Guest Blog by J, BHD’s Twin Brother
In what is becoming a tradition, I am writing a post for my brother’s blog to appear today. It’s the least I can do, as he has taken such good care of me and my wife during this visit.
We were supposed to arrive at 11:30pm on Thursday night, but it was snowing like crazy in Paris (France) and our flight was significantly delayed in departure. At first I did not think that our flight would depart at all, but it did… six hours later. We arrived on Friday morning at 6:00am.
As usual, my brother was there to greet us, with a bright smile on his face. He must have been exhausted. He drove us to his home, and his partner welcomed us warmly while my brother helped unload our belongings.
We slept most of Friday as we did not sleep much on the plane. But Friday evening, our family gathered at a sister’s house for a family tradition: Friday night family dinner. We had the “Feast of the Seven Fishes” which is a Southern Italian meal eaten on Christmas Eve. It was a great! Our sister outdid herself — preparing this complex feast for 68 people!
After the meal, as a family we attended midnight mass. Well, actually the service was at 11:00pm. My brother waved to a lot of people — but this is his home and where he has lived his whole life. I was thrilled to see 3 of our high school classmates, with their families, as well.
We did not arrive home until very late… and slept well into Christmas morning. When we awoke, once again we smelled the intoxicating scents of a huge brunch. My brother told me that he had already been up for hours, and had fed his mother-in-law, who has quite an appetite.
We went to visit some of the younger members of our family on Christmas Day. They had long ago torn open their presents, so by the time I arrived, they wanted to show “Uncle J” what they got. We had a great time.
My brother left early to return to his home to prepare our Christmas dinner. When my wife and I arrived (another brother dropped us off), it was almost ready. My brother introduced us to three ladies he refers to as his “senior pals” who joined us for dinner also.
I was asked to say grace, and stumbled through it until I got to the part about what Christmas really means — the spirit of peace, love, and joy that fills our hearts, and radiates from my brother and his very being. I swear, that guy makes hard work seem effortless (that is, our entire meal was home-made, not pre-prepared) and he makes us feel so … well, happy!
After dinner, my brother drove his senior pals back to the retirement community where they live. He invited me and my wife to come along. It was a tight fit in his truck, but they live only five minutes away. I had the pleasure of escorting one of these women to her door. As we arrived, she turned to me and I saw a tear in her eye. She smiled, and told me that it was a “happy tear” because she did not think she would be able to enjoy herself.
She confided that her husband had died in March, and she missed him terribly. But my brother and his heart — he kept looking after her, calling, taking her out, connecting her with friends, and keeping in touch. She admitted that she was dreading Christmas, but when my brother told her a few weeks ago, “you’re coming to our place for dinner on Christmas and that’s that!” — she could not refuse.
This is an example of what I mean when I say that my brother is a saint. He hates being referred to that way. He just is. He says, “come on, you would do the same.” If I were in his boots, I probably would. But I would also likely be oblivious to the loneliness. My brother has a special radar that identifies where he’s needed most, and does things to help. People can tell what kind of a man he is by observing him and feeling his warm spirit.
I thought after we dropped her off, we would go back home. But we had one more stop to make — to our 95-year-old aunt’s home around the corner. We got there about 8:30, and I thought that was awfully late. But my brother told me that since our aunt has Alzheimer’s Disease, she has no sense of day or time. She was awake.
She glowed when she saw my brother. He is so gentle to her, but persistent. He got her up, had her walk, and asked her questions that engaged her in conversation. Shortly after we began talking, she admitted, “I have forgotten who that man is” — pointing to me. My brother patiently re-introduced us, and then started speaking to her in Italian. She responded, fluently. Then he spoke to her in Spanish, and she laughed and told us a joke in Spanish. Then he turned to my wife and asked her to speak to our aunt in French. My wife said a few words, then my aunt lit up and spoke in fluent French.
You see, with Alzheimer’s, you lose short-term memory, but you do not lose your intelligence. My brother knows that, and respectfully engages our aunt in ways to exercise her mind and keep her going. I am beyond amazed and impressed. This is another reason why I call my brother a saint. He just knows.
Okay, “basta con gushing” as my brother would say. “I’m not all that” … as he would say again.
Yes he is (yes you are, bro’) and I love you more and more each day. You are a treasure to hold close in my heart, as my brother.
By the way — my brother always mentions these things on his blog — I wore leather trousers all day on Christmas and so did my brother. He wore a red flannel shirt and I wore a green dress shirt. We both did not wear ties. I borrowed a pair of his boots — and our family noticed what we were wearing and gently teased us all day.
I love his spirit — with what he wears, but most — with who he is and what he does.
Love you, brother. Ora e sempre.