Guest blog by J, BHD’s twin brother
Hi there, this is J, BHD’s twin brother. I hijacked his blog to write about my brother. (He hates this, but I am bigger than he is!)
My wife and I decided to “drop in” right before Thanksgiving. I needed a big dose of my brother and our family to get me back to the man I want to be for my wife… thoughtful and not distracted by heavy thoughts.
I have been volunteering in a dismal, war-torn part of the world through the auspices of a highly respected NGO serving political refugees. It has been very hard work and quite rough. I have been in difficult situations in my past life, but nothing prepared me for what I had to deal with on this assignment, especially during its last three months.
When I returned to my wife and our home in Rome in mid-November, my wife knew instantly that we had to make our way back to my hometown and my family. I love my wife immeasurably, but she knows how Christmas “at home” with family, especially my brother, would help me more than simple rest and her TLC.
During the time we have been staying with my brother and his husband, I have re-learned to relax (somewhat) and to laugh. Our family looks for ways to remind me of our childhood, and tease me mercilessly. They know I love it.
While my brother has been at work on weekdays (or on travel like he was last week), I have had ample time to talk with his husband, my brother-in-law. My brother-in-law is the best listener I have ever met. He has helped me refocus myself and get my thoughts back to where they need to be.
However, as good as my brother-in-law is with listening to me, he has been rather short-tempered with his mother. He is frustrated because she cannot or will not do things that she used to be able to do, is forgetful, and repetitive in actions. He frequently states that he wants her to “grow up.” I sigh, because I see how difficult the situation is for him. He cannot accept how his mother has aged and declined mentally.
At my brother’s urging, my brother-in-law has engaged a company that provides in-home caregivers to help with cooking, cleaning, and personal hygiene. But working with any third-party caregiving company is not easy, especially from a distance. There have been glitches, misunderstandings, and difficulties. But however he does it, my brother determines what the problems are and resolves them through patient diplomacy.
My brother seems to have an infinite font of patience. I often see him sitting with his husband, holding his hand, and patiently explaining matters of elderly caregiving. Man, he’s had so much experience while caring for our aunt during her decline with Alzheimer’s.
This past weekend, my brother drove with his husband to Pittsburgh, where they stayed overnight at the mother-in-law’s house, then drive back with her on Sunday so she can spend Christmas with us. Since the death of my brother-in-law’s father in 2003, his mother has been spending Christmas in Maryland, rather than be alone in Pittsburgh.
My brother’s mother-in-law had a serious health setback this past summer and they weren’t sure she would be well enough to make this visit this year.
I learned, not surprisingly, that my brother determined exactly what the medical issues were and intervened with doctors. My brother fired a quack and found a really good geriatric specialist who agreed with my brother’s diagnosis and supported the treatment plan that my brother suggested. Within months, his mother-in-law was doing better (physically), though mentally, she continues to exhibit typical symptoms of age-related forgetfulness, OCD issues, and other things that drive my brother-in-law nuts.
I have discussed how my brother-in-law and his mother get along with my brother. Again, my brother demonstrated infinite patience and revealed insights about which I was not aware. He explained that residual long-term effects of the awful illness that his husband had affects his limbic system, which is most noted in his behavior of a lack of patience and short temper.
I asked my brother how he has been handling this situation. His response was, “take it as it comes, and remember… usually it is symptoms of a disease or illness speaking, so separate that and love the person behind the veil of disease. Rant at the disease all you want, but love your man even more.”
I really have no words. He impresses me more and more each and every day.
Final example … Sunday evening, after driving all day back home from Pittsburgh, my brother prepared a splendid meal for the five of us, including a fresh seven-apple pie that is his mother-in-law’s favorite. He had also whipped up special gluten-free five-flour batter for his husband’s special morning waffles, as well as a sweetened regular waffle batter for his mother-in-law to enjoy for her own morning treat (while my brother will be at work.)
After clearing the table and doing the dishes, including washing the pots and pans and all cooking surfaces, my brother sat down with a per-clump on a chair. He looked so tired.
In walks his husband who said, “can you help me with something? I want to hang a wreath on the door and connect it to the electronic system you rigged up so the wreath lights when the Christmas tree comes on.”
I could tell that my brother was bone tired, but again, he found his inner reserve. He smiled and said, “sure, my love.” Then he proceeded to take care of this additional request with that big goofy grin he gets and sang a Christmas carol while he was at it. I just do not know how he does it.
Well, palpable patience. That’s all that I can say. I so love my big goofy-grinned brother. Life is such a joy with him in it.