I heard my cell phone vibrating over where it was charging at 8:30 in the morning. I walked over to see what was going on and since it wasn’t a number I recognized I tentatively, and perhaps a l little hostilely, said hello.
“Hi Brook. You don’t sound like yourself.”
Oh crap – it was my brother.
I had not seen or spoken to my brother since the day he and his family swept into my mother’s house to scavenge was things he wanted and then quickly disappeared with absolutely no offer of help in clearing out her house after her death. At the time I sat down and cried. I had really hoped someone would help me with that daunting task since it was breaking my heart to throw my mother’s life away. And I didn’t even like her. He was the one who thought she was the world’s best mom. But I digress.
Several months earlier I had emailed asking to have our parents’ photo albums for a while so I could scan some of the images. He shot back a snotty response “why should I think I’ll ever get them back?” Here I’ll point out that I was the one who insisted he have the albums since my son had died and I had no one to pass them on to. He should have them since he had kids. But I wasn’t to be trusted with borrowing them for a bit. Funny – I sort of thought they belonged to both of us. I digress again.
I was happy with the “no contact” relationship I have with my brother. I heard enough horror stories of things he said and did to his son and his family to keep me firmly of the opinion that he not someone I want to allow in my life – it will bring only nastiness and ugliness and now that my mother is no longer here I have no need to go there. So you can imagine my shock when I inadvertently answered his call.
He had sent me a follow up email a few months ago saying he was sorry for what he’d said about the albums and that he thinks of me every day and hopes I’m doing well. My responding thought was “Funny – I never think of you and when I do it’s how glad I am that I don’t have anything to do with you.” Petty, but true.
He called to let me know that a cousin of ours had gone in for bypass surgery and had gone into a coma and wasn’t expected to survive.
We also needed to talk about mineral rights that our mother had left to us jointly since we needed to negotiate another lease. Fine.
While he wouldn’t fill in details because of the vastness of the subject, he said the last 10 years had not been good for him and his health had been one disaster after another. He was calling my on his cell phone sitting in a parking lot at a hospital before he went into a psych eval that was required before they would do a nerve blocking procedure for peripheral neuropathy.
He’d been on massive pain killers for years to the point he’s lost a lot of cognitive function. No memory anymore. No kidding – what did he expect pain medication to do? I could tell he had trouble talking and was stunned by his lack of memory. You have to keep in mind that both he and I had been blessed with very high intelligence. It horrified me to see his muddled under layers of pain medication.
He was absolutely miserable and while he didn’t come out and say it I could tell he didn’t want and didn’t think he’d live much longer. For crying out loud – the man is only 65. I know 80 year olds that are always on the go.
But at least he was nice during the conversation. He reiterated his apology and when he was clearly going to belabor the point I cut him off and told him he shouldn’t worry about it.
He told my filled with regret he was. That he’d traveled too much during his childrens’ childhoods and he’d missed too much of them. He said the terrible thing about being retired is that he had so much time to think about all the things he did wrong and all the things he should have done.
I am not exaggerating when I say it was one of the most depressing conversations I have ever been party to. Immense pain, horrible regret, no hope.
I really believe in karma and if this was karma in action it scared the ever loving crap out of me.
If this is a function of genetics it also scared the crap out of me that I could have these tendencies as well. Whatever good grace had allowed me to avoid this path I silently uttered a huge “thank you!”
I felt like a gray cloud was hanging over me all day so I decided in the afternoon to call my nephew and find out what the heck is going on.