Tony and William are my brother and bro respectively, one related by blood and the other by biology (7th grade bio to be exact). There’s no way I could be doing “this” without them. I know that there are support groups I can turn too and I do have a lot of friends that I can call but there’s nothing like having people here in the trenches with you. I know this isn’t a battlefield and believe me, I know I can sound like a whining asshole sometimes but they get “it” and they get me (that alone helps so much).
I’ve known William since I was twelve years old. He tells the story of the day we first met in gym class, I was (apparently) sitting on the floor hugging my knees to my chest (trying to make myself invisible I’m sure) and he came and sat beside me, said “hi” and we’ve been best friends ever since. I call him the keeper of the memories because he remembers everything about our shared history. He has the most remarkable memory, not just about us-he remembers everything.
Even though life had very different paths laid out for us; different colleges, living in different parts of the country, even losing touch for a few years here and there, the bond we formed oh so many years ago is just as strong,so we always found or way back to each other. Now that I’m on the East coast we’re living about forty minutes apart for the first time in our adult lives, which is great.
Years ago Williams’ father go sick so he made the choice to build his house next door to his parents so that he could be there to help out. Through the years he’s taken on not only his father’s care but responsibility for his mother’s wellness, too. So, he’s not only a great support system for me, I’m finding that he’s one of my guides through the process of learning how to become a caregiver. The specifics of our parent’s situations are different but at the end of the day we’re both adult children of parents that need us.
We had a chance to spend the day together not long after my discussion/argument with Miss Cathy. Our outing couldn’t have come at a better time. When he picked me up for our day together I was ready for some “me” time (translation: I just needed to get the “flock” outta that apartment). I sat in his car and listened as he drove and told me the latest story about his parents-some mishap over what was served for dinner. I don’t know, I could feel my body relax just by listening to him tell me all the funny, frustrating events of his day. It’s not that ”misery loves company”, or that I was happy to hear that things aren’t always perfect with his folks, no, it’s more like war buddies sharing stories of being “in country”. It’s not stuff you tell just anybody, lest they think you’re whining, bitching or complaining-which you’re not, you’re just “telling it like it is”, reporting from the “battle field”. He didn’t know it at the time but his telling me about his day made me feel better about mine.
Later, over dinner I told him what was going on with Miss Cathy, all about the trip and her announcement that “she’s not leaving her house ‘no more after this trip ‘down south”. We laughed about it, not at Miss Cathy but at the similarities because William had just driven his parents to North Carolina over Christmas and let’s just say,” it wasn’t a road-trip Norman Rockwell would be painting any scenes about”. I felt better just talking to him about everything because he knows me, he knows Miss Cathy and he knows the situation all too well.
As for my brother, Tony is my only sibling and he’s older than me by eleven months and one week. We were both born on a Tuesday in January, he in 1958 and me in 1959, so for three weeks we’re the same age-we’re what they call “Irish twins”. Since we were so close in age Miss Cathy used to dress us alike (she said it cut down on bickering about “who got what”) and since we looked a lot alike early in our childhood people thought we were twins. I don’t know if this gives us any “special” bond or connection but unlike William, Tony and I couldn’t be more different. None the less, even though we’ve grown into very different men from the fat, little brown butter-balls that people couldn’t tell apart as kids, we remain extremely close without having to communicate much at all.
After my day with William I called Tony to let him know what was going on. Like I said, we don’t talk often but we do call to touch base. I always think of Tony as someone that I know will be there for me no matter what I need (which in itself is a great feeling) but I forget that he doesn’t have to be called to slay a dragon or to run into a burning building-I can call him “just” to talk.
Talking to my brother after my time with William was the one-two punch I needed to make me feel a whole better about the choices I’ve made so far. I told him how I was starting to doubt “our” decisions about how we’re handling Miss Cathy and her illness. I told him that she was starting to make sense (which in and of itself should have given me pause). I told him that I was kinda confused and not so “certain” about all the pontificating I’ve been doing-to her and at her.
In no time flat he straightened me out, and I realized that I’d started to feel like Ingrid Bergman in “Gaslight” but Tony snapped me out of it before Charles Boyer could murder me in the thick London fog….RIGHT, that was a movie and I’m not Ingrid-now back to real life. What Tony did was to remind me of all that’s happened in the past year, and to give me some distance from being “in it” with her day in/day out. He did a great job of wiping away the clouds of doubt that had been gathering around me.
He reminded me that her behavior hasn’t been normal for a while now and it crossed the line of being “Oh she’s just getting forgetful” a long time ago. Also, she’d been going to great lengths to keep her decline from us, and all of this was before the fall last year that precipitated her Alzheimer’s diagnosis.
It’s funny, but if you live with someone and they are your focus you can lose some perspective (at least I was starting to). I’ve got a little book knowledge but very little experience caring for someone with a degenerative disease. So every know and then it gets confusing, “do I know what’s best for this person?” “She seems fine (now) so why deny her the freedoms she wants?”, you know, questions like that. I think that if I’d been checking in with Tony on a more regular basis then I wouldn’t have some of these questions or insecurities. His confidence in what we’re doing reaffirmed my faith that everything that can be done is being done.
I was also grateful and surprised when he offered to drive Miss Cathy to North Carolina for me. All I have to do is drop her off at his house and he’ll take it (her) from there-Hal-lay-loo! He said it was the least he could do because he appreciates all that I’m doing.
Just like my time spent with William, I hung up the phone after talking to Tony feeling so much stronger. I’m lucky to have these guys in my life-I’m gonna need them.