have passed since the last post.
My brother only needed the porta-cath for a few days and a few more dialysis treatments before producing urine and excreting chemicals sufficient enough to be safe for life outside of the hospital. He underwent a nuclear stress test that proved to his doctor that there was no damage to his heart. The porta-cath was removed and he was able to go to my parents new home.
The problem now is neurological. He has a lot painful pins-and-needle sensations in his feet and occasional, random shooting pains in his legs that take his breath away. The go as fast as they come and there is no prediction of when they will occur.
Let me discuss the high points though.
I flew out to Florida with the girls on December 23 because there was no way I was spending Christmas away from my folks. My brother greeted us and demonstrated how was able to amble around without the walker. His gait wasn't steady, fast, or graceful but it was bona fide walking without the walker. Having seen my brother learn to walk once before, 26 years ago, and seeing it again now was a bit of a mixed bag emotionally. I definitely cried, and for at least two reasons. I was both delighted that he could walk independently, at least a little, and so sad that he even had to re-learn this skill in the first place.
Plus, the thought of him living in pain is almost unbearable for me to consider and yet it is so.
The next day we went to the seafood store that had five live lobsters on special order for us to pick up for dinner on Christmas day. The plan was surf and turf, twice baked potatoes, and a few other sides. I tended to the lobsters every couple of hours to make sure that they were alive and that their environment was sufficiently moist and hospitable until the next day when we plunged them into a boiling pot of water.
On Christmas Eve, Penny slept in with my parents in their bed. A total grandparental indulgence, but I didn't balk. It made everyone happy. Penny worships all four of her grandparents and doesn't get to see my parents enough anyway. There was no tearing the three of them apart.
Christmas morning, I woke very early from the morning light. It felt quiet, much too quiet. Tears very gently came to my eyes as I realized that the quiet was from the absence of someone, someone who was always up early and not very quiet himself. Eventually I heard Penny making some wakeful noise in my parents' room, and then start to stir, and then the typical Christmas morning chatter that small children inevitably make, the kind that precedes the noisy opening of presents and exclamations over how generous Santa was this year.
During those moments, I felt so grateful that at least Penny had my parents this year to wake up with since she did not have me and her father to wake with. Mixed in were feeligns of jealousy and joy over my parents' fortune of waking up next to each other for the past 39 or 40 years. Maybe not jealousy, that just sounds wrong, but I don't really know if there is a specific word for the complicated feeling I held for their situation. It certainly wasn't vicious, like envy. It was more like a thought in my head that said, "those people might not have any idea of just how lucky they really are."
The momentum of Christmas morning quickly dashed the acuteness of my feelings of loss away as we woke up Jon and Sadie. It lingered in the background most of the day, just below the surface of everything but not interfering with the joy. It was always right around the corner, even as I boiled lobsters alive and scooped the interior out of the potatoes and poured the wine.
Still, this was the most manageable holiday yet and certainly the best Christmas I've had in years.
The following day, my brother and I met up with childhood friends who happened to be visiting family in St. Petersburg. What a delightful coincidence that we were able to get together. They have both grown into wonderful, interesting people. The older brother, who I spent a great deal of time with during middle school and early high school, designs shoes and has lived in interesting places all over the country. He still retains a love of the Delaware River that rivals my sentiments. The younger brother is studying to be a doctor, an osteopath to be exact, and gave me a quick adjustment of my neck in the parking lot that was gentle and felt like fitting pieces of a jigsaw puzzle into their rightful place together.
My brother spent more time in a vertical position that evening than he had in months. Before meeting up with them we had a lovely dinner together. The venue of our meeting was a really great place in north Tampa near the university that served food, had a bar, and featured live music. I think my brother's meeting with the younger brother studying medicine was a positive encounter and he paid a lot of attention to my brother's story and was extremely encouraging.
And he had a beer. Like a grown man would have a beer. And it was wonderful to have a beer with him and just...be alive together.
All in all, it was simply lovely.
I was so sad to leave that Monday after Christmas, not just to return to a short and hectic work week preceding New Year's Eve, but mostly because I miss my family tremendously. I even miss Florida slightly. Ok, more than slightly. It was a bit cold there, but it wasn't a bitter cold. It wasn't the sort of cold that turns me into a hermit. The night before we left, my brother took Penny and I out around the neighborhood in the golf cart to look at the Christmas lights. It was chilly but tolerable.
My brother and I had so many conversations, in-depth conversations about everything: our lives, our blessings and our obstacles, how things may or may not have gone if things had been different, our childhood, our family, and the future. During the visit I just felt so in touch, in-tune with him, and I really came to the realization that for both of us, whatever tragedies have occurred...well, this is the way our stories are supposed to go. These are the words that are written and there is no erasure allowed. It all depends upon how we re-tell the story that matters.
Mostly there was just a profound awareness of how we both came so close to the edge, maybe in different ways, but again, so close to the edge we dangled.