Finish each day and be done with it. You have done what you could. Some blunders and absurdities no doubt crept in; forget them as soon as you can. Tomorrow is a new day. You shall begin it serenely and with too high a spirit to be encumbered with your old nonsense. – Ralph Waldo Emerson
My younger brother Andrew flew to New York in June 2009 and brought Michael home. To our mom’s. Michael, whose mind was as wobbly and as weak as his body, thought that he was simply taking his one-month yearly vacation in Florida, beach, restaurants, family. Little did he realize, although we knew, that he would be staying, never to return to New York. It was his final trip home.
But that’s beside the point. The point being, I should have flown back to see him, spend time with him, help care for him. But I didn’t. As the summer flowed by, I would get on skype and visit with the family, and there Michael would be, sitting in a chair in the background. He would wave hello to me and smile, almost like old times, almost like normal. And my mom would say “Jamie says she’s coming to visit! Do you want her to visit?” and he would nod his head enthusiastically, eyes open wide, grin spread across his face. And still I didn’t go. And I told my sister, well, I will come for the end of the year holidays! I’ll book my ticket! And she would say, I don’t think he’s going to last until the end of the year. Come sooner. And I said, November? I can get away in November. Then October. And then, as September slid in bringing that subtle change of air and sky, hinting of schoolbooks and autumn leaves and new clothes, she said, Come now! And I didn’t. And then it was too late and I was boarding the plane for a funeral.
I didn’t go because I was scared. I couldn’t face my brother, my big, smart, strong brother in that shape, sickly and dying. I know that I should have been there to talk to him, feed him spoonfuls of applesauce when applesauce was all that he could get down, the spoon too heavy for him to hold and carry to his own mouth. I should have been the one to hold his hand as he struggled and gasped his last breath. But I couldn’t see him like that. That is selfish, but that is the way it is.
I also thought, an idea tucked away in the dark recesses of my mind, that my visit would bring about the end that much sooner. If I only held off a few more months, a few more weeks, a few more days, then so would he. I heard the phone ring as I slid down under the bubbles late that September night, about 10 o’clock, feeling the boiling water sting my skin, and I knew who was calling, what they were telling my husband who had answered.
And now my mother is in the hospital. Tiny, frail, birdlike in her old age, she is huddled in a hospital bed, confused, not understanding what happened to her that she should be in the hospital, not knowing how long she has been there. Fragile.
The excuses for not flying over there have varied, kids, family, not enough time there is never enough time, to hotel how can I leave in the middle of high season we are booked solid seven days a week there is no one to replace me. My passport is nearing expiration. I was planning on coming in November when the hotel is on winter hiatus. My brother and sister keep me updated though it has only been a couple of days, but my heart hurts and I feel that I should be there with her. My mom.
Jean-Pierre looked at me over dinner and said, eyes turned down towards his plate, It is an awfully weird feeling when you have lost both your parents, without your parents. Nothing can be weirder than when you have lost a sibling, I replied. He looked up, and our eyes met and he gently shook his head as if to say You’ll see what I mean.
Guilt. The guilt of not being there, of feeling so responsible for another person, another soul, responsible for their wellbeing, comfort, and happiness. Sadness. The utter depth of sadness that sweeps over you, clings to your very being when you think of losing someone whom you love so much. A sadness so deep it burns, yet is unfathomable, impossible to grasp the concept, the idea of the thing. And so very hard to face that we often turn away, make excuses so as not to face the unthinkable.
And now my mom. I hope that they’ll find out what happened and can put her on her feet and send her home where I will find her in November when the hotel closes for winter break and we’ll watch tv together, sit side by side in the backyard and watch Buster chase the ball, pop frozen dinners in the microwave and spend a couple hours at the mall shopping. Same as always.