl said...

Your little-sister-ness is forever, nothing will ever change that. Sending good health vibes to your Big Brother and strength to you.

Beautiful blog. I wish I had a big brother, you are lucky you have him and to be so close, too.

danontherock said...

Sorry to hear this Brigid.
God bless ye

John said...

Miss Brigid,

Please accept my prayers for your and your family

Take care

John

Keads said...

My thoughts and prayers are with you, your Big Bro, and your Dad. If there is anything I can do let me know.

Brigid said...

Thank you so much everyone, these words have done wonders for me today. Also a big thank you to Midwest Chick and Mr. B. E.J., Borepatch,Peter, Dot and Tam for the phone chats last night and today.


Proud Hillbilly, thank you for that thought but I'd rather not post his name, just as I don't my child's to protect their privacy and that of their family. I'm sure if you just say "Brigid's big brother the redhead", God will be able to figure it out..

We will know more by Friday when the mass is biopsied and they look at other parts of him to see where and if it wandered. The passing out bothers me, that's for certain.

He and I are in agreement on one thing, neither of us have any guarantees in life, we'll be strong and take what we're dealt with but we do not want to see our Dad outlive either of us. He's already buried two beloved wives, three brothers, and his first born child. That's enough.

Thank you for the prayers, each and every one of you.

I've posts saved so if I'm traveling you'll still have something here to read, even if I can't comment timely. I will keep you in the loop as best I can while protecting his and his children's privacy the best I can.

Love
Brigid

NotClauswitz said...

I don't pray much anymore but I will for this one to kick some ass.

Murphy's Law said...

Prayers and well wishes for both of you, my friend.

Hat Trick said...

Sorry to hear this. My best wishes and prayers for a good prognosis, treatment and recovery for your brother.

RichD said...

I am so sorry the year got off to such a tragic start for you and your family. My hopes and prayers for you, your brother and your family.

Old NFO said...

Thoughts and prayers, if there is anything I can do, let me know.

Six said...

Thoughts, prayers and hugs from me and Lu. If we can help at all please call.

Ajdshootist said...

Damn and double damn how i hate that
word cancer, takes me back to my younger brother, dont pray much these
days but will for you and him as i know what you will be going through.

uncle al said...

Prayers are heading your and brother's way Brigid. One of my Uncles had same diagnosis (different area) but with treatment he was able to beat it. God Bless

Brigid said...

Update - Brother is tired but in good spirits, the biopsy of the mass confirmed for Friday. I'm heading out tomorrow and will man family logistics center to keep everyone in the loop via telephone and email for the next few days til I can get out and stay for a longer stretch after the chemo gets going. (Barkley will be well tended to by friends who are my family as well)

Dad is emotionally better this evening; he was frantic on the news yesterday, today he was calm, he "put it in the Lord's Hands" as he said. That makes me feel better, I don't need him failing now.

Brigid said...

I'm off to sleep, warmed by all the support.

There will be some "cooking, gear and otherwise" posts saved that will come up automatically this coming week. I WILL try and update and comment "live" as I can.

big hug, to all of you.

On a Wing and a Whim said...

*hugs* to you, and your bro. Prayers, as well.
Take care of yourself, too. Anything you need (including emergency chocolate supplies), call me!

mikelaforge said...

Ms. Brigid - Hodgkin's is beatable. We'll send some prayers up. Take care.

Just My 2¢ said...

Brigid,

Funny how time doesn't change things. I'm the big brother in my family. One of my brothers is "lost". We haven't heard from him in years. My youngest brother and I are very close and it seems like we're getting closer as we age.

Funny thing, though, how he still looks up to me, despite the fact that he's the high powered corporate executive and I'm just the small-town Wyoming guy with a spotty work history. Sometimes I think I don't deserve his adoration.

One of these days, one of us will have to call the other. Both of my parents had cancer twice and I've already had my mulligan. There will be a next time.

Wishing you, your brother and your family the best.

Davey

Tombstone Charlie said...

My family's prayers are with you and your brother. I think he couldn't have asked for a better little sis.

Monkeywrangler said...

Brigid, I have your brother in my prayers. Now, go and be his Big Little Sister!

Vic303

Mick said...

Brigid, Dad's right; "Put it in the Lord's hands" is a part of serenity that's hard to accept but once done, makes for a different perspective. May His will be done and you and yours have the faith and strength needed in this time. God bless.

Mrs. S. said...

Continued prayers for strength for your brother, you, and your family are being made.

Sorry that the new year started with bad news.

Jennifer said...

Much love and fervent prayers for you and yours. They don't call him the Great Physician for nothing.

MaineMapleDave said...

Hang in there.
My older sister has been battling cancer this past year, too.

I've been a regular platelet donor for a few years now (monthly), so will dedicate my next one to your brother.

Take care, and I send you all the best.

Mac from Michigan said...

B -

Just spotted the news.
S.h.i.t.

Check your e/m.

Wz

Brigid said...

Thank you again everyone (and thanks Mac, I got the info and will pass it on to him and your phone number)

I don't have the time right now to respond to each individual comment, but know they were much appreciated and will be shared with the family.

No new news, no doubt that it's cancer, just how much spread, that's the question now. I'm getting checked to be a bone marrow doner if needed, and we'll go from there.

EJ got called to work in a far off place, right now I'm just watching him wing off somewhere on Flight Stalker but I have back up for Barkley care, so we're good.

More later, and again, you are all such a blessing. love - B.

Skip said...

If you need anything from the Left Coast, I got your six.

Mick Havoc said...

You are both in my prayers.
Of all of my siblings, I am closest to my sister. She has stood by me through all of my changes for over 40 years. Until I was 20, I would have sold her to the gypsies, but once we were grown she became and stayed my champion.
I never read this blog without being profoundly moved.

Unknown said...

Brigid,

I lost my best friend, much closer to me than my brother, to cancer 8 years ago. We served on a sub together probably at the same time as your brother as I am his age. I pray that God will watch over both of you.

Rich in IL

The Jack said...

My condolences. There's not much I can say. Here's hoping with the biopsy, whatever that can be done.

Cameron VSJ said...

Hi,

I have a quick question about your blog, would you mind emailing me when you get a chance?

Thanks,

Cameron

Brigid said...

Cameron - sorry but I do not give out my personal email to people I don't know. If you have a general family friendly question I can answer in a comment, I'd be happy to. If you don't wish the question posted just put "DO NOT POST" at the start of your comment and if it's appropriate to respond in a comment in the blind, I will.