My Brother Rick (aka Dikes, Rich) Condition Post-Stroke

asstroke3Last Thursday, a few minutes past noon, I called my brother Rick in Milwaukee (it had become a ritual of sorts especially while driving), and he answered in an odd tone which gave me pause. He began to complain of escalating nausea to which I urged him to see his personal physician.  He failed to remember his physician or the terrible diabetic wound which almost led to amputation or his two-month in-patient hospital stay. I astroke1told him I’d call 9-1-1 and ask that he be taken to West Allis Memorial Hospital ( policy dictates patients be taken to the nearest hospital). However the paramedics discovered atrial fibrillation (fluttering heart beats) which alternately peaked and diminished and therefore paramedics informed me that they were headed to a critical cardiac unit at St. Luke’s Medical Center.

However, St. Luke’s didn’t have a bed open, so Rick was taken to Froedert Lutheran Medical Center. After tests and a CT scan the ER team began antibiotics to stave off a small area of pneumonia in his right lung.  Rick remained on the general medical floor until the results of an MRI showed he’d suffered a severe ischemic stroke (an obstruction within a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain) in the occipital lobe (at the rear of the skull and is responsible for vision). On Sunday afternoon he was transported to the Stroke Unit (one of just astroke2a few in the U.S.) where he was resting comfortably.

On Monday, June 18 Rick suffered a significant seizure which greatly diminished his short term memory and eliminated the peripheral vision on his right side.  I’ve visited and talked via telephone with him this past week.  The cadence of his speech has slowed, he’s practically immobile, he’s approaching clinical blindness, and finds difficulty in fundamental motor movements like holding a cup.  But as he told me earlier this week, “I ain’t going to be like this forever, you know!”

I’d like to ask that anyone reading this post to consider sending him a get well card.  I’m sure your sentiments would help replenish a hopeful spirit during difficult times.  For those of you who send cards, thank you; for those that haven’t, please reconsider.  Send your cards to:

Richard Didrickson
Froedert & Medical College of Wisconsin
5-NW Nursing Unit
9200 W. Wisconsin Avenue
Milwaukee, WI  53226


My Brother Once Said, “My Life Was Determined By Another’s Lie.”

A man will renounce any pleasures you like but he will not give up his suffering.


513Rick willfully shouldered a self-imposed burden his entire life.  Unsettled by our Dad’s violent outburst’s (routinely targeting our mother), he began to peek behind, beside, and beyond our parent’s staid alibi about their colorless and urgent courtship which usually quelled curiosities. Except for one widow that pursued, with neighborly caution, my mother’s dire dodging. “It was simple math,” he’d once said, “Simple math and the ordering of month’s to quickly calculate the truth. He was proud of his steely pursuit, wishing there was a merit badge for exposure of parental lies. “Then suddenly,” he said, “the whole enterprise soured.  The recently decoded shameful and moral secret they’d disguised as hushed urgency, longing, and the mid-fifties moral compass was, in fact, his birth which occurred  five months after their City Hall nuptials.

It was then, at that inconceivable denouement, that his conception was the root cause of bout after bout after bout of unbridled and disgusting epithets often followed by a round of brutish, physical taunts which, my mother learned too late, that if you retreat to the broom closet or the empty cranny next to the refrigerator, you raise your arms to protect your face like exhausted boxers stuck in a corner. Fear and submission killed my father‘s blood lust as though he’d been fed a syringe full of Ketamine.  Oh, but those few and far between times when her self-respect outweighed her self-preservation, her repressed anger putrified to man-slaughter.  She charged at him, disgust followed by anger followed by critical injuries helped to ignore his devastating kidney punches followed by multiple precisely aimed and explosive back-handed slaps which buckled her knees; by now, in his cold eyes she’d lost any humanity and devolved into the recipient of his fully expressed hatred for her.

My mother’s marriage, a litany of lies: loathing thinly veiled as affection; irritation disguised as intimacy; and an escalating and violent blame for Marge‘s moonless flight with their three children through thorn bush and brambles, and following her husband’s business partner who liquidated their company’s assets that afternoon.  Later that evening my father received a brief call from Marge confirming that all three children were safe and in her care.  And sternly warned my father that if he pursued them, she’d kill all three of them rather than spend another minute with you, then abruptly disconnected the line.  It was then that my father accepted that he’d been abandoned, ruined, and penniless.  My father was incapable of keeping his promises, especially when it came to monogamy whether married or single. But worse still was his continued punishment of my mother for Marge’s inconceivable disappearance into the thicket behind their home. Marge later confessed that it was his barefaced screwing of the nanny.  Who, coincidently, was our mother.

Rick witnessed just one of those bloodsheds and cursed his responsible birth as cause for these vengeful and sadistic rituals.  So he heaved the imaginary and backbreaking potato sack stuffed with the rubble of our mother’s self-esteem and character; up to his waist, hesitated, then at once swung the unbalanced sack up to his shoulder while tucking his short ageless frame beneath the load like a tire winch. From there he strained and distorted and drove the shifting load skyward until his swollen knees snapped open like a toy jack-in-the-box and steadied his load . . . for the rest of his natural life.


I’d Like You To Meet My Older Brother

IMG_0057My brother and I were only two years apart in age, but eons apart in life.

He’d learned early in life that he should gladly accept whatever is given to him, which was rooted in his broken-record-complaining about potato pancakes.  Well, one morning he went too far and as though she’d lost patience with the broken record, my mother, shiner and all, spun around like a toy top, bent at the waist and got close, nose to nose close and screamed in the loudest and most unfamiliar voice, the kind of sound you’d hear, he said, coming up from the creek bed where they laid traps for raccoons; wailing, like it knew it was cornered by a .22 rifle.  And then came deep, heaving sobs and an accusation, like a tattoo that stuck with him all his life, “You turn your nose up at everything I cook for you!”  And then, he said, she stared at him blankly, and the torrential crying stopped with the speed of a cloud burst, and while she slowly turned away from him, he quietly climbed into the chair and forced down three potato pancakes amidst gags and tears.

And so year after year he played the hands dealt him; he lost more often than he won, but he never folded no matter which cards he’d been dealt.

And last Thursday I called him and knew something was dreadfully wrong: he’d suffered a severe stroke.