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Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Brother Paul

My younger brother Paul and me long ago.

This will be a too much information post today, so if it bothers anyone, now’s the time to bail out. It took me a while before I could do this. My younger brother Paul died last week. I had gone to Ohio last month in order to meet up with my other brothers and sisters, and see Paul because he was dying of cancer. It ended up with us taking him to Cleveland Clinic emergency so he could get a feeding tube put in because the tumor on his neck was closing off his throat. So ends the bad part of the post.

Even lying in a hospital bed, Paul cracked us up laughing without even being able to talk well. My sisters and I were sitting around his bed as he slept the day after we browbeat the clinic into admitting him, because he was dying of starvation and dehydration rather than the cancer. A priest came in, and walked around me to Paul’s bedside saying he had come to give Paul communion. He woke Paul, and began the ceremony. We all prayed with him, and the priest left. As soon as the man was out the door, Paul pushes himself up on his right arm, cocks his eyebrows up with this hilarious look of confusion on his face only he could do and says: “I’m sleepin’, and I wake up, open my eyes, and there’s a priest. I’m thinkin’ what the hell did I do now?”

The smirking look of incredulity Paul wore through this one line had us laughing so hard tears were streaming down our cheeks. When I could talk, I added my usual smart ass line to his; which he and I could do for hours from when we were little kids only a year and a half apart in age.

“Yea, Paul, he probably looked like the conductor on a train in that black outfit. Tickets, tickets please, and brother, you didn’t have a ticket.”

“Hell,” Paul retorts, “I thought he was the Reaper.”

After me and my sisters howled for another few minutes, Paul takes his plastic spoon, and uses it to help him get the wafer of communion down. We’re watching him worriedly as he has a tough time.

“I was kind of surprised you took communion with the trouble you have swallowing,” I said as he finally gets the wafer down and sips his ice water.

Bern, I ain’t in a position to be refusin’ any help right now,” Paul rasped out smiling. “I got to cover all my bases.”

On the last day before I came back to California, his last line to me was the one out of the movie Ghostbusters, “I’ll see you on the other side.”

Man, he had guts.

I wrote this poem for Paul last Christmas after he told me he had the tumor, and attached the above picture to it. He told me he made the picture into his screen saver.

My brother, I remember well the days,

Together mimicking heroic ways.

We battled unseen monsters in our youth,

Minds’ imagination powering truth.

With swords of wood, slashing through brush,

Blackberry vines fell beneath fevered rush,

While journey of jungle laden plight,

Hatched within our furtive young sight.

We beat back all challengers to our crown,

Of world beaters on our neighborhood ground.

In battered, aging plight, we fight on still,

Tattered shadows facing life, cold and shrill.

We hold our precious gains in gnarled fists,

No time wasted on Don Quixote’s trysts.

We have faced life’s demons without fear,

Sometimes with regret, but with vision clear.

We lived as men do, with all their black faults,

But conquered most without religious cults.

We believed in God beyond frigid smiles,

As trudging over barren, blood soaked miles,

What lurked in dark realm of bitter sorrow,

Could only delay our grasp on tomorrow.

With Christmas inside our beleaguered souls,

We pushed away thoughts for whom the bell tolls.

Barroom lights framing Christmases long past,

Shared with a man, whose fate was cast,

To lead two small boys, one dark, one light,

To manhood, without fear of endless night.

Now, in graying mist of winter’s cold scheme,

Let us remember our shared youthful dream.

Paul and I were big Clint Eastwood fans, so I’ll end this post with a line out of the movie Outlaw Josey Wales he’d like: “He was born in the time of blood and dyin’ and never questioned a bit of it. He never went back on his folks or his kind. I rode with him. I got no complaints”.


Jordan Summers said...

(((Hugs))) Bernard. I'm so sorry for your loss and so grateful you got the chance to say goodbye. May you find peace in this difficult time. (((Hugs)))

BernardL said...

From the moment he told me 'I'll see you on the other side' I knew he was saying goodbye; and you're right, I thank God I got to hear it. Thanks Jordan.