Brother and I grew up going to a Catholic school. When Brother was in eighth grade, I was in... fifth? sixth? Maybe fifth. Pointless to the story, though. Brother was in eighth grade and the church was being renovated. Because of the renovation, the school had to get creative with First Friday Mass. One month we had it in the cafeteria. Another, we went down and had mass with the inner city Catholic school.
But this was May! This was the last First Friday Mass of the school year. This was a beautiful day and Fr. Costigan, straight from Ireland, and Sister Kathleen decided that Mass could be held, not just outside, but on the front lawn. On the front lawn. Where every Augustan would drive by and see the beautiful little Catholic children praising the Lord. Oh, it would be divine.
Or would it?
It was May. In Augusta. It was hot. The one speaker hooked up to Fr. Costigan's microphone did not project far enough into the very large crowd of our school. It was right before lunch and we were all hungry. And whispering. For all of Augusta to see us, meant that we were on a well traveled street. People drove by with the windows down blaring Sir Mix-A-Lot and Kris Kross (those went over really well with the nuns).
It was hot. And humid. In Augusta. Really humid. For Pete's sake, it is Augusta. We have three seasons in Augusta- Hot, damn hot, Holy mackerel can it get hotter?... and then two-ish weeks of "hunh, it's a little chilly out here. Perhaps I should grab a sweater." Okay, four. We have four seasons in Augusta.
Me and my little fifth grade girlfriends sat quietly, picked daisies and made daisy chains. We whispered to each other about summer plans and tried not to get caught. Like I said, it was hot.
And, forgive me... it was a little boring.
My brother, on the other hand, sat on the other side of the large crowd- equally bored in his equally drab blue and white uniform. This was the last run at private school for him. This was his last run before attending The Academy. He would be going to high school in a few months. But first, he had to survive the never ending Last First Friday Mass.
He and two of his equally devilish counterparts sat with their eighth grade class... on top of the valve box that operated the sprinkler system for the front lawn of our school.
And another car drives by with Boyz II Men playing.
Preston lifts the lid and looks around. The teachers were fanning themselves in the shade. Jeffrey grabs the valve and twists it really fast- on ... and then off. Brother takes a turn. On... and then off. Preston takes a turn- on... and then quickly off. And so goes the rotation as they think that this must not be the valve box to much of anything.
But, all this while- pressure is building up in the pipes. Until a fateful hand grabs the valve, turns and the familiar chick-chick-chick of the sprinklers started up. Whoever it was (to this day, we don't know), flipped it back off and dropped the lid back down and all three tried to look inconspicious. But, the pressure had to release itself through the sprinkler heads and the second Baptism of half the school took place thanks to Fr. Brother, Fr. Jeffrey, and Fr. Preston.
In the retelling of this story, I swear I heard Fr. Costigan say "damn" and throw his notes in the air... but I doubt it.
That's my brother.
As you know, a few months ago- my brother had a stroke. Husband, child, and Wife caught the next flight to our hometown of fair Augusta to be by his side. As he mended, we wrapped him in prayers and good faith. What you might not know- if you have been living under a moldy rock in Westchester- is that a few weeks ago, he had two seizures. What the doctors discovered is that the stroke was much more severe than they initially thought and they were quite surprised at the leaps and bounds he has achieved with what he has been through. It just goes to show what a man can accomplish when he puts his mind, no matter the condition, to determination and can succeed.
Strokes can cause scar tissue on the brain and seizures are common. The scar tissue "tickles" (it is a much nicer word than 'agitates') the brain tissue and a seizure ensues. To what degree and what length depend on nothing more than a twist of fate.
Up in DC, I cried. His personality, his love, his faith, and all things Brother were there. But his BODY, his damn body was failing him. He has so much life in him, but his body was whittling away. I wanted to be with him, I wanted to take care of my incubating one, I wanted to do everything and yet- I wanted to curl in a ball and let my husband hold me while my sweet LMC kissed my face- which, in the end, is what happened. Her two tiny paws grabbed my cheeks and she sweetly said, "I kiss doos tears, Ma-Mee."
The seizures exposed some things we did not know. The steroids, which are helping his kidneys do their job, have caused his face and neck to swell. From the neck down, he looks great, but his face and neck are that of a Steroid man with acne. The swelling was causing sleep apnea (for which he had surgery for years ago). Sleep apnea helped kick those seizures along. Prednisone was ravaging other parts of his body- causing steroid induced diabetes. There is such a fine line between helping and hurting and Brother is dancing on both sides of it.
But, this is not the story that I came to tell. Rather, it is what is happening tomorrow.
Tomorrow, Brother comes off the Coumadin (blood thinner) that he has been on since July and will have a kidney biopsy. This is something that we knew he needed but had to wait until levels could level out, healing could take place, and time could just pass to put the stroke further in the past. He will spend 23 hours back in the hospital while he goes under the knife and is then monitored to see that he remains on a healthy and steady path.
This is my brother. This is my baby whisperer, my daughter's godfather, my hero, my champion, and he is all things to me. This is the man I seek solace in, advice from, and wonder how I can be more like him.
People either love him with all they have or they don't. More people are in the first category than the second. But, he is my brother. And my only one.
I adore him. Tomorrow, Husband and I go to the doctor to check in on this pregnancy that is slip-sliding into home base and Brother goes under the knife. Normally, he would be on my speed dial to hear his niece's heartbeat. Normally, he would be the person I called with whatever news I had to share with my family from the doctor. Normally is a word that we don't use much anymore, because nothing is normal around here.
What we know is that there is a Higher Power. I get mad at Him sometimes. I often ask Him questions, to which there is no answer. But, there is a bigger plan than just me and Brother. There is Higher Hope. And it is where I am putting my faith, because that Faith will trickle down to a doctor's steady hand, a nurse's kind word, SIL's strength, and patient caregivers for my crazy niece and nephew. I can't be there in the waiting room tomorrow for this short procedure. I probably won't be able to spell what he is diagnosed with, but I can Pray. And hope. And be there soon enough.