I Lost My Brother

October 26th, 2011 // No Comments

I lost My Brother !

Yesterday he was still here, talking about bicycling and skiing – now I’ll be heading for his funeral. Just one of those things called life or the end of it. Another family member was plucked away. Will I be next? The doctor assures me of perfect health and the life insurance people are willing to bet on it –  they quoted a very reasonable price for long-term care. They predict twenty years – not bad when you’re 77.

How will I react when I get there? What will it be like to depend on the care by others?

I’d like to leave in style rather than an emaciated wreck. But doesn’t everybody?

Hans did too. He could not believe that he was losing weight though he ate as much as ever. Nor could he understand why he was getting weaker when he felt quite well. The weight he had tried to lose for years now just melted away. Like that. How was it that he had no craving for his beloved German beer or Jaegermeister? What was going on, he wondered. Why that low blood count, the strain on his breathing?  The pacemaker did not do the trick.

The image in the mirror did not resemble the face he was accustomed to. What about the skin sagging all over the place? Now that everything was just right, the body deteriorated. The organs refused to do their function like living plants under the frost.

His wife, Susan, admitted him to the hospital – just for observation, of course. What did they expect to find? As long as the nurses were cute, he didn’t mind. Lots of visitors came, bringing him tons of advice. They also brought his favorite tit-bits and occasionally a joke. A blood transfusion perked him up. He could go home and forget about the leukemia and lymphoma that invaded his body.

“You can eat and drink whatever you like,” Susan said. She knew – so did everybody else. But Hans refused to acknowledge the reality. Instead, he enjoyed the attention, the company, the care.  For a carefree spirit and passionate singer the world was filled with music and the beautiful surroundings of Santa Barbara. From the hill he could see  the ocean below and the mountains in back. He enjoyed them through the multitude of windows. How many parties had he and his friends enjoyed on mellow evenings? Susan loved to cook and never grew tired of feeding whoever came to their home. They still came, but instead of playing ping-pong they brought food to make life easier for her. But he would soon get better, he was sure of that. If he only —

Then his siblings came. His brother took two weeks off to spend quality time together. He had never bothered before, except that one time, when they had enjoyed a bicycle trip in Virginia. The casual atmosphere helped Hans forget the growing weakness and dependence on help when he needed to go to the bathroom. He could do it alone, of course, but there was always somebody who insisted on standing by in case he fell. So he had fallen once or twice. But he was fine now and could do it on his own. Another blood transfusion and he would be on top of the world.

Susan hired a nurse for the night. She needed some sleep. He didn’t mind, if it made her happy. He really didn’t need one. If he could only sleep, then he wouldn’t have to bother anybody. TV shows and movies were irrelevant now. He’d rather reminisce, think of his youth. It was good to have his siblings around so he could talk about it. The years of growing up in Germany during the war, being a refugee in a strange town. Kids teasing him for his accent. The teachers and their harsh discipline that had plunged him into episodes of fear and apprehension. He couldn’t help his studdering. It got worse as time went on. Mother understood and managed to get him into the Waldorf School – that had been Heaven on earth. He had loved the gentle people, the caring schoolmates, and the familiar world in wich he had grown up  before his family had become refugees.

His son, daughter and grandchildren came by. They held him. Why? There was nothing wrong with him. Everybody was so exceptionally kind and solicitous. As much as he enjoyed the help and attention he wished it were like old times. Even the teasing was too gentle, unnatural, more like an expression of love.

Hospice? Why would he need that? He was getting better. He could stand up and take a few steps. So it was the result of his last blood transfusion. It felt good to go out again and have a glass of milk at the ocean, watching the waves splash against the sand. Milk? Why had he asked for milk when he had always enjoyed beer? Next time he wold ask for beer. Next time.

More people came for a visit. He loved the party atmosphere though he didn’t care for his favorite Jaegermeister anymore. Tea would do. He had always hated tea. Sissy stuff. Besides, he really wasn’t hungry or thirsty, but he didn’t want anybody to notice that he really wasn’t feeling well at all. He’d rather not take that medication. Who needed tranquilizers? That was where those funny dreams came from. Where was he anyway? Out there with his father and mother? But they had passed away a long, long time ago. He could hardly remember his father, but now he could see him quite clearly.

It was difficult to distinguish dreams from reality. Those faces around him. Familiar voices – so distant. Was he answering them? He could not remember what they had asked. What were they saying?

He left his loved ones late that evening not waking up from his dreams. Dream on, my dear brother. Some day we’ll all be together again and live in our dreams.

The memorial is coming up. I’ll tell your friends of the life we had shared, back in Latvia, Poland and Germany. How California became our home.

The home on the hill will not be the same without you. Other people will enjoy the view and play ping-pong, drink beer and tell each other funny stories – ABOUT YOU.




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