My year started with my mother in the hospital in Florida, in intensive care. I was miles away at home in Maryland. It was a scary time.
My older brother and his wife live 3 hours away. They weren’t reading the text and WhatsApp group messages my younger sister and I were sending. A couple of days into this, his wife calls all frantic (and a little angry) that they didn’t know. Didn’t know? Looking back, this was the first sign of what was to come.
They drive from their home in Georgia and help support our mom. We were all grateful. His wife would call me and give me updates. She sounded grim. My brother has never called me. He doesn’t share anything. Not even the good stuff. He has a closed up emotional persona when it comes to his family of origin. I understand from his wife that he is a loving father and husband. I’m glad, for them. But somehow, his mother and brother and sisters are just supposed to “know” his feelings. Give him some kind of “credit” for the Christmas cards and boxes of frozen steaks that arrive every December. I’ve held it in for a long time. That was about to end, I just didn’t feel the boil that had started.
By Tuesday, January 4th, his wife told me…I’d better come. Mom might not survive this. Of course she made it my decision. Subtly, she was winding me up, poking my fear, igniting that need of a child to be with their mother at the moment they leave us. What else could I do? I booked a plane ticket and flew out the next day, Wednesday. My heart was a knot of choked tears that I held inside during my flight. I was emotionally raw….flying to my dying mother. That’s what I was lead to believe.
I arrived in Orlando where my brother and his wife picked me up, it was late in the evening. They were staying in Peter and my home in the Villages. We had freely opened our home to them, to give them respite from the rushing around. An obligation I knew very well, after all I had been running around – physically, financially and emotionally supporting my mother and my younger sister most of my adult life.
It was too late to visit mom, so we went to bed and first thing the next day we were up and over to the hospital. Jan 6th – my birthday, and I am heading to the hospital to see my dying mother. When we arrive, only two people can go up, so his wife and I go up. Mom was weak, thin, on oxygen, fighting pneumonia. This entire day was full of tiny baby steps I did not notice as they happened. My sister-in-law introducing me to the nurses. Getting a notary to come to sign a POA for me on behalf of my mom. Change my brother’s name to mine as hospital contact. Stood in front of me and introduced me as the decision maker for the Home Health people, for when mom needed to move to rehabilitation. I didn’t see it. I was in a blur. My mom isn’t dying? I was just so relieved at that fact thet I just leaned in. Thats what I do. I take it all on my shoulders.
That. Is. Exactly. What. They. KNEW. I . Would. Do.
That night, my brother takes us to dinner, my birthday celebration. I felt grateful the day didn’t end unnoticed, but I was still just settling myself to gratitude that my mom might not be dying. Soon – it all became crystal clear. When we got back to Peter and my house in FL – she told me – they were leaving the next day. Going back home to Georgia. She had a doctor’s appointment and my brother was building a shed. A shed? What did she just say? Something about needing to be home for a shed? But…our mother was dying. Or….
I didn’t say anything. I was so overwhelmed. I felt the comfort of their support fading away, and the overwhelming burden of my mother’s future being leveled upon my shoulders. I don’t live here? I’m supposed to work remotely while I am down here. How am I going to do all of this.
The next week was a cluster of crazy. Racing to care for my mom, racing to visit rehabilitation centers, racing to my sister who would fall and needed help with her Parkinson’s. I had to take time off from work. After a week of this, I snapped.
I wrote an email to them, I was not polite. I was rude as hell. I told them I felt manipulated by them. And that they should get their asses to Florida and take care of our mom. His wife told me that thought I should take care of mom because she raised my kids. WHAT? Mom raised my kids? Wow, over time I realized that when you live a life disconnected from your family, they just make up the reality they want to see. Years ago, my mom left her part time job at Dunkin Donuts and watched my kids from Monday to Wednesday, and I paid her more than her job. I worked from home on Thursday and Friday, so she went home Wednesday night and would come back Sunday night. She raised my kids? More like I supported our mom.
Fast forward to the end of this tragic novel……..of course I am the villian. (Bet you saw that coming). My sister in law tells me how my brother has been a saint to care for my mother her whole life. I dont mean to mention his wife so much, but here is the thing….she has been his voice and spokesperson for decades BECAUSE he does not have any connection with his siblings. Any connection I had with him was through her. By their design, not mine. I can’t speak to what he feels. I have no idea what he thinks, feels, does, or doesn’t do. I can only speak to his absence in our lives. I would have liked to have had a big brother who was like the man his wife describes. Unfortunately, this man was only reserved for his wife and kids. I’ve never met that man.
So my brother is now my mom’s POA. It makes sense, he is retred and lives 3 hours away. It is good for him and for mom to be hand’s- on involved. He will be able to see what is really going on now, rather than just calling or FaceTime and doing his weekly check in, so his conscience is clear.
I get a text, don’t contact him anymore.
I had to laugh out loud. What was this supposed to be? A punishment of sorts? A lesson that Diane needs to stay in her place. Keep quiet little sister, I decide things and you follow instructions. Hey dude, this isn’t the Navy, people expect you to talk to them, listen to them, and formulate a compromise, a plan to care for our mother. To do it together. Signs seem to indicate that is NOT how things operate at his house. Allegedly 😉
The truth at the end of all of this is…. I don’t miss my brother. Well, maybe I don’t miss him any more than I have missed him all my life. He has been an absent person most of my life. I have memories from being kids and some of those are not good at all. Maybe I’ll miss the box of frozen steaks at Christmas, but I doubt it.
The only painful part is – now when my mom goes back into the hospital, it can be days before I find out. He doesn’t send me updates. No texts. No Whats App messages. The Irony. The last text from his wife was something like… they communicate with the rest of the family like they always have. Bad Diane. You’ve been banished. Sorry, that doesn’t hurt very much. You folks are not who you pretend to be. No loss, sorry.
I reach out to my mom. She answers sometimes. She doesn’t other times. My sister lives within her abilities. That future is as unknown as our own. I found my peace with my mom and her and we had our final words of reconciliation.
I’m settled. I’m at peace. And I have put the burden down. My brother? He can carry his own and he has a lot to answer for at the end of his life.
Ciao for now…Diane