Sunday, September 10, 2006

Electrician has a short

I was painting the kitchen today when the phone rang. The caller ID showed a hospital in Nevada. My brother was in Nevada looking for retirement property where he could build a house so I knew immediately it was bad calamity. I picked up the phone and my brother's voice said my name. "What's wrong?" I asked.

He asked me if I was sitting down. I sat down on a small kitchen chair holding my paintbrush like a scepter. He'd had a heart attack, he said. He had been at a motel in a small Nevada town when he realized what was happening. Once he could breathe, he said, he got to his car and drove 45 minutes to Winnemucca. From the hospital there they airlifted him to Reno. He'd been sedated since Friday morning.

My mother used to say "He'd squeeze a nickel 'til the buffalo shit," and we'd both laugh; but he's incredibly generous when one of us is having a rough patch. When I was recovering from my transplant and getting ready to move back to Arizona, he decided he'd visit me. He arrived, stayed a few days, then told me he would pack up a rental truck and move my belongings back to Arizona. Then he wrote a check to pay off my mortgage and told me to take as much time as I needed to pay him back.

And he's one of us. He just hasn't admitted it yet. We grew up together in a house that, he once said to me sadly, "Had very little joy in it." Maybe because of that, maybe because we were so much alike, we were united against the world. God help anyone who picked on me because the Wrath of Fast Eddie would descend on them. We drank together; smoked together; barhopped together; watched the Vietnam War tear my family to shreds; I watched him narrowly avoid Vietnam by serving in the Coast Guard; and we both came out of the same womb pissed off, so we understand each other. And as much as I love and understand him, I can't help him. The sad truth is we can rarely help those we love the most.

Early in my recovery I would talk to him about his drinking. He sobered up for quite a few years, on his own, but he seemed more miserable sober than when he was drinking. He finally went back to drinking and continued to function at work, but he's been miserable for years. I stopped mentioning anything to him about his alcohol consumption years ago after my stints in Alanon.

I know his two beautiful and talented daughters (one plays violin in a small symphony and she's only 20 and the other is studying to be a nurse) suffer along with him but that, too, hasn't brought him to the rooms. Maybe this incident is his wake-up call, his epiphany. God knows his guardian angels were working overtime. Who suffers a heart attack then drives 45 minutes to get help then lives to tell about it? (Perhaps someone from the same gene pool who would drive the biggest U-Haul trailer available with two dogs and a cat from Missouri to Arizona when she was in the final stages of cirrhosis, only a few months away from death. No one ever said anyone in my family was very smart.)

When I asked him why he drove to the hospital instead of calling an ambulance right then, his answer amazed me at first. "I didn't know what to do," he said. At first I was stunned by his response. "How could he be so dumb?" I thought to myself. "Why wouldn't he call 911?" Then tonight as I sat in my home group, I remembered what I was like in the insanity of my drinking. I could barely balance a checkbook when I got here. Most everything I learned about life, including any common sense I possess, I learned in the rooms. To date, he hasn't availed himself of this gift of recovery, despite watching me for 22 years. Maybe I'm not such a good example of recovery, or maybe, for some reason I can't fathom, he never will come along for the trudge. God decides who comes and who goes; it's God's grace that gets us here and our hard work and more grace that keeps us here.

I can tell he's shaken. A touch with death makes us, at least for a few days or weeks, question everything. There's nothing I can do but pray and listen if he wants to talk or go to him if he needs me. The same Higher Power that protects me protects him, too. But when those you love the most are suffering, you hurt, too.

I do know this -- I can't think of any gift I'd rather have than to have my brother join me in the rooms. I've been waiting a long, long while. So today, please say a short prayer for Fast Eddie, the electrician extraordinaire. He can fix anything except himself.

No comments: