Saturday, December 4, 2010

Saying No to Bro

Early Days

In normal times my brother Mike and I lead almost entirely separate lives.  O, we manage to meet for Menudo most Sunday mornings, in lieu of Church.  He has the run of my tool shed, and I of his.  But my average pleasant day would probably drive him up the wall.  He's not that much of a reader.  And his enthusiasms leave me cold as well, since they often involve active interaction with a large group.  I mean... bowling, for chrissakes?  In a league?  Even his idea of motorcycling was primarily social as well, like forming part of an "honor guard" with fifty or a hundred other bikers at various funerals.  The racket was enough to raise the dead.

He was even involved with a "Biker Church".  Holy Harley, Batman!  Give me a break.

Mike hale and hearty?  He has his life, and I have mine.

But Mike helpless?  Mike lying up unconscious in a narrow room, surrounded by the casual brutality of a teaching hospital, with a tube down his throat?  The sight of that Mike just knocked me right out of myself.  My usual egotism was swept aside, forgotten, drowned.  What was left was a fierce protectiveness.

It seems I am not quite the independent asshole that I thought I was.  Imagine that.

It's only happened a few times, over the years.  It always surprises me.  I remember once in the seventh grade I picked up a kid my age by the throat and pinned him to the wall at the skating rink because he pushed my brother down.  I didn't plan on doing that.  I didn't even think about doing it.  It just happened.  Scared the crap out of me, when I came to my senses. I really could have hurt that kid.

It seems ridiculous to have that sort of reaction now.  Not that I'm throwing anybody around.  I'm an old guy.  But I do have a completely automatic and unreasoning desire to stand guard over Mike.  To keep him from harm.  To make things better for him.

And as part of that I suddenly found it really hard to say no to him.

If he wanted to get out of his wheel chair, I'd scour the halls and round up nurses and such to get it done.  I was polite, I think, but remorseless.  If he wanted to get out of bed to take a leak, I'd do the same.  It infuriated me that they would let him go in a diaper rather than show up instantly to help him to the pot.  I would just commandeer help and refuse to take no for an answer.  But then when he got in there, he often couldn't go, and then he wanted immediately back into bed.  And then, half the time, he'd no sooner get his head back on the pillow than some therapist would show up to put him back in the wheel chair to take him down the hall.

I came to realize I was wearing out my welcome.  There was a reason why they wanted him up in that wheel chair, whether he was comfortable or not.  There was even a reason for the visiting hours I was ignoring.  I was actually interfering with his recovery by indulging his every inconstant whim.

These people are professionals.  They have a plan.  And he has to get with the plan if he is going to get better.  Whether he likes it or not.

There's a sign on the front door of the rehab hospital that says "Sometimes Caring Means Not Visiting".  They are talking about staying away if you are sick, so you don't spread whatever you've got to the patients.  But I think it applies to obsessively protective and indulgent brothers as well.

So now I've finally gotten to where I only go up there every other day.  Mostly.  I stay an hour, find out how he's doing, and what he's been doing, bring him his laundry and such, and then I leave him to it.

And he is getting better.

"Sometimes Caring Means Not Visiting".  Sometimes it means getting out of the way.  Letting go.  It is the hardest part of love.



GranJan said...

It is a relief to me that you have come to this revelation. By being uncomfortable and knowing he has no rescuer, he will fight to get out of there.
He will be better, and you will be better for it.

Anonymous said...

well said Bob, though i'd bet your care and concern earlier on was more help than harm... now that he's out of the woods, it's a good thing to let him begin taking back his own reigns.


Bob Giddings said...

Well, Dan, that was the idea. "The crisis is over, he's gonna live, and the rest is just therapy."

But then this afternoon I got a call he was going to the ICU again. He had a seizure after his temperature suddenly shot up to 107 degrees. By the time I got there it was down to 100, and he's going to be up there to be monitored overnight. Apparently a bladder infection gone very bad, but they have it under control now.

He seemed to be doing so well, too.

I'm back home now, trying to shake off a sinus infection myself. Gonna dope up with antihistamines, try to get some sleep, and go back in the morning.

Hope this is the last damn crisis. It's been two months. Seems like a year.


Jennifer said...

I think about you both, often. I haven't ever had an experience like this, so can't come close to comprehending.

Sorry you are also feeling sick. (I've been sick for the last week, too.)

Take care,


Bob Giddings said...

Thanks, Jennifer.

I got the sneezing fits starting last Thursday, and clogged up since. But it seems to be passing. Main symptom now is just that I can't keep my eyes open. I actually fell asleep sitting up in the waiting room today. Came home, watched about 5 minutes of a Liverpool soccer game, and slept through the rest. Hell, I'm hardly more conscious than Mike right now, but with a lot less excuse. He had a peaceful day. It is going to take a few days to knock his infection down, but his vitals are good.

Bob, who wishes he had something else to write about. Bah.

Suzanne said...

That photo says as much as the blog....

My thoughts continue to be with you both as you navigate this tough stretch of road.


Jack B. Nimble said...

Wow, what a ride! You haven't changed much from rv.rec days. You see life (and express it) with such clarity. I'm relieved that your brother, Mike, is recovering, even with the stumbling blocks. I find myself hoping that you'll be sticking to your Lazy Daze, and Bob, upon recovery, will retreat to a safer mode of travel, as well. I hope you'll continue to write about your travels--please. You and I were in many of the same places since last April and it was fun to read about them from the pen of an exceptional author. I took a six month (wish I hadn't come back) trip out to the west coast.

Years ago, we saw a guy on a motorcycle hit a steer out in the middle of nowhere in Oregon. While my husband called 911, I (Reincarnated Clara Barton) jumped out of our motor home with a pillow and a blanket to see what I could do for him. I remembered my first aid. As he lay on the ground, in a loud and deliberate voice I yelled, "Sir, do you know where you are?" (Next was going to be, "What is the President's name?") I won't repeat the salty reply I got even as his leg was up around his shoulder in a sickening and unnatural position.

Fortunately and unexpectedly, the local volunteer rescue crew was on site very quickly, and we could let them take over. I think the steer actually got the worst of it.

Again, so glad I found you, again, and look forward to hearing about Mike's recovery and your future travels or driveway chatter. Get well, yourself.