Saturday, October 11, 2014

My Brother Chuck

My Brother Chuck, at 51
photo (c) Tina M. Harris, 2014

When our mother died 4 years ago, I dreaded having to tell my brother Chuck that she was gone.  My brother, for those who do not know him, has been intellectually challenged since a high fever nearly killed him as an infant. As a result, he had lived with our mother his entire life, ostensibly because he needed her to look after him.  Truthfully, though, he had really been her caregiver the last few years of her life.  He was the one who had to call 911 -- on more than one occasion -- when she started having chest pains and found it difficult to breathe. He was the one that did a lot of the housework that she could not do.  Even though my husband and I had moved back across the country from DC to Oregon to be close to her after she was diagnosed with lung cancer, she leaned on him to do things for her when Brad and I couldn't be there. I loved my mother, but always worried about the pressure he was under having to care for her.  I did what I could to help, but Chuck was the one who had spent the most time with her and I knew he was going to be crushed.  He is usually fairly even-keeled, but he has been known to smash things in rare fits of anger, and I was expecting him to have a bit of a meltdown.  I told him "Chuck, I am so sorry, but I had to take Mom to the hospital and she didn't make it," and I held my breath for one beat, two, an eternity ... he put his head down and whispered, "I guess I am an orphan now." I thought watching my mother as she slowly took her final breath had broken my heart, but nothing has ever shattered it like my brother did that day.

I took this photograph of Chuck while we were sitting waiting for lunch to be delivered to our table,  He had been smiling and chattering away happily about his great bowling scores earlier in the day but for a couple brief moments he was quiet, seemingly lost in thought as I snapped  his picture.  I wonder if he was thinking about Mom and wishing she had been there to celebrate with him.

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