A Brother’s Observations

Hey there, this is J. I am BHD’s twin brother. My wife and I are visiting him again this Christmas. It has been a much better visit than last year, when I came after the holiday to spend a month helping to care for my brother-in-law during about the worst of the downside of a relapse of his ongoing infections.

This year, once again, I am watching the most expert organizer and a man of exceptional patience “do his thing.” What’s up?

Even though the intense period of providing medical and physical care for my brother-in-law is over, I see in almost every action (and interaction) that my brother takes with his husband that he is testing how his husband is feeling. He has explained that he can tell fairly quickly how his husband is doing, and whether he needs to intervene, change the combination of diet supplements being used, or foods to prepare.

Then there is his husband’s 85-year-old mother. She’s an interesting but very simple-minded woman. She lives by herself. Thus, she does not prepare meals for herself. She eats rather basic meals that she can heat in a microwave. So when my brother offers to prepare fresh-from-scratch meals four or five times a day, she lights up! She eats and eats and eats and eats, the likes of which I have never seen before.

But there goes my brother. Patiently cooking, cleaning, then cooking again. And the lack of manners that this woman has is quite noticeable. She eats with her fingers when she thinks no one is looking. She eats whatever is in front of her, whenever she sees it. She has even taken food off my wife’s plate! (That matter was quickly corrected. My wife was aghast.)

In between doting on his mother-in-law, my big oaf of a brother still cares very much for a group of older people in the community who he calls his “senior pals.” He takes them grocery shopping, does home repairs, and gives them companionship. He brought me along on Friday with one of his outings to the grocery store. It is evident how much he is loved. Even the courtesy counter clerk knows him by name.

While my brother is not an active member of a church, I brought him with us to the Christmas Eve midnight mass at the Catholic Church where our family attended in the neighborhood where we grew up. He told me that the last time he was in this church was for a funeral of a former neighbor last year. However, it was like he had never been away. He was greeted by many people, and introduced (or re-introduced) me and my wife to many others.

He just shrugged and said, “I have never lived more than 5 miles from this very spot my whole life. It just goes with being a part of the community.”

That’s my big brother — very humble. He knows so many people because of everything he has done in the community, his ongoing civic service (and previous elected service), and the connections he has made and continues to strengthen through his everyday actions.

Speaking of that, I was part of a ruse to convince my brother not to prepare Christmas dinner. His husband and I convinced him that we were going to a sister’s house since his husband has been feeling better.

My brother did not quite accept that, but played along with it. His husband has not enjoyed being around our family, especially around our youngest “greats,” because he doesn’t tolerate noise well. For my brother and me, a big raucous family is how we grew up and what we expect.

Anyway, at the last minute on Thursday (Christmas Day) afternoon, my brother-in-law revealed to my brother that they had been invited to the house of a wounded warrior whose home my brother (and friends) remodeled earlier this month. The owner of the house wanted to cook Christmas dinner in his newly remodeled kitchen. I was very happy that my brother agreed to go, and that his husband (and the mother-in-law) went there for Christmas dinner. (My wife and I went to our sister’s as planned.)

Typical of my brother, he didn’t really tell me much about what he had done to lead the wounded warrior remodeling project. I remain in awe of his organizational skills, as well as his talents with construction trades. (Read more about this project here.)

I am blessed to have a twin brother of such integrity, commitment, and dedication. I am very glad that his husband is doing better. My wife and I can visit my family and not worry about it. This has been a great visit. I regret that it will end too soon when we have to leave next week.

As my big brother says, life is short — love your brother!