A brief glimpse

One day last week my brother came to me as I was putting away my laundry. He looked a little distressed as he said to me-Can I have a hug?

I complied…against my nature asking-“What happened?”

He said-“I’m  dying and I’m scared”

He continued-“I’ve lost my family, my friends are gone….you are the only one I have left”

I hugged

Then I  wondered if this was the time to contact his daughters…

Maybe he was coming to terms with the whole scenario….maybe he was ready to make peace with his family…

After the brief hug he recoiled and said “That’s fine, I’m good, I can go on”

Shortly after he was back to his usual critical self

Mean people get cancer too

I guess if I was starting a brand new blog about caring for my 60 year old, three times married, ex alcoholic, estranged from his daughters and living in china for the past 10 years brother who landed on my doorstep 10 months ago with a baseball size tumor at the base of his tongue~that’s what I would call it~Mean people get cancer too.

We were always the closest of all my siblings in age and being the two oldest knew the most about our shared family story. But life has a habit of knocking people around a bit, as above and while I have always been the grumpy one he was as I remember the “golden” child. Blond, blue eyes, clever and creative~mom’s favorite!

I’m not sure the exact route he took to his own particular isolation, how much inflicted on him vs self inflicted- but I can say that if you imagine that mean old man who scares little kids for walking on his lawn….that is my brother.

He just has this acerbic tongue attached to a selfish brain with no filter. I am by no means a shrinking violet but even I am intimidated sometimes…in my own house!!!

So while I will do my best to care for him til the end it is not easy. Make no mistake~Mean people get cancer too~and not all of them have a personality change or epiphany.

Why is there blood all over my bathroom?

I came home Saturday morning to find blood splatters

  • all over the bathroom
  • the kitchen sink
  • the bathroom sink

And no activity from my brother. Truthfully at this point anything can happen.

When he appears it becomes apparent by the bandage and discoloration over his eyebrow that something happened.

He tells me casually that he fell going down the stairs and proceeds to list for me for the inadequacies of the hall lights motion sensor.

Not long after he asks me if I have any oxy’s. Oxycontin. No, I don’t. I gave you the Norco I got after my surgery.

He tells me how he enjoys the high of the oxycontin. I can appreciate that he wants to escape reality.

But the question is did he fall because of the lack of lighting or because he was shitfaced on oxycontin?

I started to feel sorry for him thinking maybe he is getting frail, he’s had a good ten months and maybe the chemo is just frying him. I thought about how guilty I will feel that I didn’t do more.

Then tonight I came home to the usual in my face confrontation about the deficiencies of my house and family.

 

Dysfunctional Family of the Y ear

You would think that having a terminally ill family member would bring us closer. Circle the wagons, rally the troops? or not…

I knew this was going south when I got an email from my brother Wednesday morning-the subject line was “Unbridled loathing”

The email began

I just went off on Nancy and inadvertently gave that whole wing of the family exactly what they wanted.

Nancy being our younger, delicate sister. He ended with

Then she sent me another, slightly more wordy email that enumerated all of the things that she’s sad she’ll never be able to do with me.  So I reminded her that I’m still alive.  She also said that if I want to know Ma’s phone number I should google her.

So I suggested that she and the entire Aurora Gang go fuck themselves.

Well then…glad to see those charm school lessons paid off…

He summed our family up with this pearl of wisdom

We each need more than anything to sit down and discuss our differences, about 1,000 hours of couch time and about a 1,000 more hours of meditation.  That’s just to avoid fucking suicide.

I couldn’t make this up

even sisters that are caregivers have limits

My brother has pretty much criticized every element of my life  since dropping into it unexpectedly 5 months ago. He has surveyed every inch of my home where he now lives alone in a two bedroom apartment….for free….and told me the water heater will need replacing soon, the water pressure sucks and it needs a new roof.

He has alienated 2 of my 3 children.

He has inaccurately and scathingly made assumptions about my behavior, actions and motivations. For example, I saw him last week fully 8 weeks after my surgery when he asked me if I was back to work yet. I nearly spit out my drink and said “Of course-I went back to work less than two weeks after my surgery” to which he shrugged and said “Oh, I thought you’ve been laying around on the sofa watching TV all this time”…..!!!!!????

I haven’t been able to figure out which came first- his obsessive lack of self monitoring or his social isolation. I think it’s all intertwined because every time he criticizes me I think -no wonder he is divorced 3 times and estranged from his 2 daughters.

I’m all for being honest but some of the things he says are really uncalled for-like he asked me what is wrong with my cat…..Why is she so fat? I’ve never seen a cat so fat and what is hanging off her belly? I’ve seen that on a cat that has just had a litter of kittens but what is wrong with her? Is she sick? She’s so fat…

It’s the repetitive, ongoing, obsessive comments that drive me crazy-

verb (used without object)perseverated, perseverating.

1.to repeat something insistently or redundantly:

to perseverate in reminding children of their responsibilities.

The last straw happened this week-My brother was all excited to apply for a medical cannabis card a few months ago. I helped him complete the paperwork and paid the fees. Then he got the letter that he was approved but no card yet. This is where his paranoia kicks in because even though he was bugging me to get pot from my boyfriend now its apparently too much to ask for him to get some really good stuff legally to pay BF back.

I asked my brother about the card a few times like over 2-3 weeks, I offered to call and see what the delay was because I anticipated based on his past behavior that he would be hounding me to death to find out where his card was. No, he replied that he was going to cut up his card into guitar picks when it comes and I should reconsider “my plot” to get access to it……….oh, really?

My response? FUCK YOU AND YOUR UNGRATEFUL ATTITUDE!!!

Barely spoken a word to him, exchanged a text/email since. The bottom line-and I guess I should say that I don’t care if he is dying of cancer anymore there are common rules of respect that apply to everyone-EVERYONE!

I did not say what I wanted to say which was I think you should look for other accommodations so my family can relax. I didn’t tell him that the reason he is dying alone is that he is such a squirrely, mean person. And I didn’t say that I don’t want to go camping with him next week….

 

 

A good day

And there haven’t been too many of those. I worked out this morning-with a mediation. One son seems to be employed but the other didn’t get his advancement job because he failed his drug test.

We moved some furniture so the top floor of my two flat is looking like a home.

Mostly my heart and mind is calm.

My brother is not doing so great-he has two more chemo infusions and about 10 radiation treatments to finish “round 1”. There is a visible decrease in the mass on the outside but apparently it is quite swollen on the inside.

His main complaint is that everything tastes the same-“like shit”.

He’s tired and having arthritis pain in his hip-the same hip that has metastatic cancer. He’s looking for an electric massager.

Spring is here in the Midwest US and this weekend is promised to be sunny and warm. Time for some gardening and family bonding!

The back story

It occurred to me that some people may wonder why this has all fallen on me…

The truth is that our mother, sister, other brother and his two daughters all know he is back from China.

They do not know he is sick.

They all have elected to stay away and he does not want to play the pity card.

Me? and my kids? We are now his next of kin.

I see this all the time in patients-more so in the VA where I now work. These very pleasant and friendly old (er) men who are estranged from wives and children. I envision that they must have been raging, abusive alcoholics or drug crazed-gun toting gang bangers but in reality maybe they were just like my brother…

A peace loving but terrorized by an angry ex wife man who escaped into alcohol to numb the pain of being denied access to his daughter.

At some point I may play my trump card and call in the reinforcements, knowing it will relegate me to a supporting role but for now I am enjoying the company of my big brother.

He hugs me a little tighter every time I see him.