While I’ve spent the better part of the last eight days bemoaning the disruption of my home life, there were other things happening – real things – that put everything I’ve been feeling into perspective.
My youngest sister (I have two) and I have been close since she was born. We’re nearly a decade apart in age, but there’s a connection between us that I can’t really explain. When we fought as children, it was fierce, but we always made up. When I joined the military and went off to basic training, she cried the hardest, and I’ll never forget the evening that I called home – confused, scared, and woefully afraid – and our call was suddenly cut off (due to the excessive volume of calls), and I cried like a baby because it happened while she was in the middle of sharing a joke. That’s something weird about us – come rain or shine, though thick or thin, we share jokes. Good jokes, bad jokes, horrible puns – you name it. I’d stop everything I was doing just to share a bad joke with her because no matter how awful it was, I know she’d appreciate it. She’s heard some of my jokes a dozen times, but she’s never complained, nor have I after hearing her batch of funnies for the umpteenth time. As we’ve gotten older, our relationship has remained close: Despite having three other siblings, she routinely calls me for advice, help, and a shoulder to cry on, and I’ve reciprocated. Even after she married (to Mister Worthless), she continued to come to me for support. I don’t mind: she’s my sister.
Saturday evening, she called again, this time in pain and confusion. She’d been dealing with a host of ailments for quite some time now, all after a botched medical procedure left her with a staph infection. I knew she’d been in bad shape, but in truth, there’s little that I can do for her. Her physicians directed that she try certain medications and refused to aid her further until they’d run their course. The only thing that we can do is wait. With this in mind, I told her that if she was in serious pain, then she should call 911 and let them take her to the Emergency Room.
I should point out that because of the botched procedure and the subsequent infection (both of which happened a year ago), my sister’s ability to walk has deteriorated. She began with a cane, advanced to a walker, and recently transitioned to a wheel chair. All the while, no one had any idea as to what was causing her pain and incapacitation. She has children, all but one now in adulthood; you’d think that they’d actually give a damn about their mother and help her, but then you’d be thinking wrong. Well, check that – two of them cares. The others see her as an ATM or a free cook. When she told me how her eldest son addressed her recently (“I’m a Man, so I don’t have to listen to you“), I was determined to drive to their home (nearly an hour away) to see just how much of a Man he really is. I’m sorry, but I don’t play that. I had plenty of arguments with my parents when I was Young Furious, but believe-you-me, I never once even thought about making a statement like that, much less being stupid enough to actually letting those words leave my lips.
I gave little thought to her pained call after I hung up. I did want to ask her how things turned out, but by the time that occurred to me, it was a few hours later; I figured that she was asleep and that I could call her in the morning.
It wasn’t until early afternoon – after I’d performed a few necessary chores, and cleaned my stove – that I figured the time was right for me to call. Except, I received a call before I could do it. My niece was on the other end; her mother was admitted to the hospital. She was in intensive care, her heart was underperforming, and that was all she knew. That call was followed by another, this time from my other siblings who were there at Baby Sis’s side. It didn’t look good, they reported. The physicians weren’t saying much, and it was still too early to tell. Yes, her heart was underperforming, but that was the least of her troubles. Seems that the staph infection was far greater than anyone had previously believed, and that it might even be the cause of her heart issues. I was advised not to drive over, but I would be kept in the loop. So – I waited.
Today, I made the trip to the hospital, expecting the worse. If things were as bad as claimed, then I wanted to be there. When I saw my sister, she was barely recognizable. She was confused and delirious, speaking and seeing, but not understanding from either. She looked so frail and helpless – and I, as older brother, was incapable of easing her suffering. I couldn’t even tell her that things would be alright; she couldn’t understand me, and I don’t think she’d have heard me if I’d tried. I won’t say that I stood there in tears because I didn’t. I couldn’t. If my previous experience in supporting our other sister during her hospitalization (mentioned here a while back) did nothing else, it robbed me of the ability to experience the need to react to a tragedy. I just look for ways to manage the situation – I can grieve later.
Her physician pulled me aside and gave me the news: The infection was serious; it had attacked her internal organs. They would run tests to see what was causing it, but they’d planned to remove a build up of fluid that had formed in her abdomen. There was some question about the infection having reached her brain, but they were doing all that they could to help her. When I asked him what he considered her chances to be, he sighed and said, “Fifty-fifty.” I thanked him and left – partially to get out-of-the-way, partially to get to work, and partially to just have time with my thoughts.
My baby sister may be dying.
This realization hit me as I realized something else: As of today, I am older than our mother when she died.
I did the best I could to focus on work today. I prayed for my sister and her children, but I was too distracted to focus; I just didn’t want to think about it. I laughed when the Little Woman called me to say that the kitchen renovations would take yet another day. It just wasn’t important to me anymore. Once work was over, I went to the hospital to see my sister. She’s still slightly out of it – confused with an occasional delirious moment – but the hospital staff seems much more optimistic now than they did this morning. She is not out of the woods yet – not by a long shot. But I’m willing to take what I can get. She’s slightly better, and should there be no problems tonight, she’ll be a bit more improved come morning. I cannot race back to the hospital until tomorrow evening, at the earliest, so I’ll likely just keep tabs from afar and check in on Wednesday.
Life has a way of catching your attention. Missing sinks or nonfunctional ovens are secondary to losing one’s family, and in my case, one of my closest friends. Everything happens for a reason, and I believe that there is some purpose in Baby Sis’s situation. I can’t see it right now, but I trust that it’s there.
So, I’ll wait, pray, and see. And maybe come up with a few new jokes to tell her later.