My Brother Cursed God and I was Proud

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Status: Finished  |  Genre: Memoir  |  House: Booksie Classic
A familes struggle with their mother's fight with cancer.

Submitted: August 13, 2012

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Submitted: August 13, 2012

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PROLOGUE

 

Stories are written based on experiences. First hand things that were actually lived and also things that people wished had happened or even imagined happened.

This story is based mostly on fact and first hand experience and I am still not sure if I actually witnessed this or if I imagined the rest of it. In the state I / we were in at this time it is understandable if it was the latter. I just know that this whole story came into my head all at once about a week after our ordeal. This all happened about fifteen years ago. (give or take) I don’t exactly know why it took me so long to put pen to paper , but maybe it has something to do with a conversation I had with friend who recently lost her husband. Like a lot of us, we want to have answers to our own behavior. So, also like a lot of us, she asked her doctor, “how long will it take to get over this?” His response was possibly the most honest answer I have ever heard for people grieving over a loved one who dies before their time. His answer, “you never will”.

 

 

 

 

My Brother Cursed God and I was Proud

 

Yes, my brother cursed god and I was proud.

“Well there must be a story behind it”. Of course there is a story behind it.

 

You see, my mother got cancer……..and….well, she died from it.

 

Of course it was her own fault.

She smoked like 40 packs of non-filtered, extra tar, extra long cigarettes a day. She also removed drywall from abandoned wherehouses that contained huge amounts of asbestos.

She lived under power lines that actually ran inside of her house and she made regular swims in Carcinogen Lake.

 

Yeah, it was her own fault. She brought this on herself. She cried and carried on and basically gave up. She cursed the doctors, cursed all of us, alienated herself from the rest of the world and waited to die.

Sometimes I wish that is what happened. I do. At least I think I do.

The reality is; my mother smoked to show off a few times in high school and was in excellent shape her whole life. Not because she was a fitness fanatic but because she truly believed in staying active. Playing sports and staying active was something she truly believed was beneficial to life. She used to tell us, “Get off your butts and go outside.”

And being the smart-asses that she raised. we’d counter with, “and do what”!

She’d go, “I don’t know but get off your asses and move them outside!”

And we would.

We grew up just being expected to play sports. We would be signed up for something at least twice a year whether we asked for it or not.

Sometimes my brother would mess with her to see if he could piss her off and she’d take one of sandals off and nail him in the back as we both went flying out the screen door. She was a frustrated athlete. Always dangerous for lippy kids like ourselves

To tell the truth mom never gave up. Even after the doctors told her it was over, the continued to try anything and everything.

Remember that next time you hear one of those stories about some rich famous person who got cancer and “was successful with their brave battle with cancer”. And all of this lame anecdotal evidence from doctors saying, “you really have to keep your spirits up and be brave and you CAN BEAT THIS THING!.”

So, none of the survivers got depressed, or felt like giving up? Bullshit! Just…bullshit.

The main reasons for surviving cancer is early detection and getting the kind of cancer that the doctor you have knows how to diagnose and treat! If the doctor doesn’t look and isn’t knowledgeable in it; you’re screwed. Well obviously our mom wasn’t lucky enough to have either of these advantages.

So, back to my brother.

After we gathered at the hospital to be told by the great doctor we need to take my mom home cause, “there’s nothing we can do”. (file that under top 10 things you never want to hear just in front of “I slept with your best friend” and “I think your hair is on fire”.)

After this announcement we were told that since we were such great guests we would be sent home with “Sorry your loved one is Dying – the Home Version!” This included: a special delivered hospital bed, 42 tons of medication and a promise that a nurse would be assigned to, “help us through it”

Just a thought: Doctors are generally so tight with the pain medication but when they know someone is going to die, it’s like Costco Wearhouse Supply City with the meds. Doctors won’t assist suicide but they will sure make the recipe right at your fingertips.

Anyways, we all basically gathered at the house to stay and take care of mom. We took as many days off work as possible, stopped going to school, stopped socializing etc. We lived 24/7 to be with, talk to and help her to the end.

Our job was to be there. Be there to watch her. Be there to talk to her. Be there to even feed her, bathe her and change her. Yes – it did get to that point. Towards the end we had to take care of her like a baby. The cancer was taking her strength and the meds were taking her mind.

Another thought: There is absolutely nothing that prepares you for this. No movie has come close to what really happens when people die of cancer like this. In the movies after the character dies they say, “after a long battle with cancer he/she slipped peacefully to the other side” or some crap like that. They never say, “after losing 40% of their body weight, becoming too weak to lift their hand, becoming clinically insane as a result of too much pain medication and having the bowel control of an infant – they slipped peacefully to the other side.”

Again, getting back to my brother. It was a particular tough day. We were in a mode where the drugs had been “adjusted”, which means the nurse was giving them by the handfuls rather than bucketfuls.

This “adjustment” resulted in our mom becoming fidgety and active rather than listless. Awesome!

You would think this would be good because we would actually be able to have conversations with her. But what it actually brought about was constant conversations to quell her paranoia. We would have conversations that would go like this:

(Mom)  “Why are there so many cats on the ceiling?”

(Us) “Well, are the cats being nice? Then I guess they are just playing.”

(Mom) “Hey, shouldn’t we let the monkeys in since they keep tapping on the window?

(Us) “No, they might be dirty, and besides they would rather play outside where there are not so many cats.”

 

The day was hot and though we tried to keep mom in the “clean, cool room”, where we had the hospital bed, she was constantly trying to move out into the house. Not to see other people but to just move around and mutter to herself. It was my brother’s “shift” to watch mom and he was having a hell of a time.

You have to understand what goes through the minds of people like us who are put in the situation of caring for a loved one in their last days. It is different from a professional caretaker. Because you love them, you want them to just keep living. Just make it till tomorrow and maybe tomorrow never comes…………………But also, and this is tough to admit…….but I would not be honest if I didn’t…………….You want them to die…………..You just want the pain and the insanity to end. For the dying and…for the living.  And you want that for the same reason you want them to live…..because you love them.

Well as I was saying, he was having a hell of a time. He was trying his best to talk nicely, to reason with her that it was best for her if she would just stay still while he helped her get dressed again. We didn’t have to ask. We knew. We knew she had probably either spilled something on herself or she needed to be changed. Yes, just like a baby.

And also like a baby on a hot summer’s day, she didn’t see the point in putting all of these damn clothes on when it was HOT. Again, we didn’t need to go walking into the room to understand what was going on because it had already happened to us. More often than we cared to think about.

From the room we could hear my brother’s voice become louder and more agitated.

“Mom”…Mom!”…Mom!!  And here comes mom around the corner, heading towards the front door. She’s doing her little shuffle, muttering to herself but with a clear purpose…to get outside. The only thing she is wearing is an old white t-shirt and a pair of adult diapers that only have one of the velcro fasteners attached and as she is shuffling and getting closer to the front door…and…..they…are…slipping.

Suddenly we are in some kind of sick sitcom as my brother comes tearing around the corner after her. Apparently she had got her head start because he was trying to finish cleaning up something in the back room. (we knew but we didn’t want to know) On his feet, he only has socks on and has somehow forgotten this important fact as he does a complete out of control side swap into the side of the kitchen counter. His feet are doing a crazy running motion but he is not getting anywhere on the slick linoleum. He somehow saves himself before taking a huge header by simultaneously grabbing for the refrigerator handle on one side, the bar stool on the other and keeping his feet moving. Before you know it he is completely under control and has caught up to mom just steps from the screen door. He quickly reaches down and secures the loose side of the adult diaper puts his arm smoothly across her shoulders and turns her back the way she had just come.

What we had just witnessed was both farcical and amazingly athletic at the same time. Something he would of normally took great glee in recounting the story to friends and family. Also something mom would have loved to recount as well, if things were………..different.

We were moving towards the two of them as we were also trying to intercept mom before the door. My brother had of course reached her first but we continued to move towards them to see if we could help out since it was obvious he was having “issues”. My sister and myself were both smiling as we approached the pair because although the situation was sad and pathetic, the action surrounding it was pretty funny.

But, as we approached my brother, the smile disappeared from our faces. Without saying a word I could see it. We could see that my brother had reached his breaking point and was well past it. His eyes were averted downwards as he muttered softly but audible, “Do me a favor and take her”.

It wasn’t pleading or demanding. Just a statement-like direction that we took without further comment.

Just before he turned towards the door, we could see that his face was wet. This was also something that we all went through at different times. You would spend what seemed like hours staring off into space, thinking about the inevitable; life without mom. What would dad do? What would my sister do? What would I do? And then you would wonder why your face felt kind of itchy…or maybe looked down and noticed a drop. Then you wondered where the water was coming from. And the realization came that the water was tears…You had been sitting there, staring off into space…just crying. But it felt like a more mechanical reaction than what was normal. There was no sobbing. No convulsing. Just water draining from your eyes. Maybe the emotion had been drained from all of us. Maybe emotions were no longer something we could control due to this “new life” we were leading. A side effect. A bonus to this unfair contract that we never signed up for but all agreed, non-verbally, to see it to the end…The bitter…bitter end.

My sister quickly took mom by the arm and with a quick knowing glance at me then my brother, as if to say,” WATCH HIM, she guided her back down the hallway towards the back bedroom…

And I did…I did watch him…this was the moment.

He walked quickly, purposefully. As if he needed to get outside…because maybe he could not breathe anymore in this house. With his right hand he shoved the screen door open as he passed through it. It smacked hard and loud against the outside wall, but he did not slow or seem to notice.

As I stopped at the doorway from where he had just passed, watching him, I noticed his fists were clenched and even from a distance I could see he was ready to explode.

At first I couldn’t make out what he was saying. From where I was it was difficult to make out. I could tell it was in anger because of the definite growl behind it. I would not have to wait long, however to understand what was coming from his mouth as it got exponentially louder with each step. And with each yell was a symbolic gesture that accompanied it.

As he was walking he was looking up at the sky with his fist straight above his head, middle finger protruding…”fuck you!...Fuck You!!...FUCK YOU!!!”, he yelled at the heavens. He approached the railroad ties that bordered our front walkway and abruptly sat down. Nearly collapsed on it. The energy seemed to visibly drain from him at that moment. What had built up inside of him was now spent. His shoulders slumped forward as he buried his head in his hands.

He stayed that way for several moments…then he looked up one more time at the sky. I looked up with him. I am not sure if he was looking up to see if dark clouds were forming above us or if he was repeating his earlier proclamation one last time. I’m not sure why I looked with him. I guess to see the same thing and to witness, if it happened, the dark clouds that never came.

He did not look back towards the house to see if anyone was watching him. He did not do this for the reaction of mere mortals. This was him conveying his anger to the gods or God. And he was not alone. We were all in his shoes. All of us in this house. All her children. Our mother’s children.

If a representative of God, an angel or some other being came to the door and said, “we heard that there have been curses cast from this place and you need to answer to Him”, we would have at that moment, walked out to meet whoever or whatever, together without hesitation. Whether a great robed figure, a white light or some 8 foot tall blonde muscle bound dude with a silver hammer stood before us. We would have walked in unison to meet our maker or our punisher. We had been put through so much, so much pain, so much mystery, so much agony. We now knew the makings of martyrs and heroes. Those who have been pushed to the edge and had become uncaring in what becomes of them. Only, that change must be made by any means possible. Whether they survive it or not. For us it was not change but just simply an answer to a question: why?

If something or someone had shown up at our doorstep. We wanted to confront it. Make demands of it. Ask questions of it. Or maybe…to be punished by it. Yes, maybe we wanted punishment. To make it easier to take, that all of our daily aches, pains and complaints had become so incredibly miniscule in comparison to watching first hand what was being heaped upon our mother. It would make it easier if it was happening to us too. If we could feel what she was feeling. But deep down we knew, despite the nightmare she was living, it could be worse. If, it was one of her children, yes, to her that would be worse. So all we could do was…continue…living.

And as I stood there, leaning against the wall, watching my brother through the screen door, I could feel the pride swell as I thought about what had just happened. On this hot summer’s day, in this middle class neighborhood, in this track home that probably had become the subject of local whispers, as people noticed more cars at this house than normal, more people coming and going than they remember, and of course the nurse that signaled definite trouble. This inconsequential house, where I had witnessed this great act of defiance.

Mere weeks before this we had something in common with those people out there. But now our worlds had become divided so much so that if asked we would probably both feel that that we could not imagine living in their world. Us living outside these walls and them living inside these. The chasm was wider than worlds apart…for both I imagine.

Well of course, no lightning bolts came from the sky, no devils rose from the earth and no swarm of locusts fell upon us. It continued to be hot, my brother eventually returned to the house and………my mother…continued…to die.

 

Since that time I have been asked several times, and I am sure my siblings have also, “how did you make it through”. Sometimes I am not sure we did…make it through that is.  A famous poet once said, “Mother love is the fuel that enables a normal human being to do the impossible”. And we had. We had done what many would describe as impossible. We had survived watching our mother lose her battle. Lose her life. Perhaps it was because of our mother’s love that we do continue. Even in her absence we want to please her. To do what she would want…for her love.

Looking back, it is strange that there are some things about that time that I can’t seem to remember. For some reason, to this day, I cannot remember the day and even the year. I don’t know if this is because I have put it out of my head or…more likely, because I re-live it everyday. There are certain things I do remember from those last days; the incredible heat of that summer that again reminded us of things out of our control. I remember the look on her face that day in the hospital when she was forced to tell us the truth about her illness. I remember how completely alone I felt, and we all felt, even though we lived together with her in her final days. And I remember…will always remember…the day my brother cursed God and I was proud.

 

 

 


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