It took my brother 3 years after my mother passed away before he had the courage to go through her things, laugh a little, cry a lot and much like a funeral service, put articles of meaning to her in boxes and stowed them in a place surely to be forgotten in some hard-to-reach corner of the attic or dark corner of the basement.
After that one day when we finally removed the evidence of my mother, we have not, not even once, discussed those boxes or rummaged around to discover them. It was as if, like herself, her belongings were put to rest. But I know for certain that that Sunday afternoon was the most painful day of my brother’s life.
And now it’s my turn, with the exception that there’s nothing I want to keep. I don’t want to remember him by furniture or china or artwork or clothes. Nothing, not trophies or photographs or clothes or christmas ornaments could possibly compare to the degree of intimacy and occupation I put into motion as part of a strategic plan to keep my brother solvent, without jeopardizing my life in Chicago.
I invaded the privacy of every nook and cranny of his life; I strong-armed him to go to an attorney to draw up the correct documents. I took over his finances. I questioned every single charge on physician statements. I carried a valise with copies of every important event that produced documentation at the ready, attorney drawn HIPPA forms which provided, without question, unfettered access to every health insurance plan and their schedule of benefits, physician bills, EOB, ridiculously high deductibles in lieu of capping monthly premiums, and finally negotiating Medicare physician costs (if they take Medicare), (non)compliance with orders to manage his chronic maladies gain access to all of his medical records back to 1985. There wasn’t a single part of his life that I legally did not have access to or was managing or that I would be denied access. In essence I represented my brother, except those requiring an actual body. And frankly, I think he harbored significant anger and to a large extent resentment. But if I and my partner were to first pull him out of his morass, I needed to take extreme measures and I needed the legal system as my wing man. And what evidence do I have to draw this conclusion?
The Best Friend relationship which I had so cherished before I commandeered his life was, at once, extinguished. The day that Social Security deposited his first monthly benefit he furtively initiated a quitclaim of my occupation and immediately liberated his Self from my subjugation like a dog freed from its leash and running, really running, the odors and aromas of independence challenging his speed, agility, and actions of being, in the simplest of terms, a dog.
And I think that’s precisely what occurred when his income was deposited into his account and he didn’t wait for permission or evaluation or reconciliations. It takes a desperate man to abdicate the course of his life and a man aching with humiliation to admit he doesn’t possess the forbearance and seasoning required to navigate the craggy cliffs of reinventing oneself at fifty-eight.
The moment we cleared danger however, he was resurrected in action not in speech and said, “Let go of the wheel boy, I’ll take her from here.”
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