My brother died on Halloween

The anniversary of my brother’s death is approaching. I am reminded of this every Halloween because he passed away on October 31, 2010.

My brother had a hard life that started from a very young age.  He had a learning disability but people didn’t know about those things back then. He was born in 1959 and grew up in the 60s and 70s.  Back then, issues such as my brother’s were ignored.  [If I had to guess,I would say he suffered from a form of what is now known as Asperger  Syndrome or something along those lines. ] Adding to this, he was also nearly blind. He wore the traditional “coke bottle glasses”. His eyesight issues went unrecognized until 1st or 2nd grade(?).  Imagine? Poor kid.  He had a hard time right out of the starting gate.  My parents were ill-equipped to handle my brother’s issues.  They paved a road to Hell with my brother.  Had he been raised by Mrs. Forrest Gump, there’s no telling how his life may have turned out. I suspect a heck of a lot different than it did.  “You’re no different. You’re just like everybody else.”  Sadly, my mother didn’t subscribe to this philosophy.  When your kid was different, you ignored the problem.  My brother was different. As a teenager and young adult, he got into a heap of trouble. Scratch that — heaps of trouble.

His life turned for the better when he got married and became a dad.  If there is one immutable truth about my brother it is: he wanted a family and stability – it was something he always craved because growing up, we never had it. Say what you want about my downtrodden brother but he loved his kids – loved them.  There wasn’t anything he wouldn’t do for them.  Most people who knew my brother hated him. That was pretty apparent at his funeral too. Those who showed, did so out of respect for my parents, checking their issues with my brother at the door.  Those are good people.  The assholes who couldn’t be bothered to show up (and you know who you are), well you can go *&^%$#@!~^&**%$

My brother was a heavy smoker. I believe he started when he was 13(?).  That’s what killed him, well sort of.  He was diagnosed with lung cancer but it spread to his brain.  Of course, had he had health insurance, he may have been able to receive better care, but he didn’t.  He also didn’t have a home. He was homeless.  He wound up getting divorced, and lost his home to his wife and 3 kids.  He didn’t earn enough money to support 2 households so he lived out of his truck.  We did what we could to help him but the thing about my brother was, if you helped him, you enabled him and he would stop trying and essentially that’s what he did, he stopped trying and gave up.  It wasn’t long after that when he was diagnosed with lung cancer which then spread to his brain. He was dead a year later.

During the funeral, it was gut-wrenching to look at my parents. I swear they both aged 20 years in just a few days.  My father and brother never got along — too much anger and resentment. Sadly, they were never able to clear the air.  The week my brother went into hospice, my dad stood by his bedside every single day. My 82-year-old Korean War Veteran father stood next to my brother’s bed, with his hand on my brother’s forehead as if he was trying through osmosis to have a conversation with my brother — who drifted in and out of consciousness. It was almost as if my father hoped via his touch, he could clear the air between the two of them. A conversation they should have had a long time ago.

The day I received the news my brother was going into hospice, was two days before I was scheduled to have major surgery.  I wound up in the ER, not once, not twice but three times in less than 2 weeks. Two days before my surgery, my brother goes into hospice – can you believe the timing?  Upon waking in recovery (after a five-hour surgery) I learned I needed to have another operation – great. [I’ll spare you the details of my health crisis in 2010.]  I didn’t tell my parents what was going on with me; I couldn’t. They were about to lose one child due to cancer. Imagine if I told them they might lose another? It would have been cruel. So as I said, my brother died on Halloween 2010 and I stood at my brother’s grave, three days post-op on a cold, miserable, rainy November day. It was awful. Not because of my condition but because I had to watch my mother, father, my other brother, an ex-sister-in-law, two nephews and one niece bury a son, a brother, an ex- husband and a father.  Brutal!

I made a promise to myself that every year on the anniversary of my brother death; I would write a post in his memory so as to remind myself that none of us knows how much time we have on this planet. We all think we have oodles of time and often live for the future instead of enjoying the present. Some people sadly enough, live too much in the past. Since my brother’s death and my health crisis I try to focus on the now. I no longer put things off for the future.  If there is something you want to do/try/experience, you should do, whatever it is, NOW – don’t wait. And lastly, if there is someone you want to clear the air with, you should definitely do that now. Don’t put it off, for you may not get the chance. Learn from my father and brother.

GiRRL_Earth October 28, 2012