Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Life - Living for today

I do not need cancer to humble me, teach me my place in the universe. Within the space of 12 months I lost both my husband and my dearest friend. I learned lessons about fortitude, kindness, helplessness, loss. I am not alone in learning those lessons.

Yesterday my youngest brother, the good brother, the one I am very close to even though we live an ocean apart, let me know that he has been diagnosed with a malignant tumor in his right kidney. He is told that it is contained, has not spread and that he can live perfectly well with one kidney - the remaining kidney will compensate, grow bigger. He has surgery scheduled for August 5th.

Edward is 12 years younger than me. He was always my baby brother. I even taught him between graduating and taking up a fellowship in the US. He went to great pains to disassociate himself from me, the teacher! A young policeman whose beat was in the area of the school would fall in with me as I walked home, offer polite observations about the weather. He was desperately shy. Years later I learned that he had cornered my brother to ask my name - Edward’s response was "she’s not my sister, just some lady who follows me to school."

Just some lady who loves him very much. He was the really good one amongst the three of us. He stayed around as my other brother and I flew the coop. He was the one who took care of our mother after dad died. Ran her errands, did the jobs around her house; saw that she got medical care and, despite avowedly anti church sentiments, would take her to church.

He married first at 19 and his bride was 17. They were children. Passionate about causes, he got caught up in the newly emerging LaborLib political party in England and was encouraged to run for the local council seat that he won hands down. Politics became central in their life and there was talk of him running for national office. The backroom tactics, the manipulation, for want of a better word, politics of being a politician, soured him and destroyed that first marriage. He was distraught when he came to visit me in the US in 1981; he was also drinking heavily. Once back in England he met an older woman who was influential in his life, kept him on the straight and narrow and they began building a life together. On the occasions when I would visit them I was conscious of a lack of joy, a lack of fun. She was a hard taskmaster, not a giving person but I don’t question her saving Edward's life and putting purpose back in his days. And neither does he.

It came as a shock about ten years ago when he called and came right out with “I’ve left Sue. I’m in love”. It was a traumatic, painful time, full of recriminations, threats and not a small amount of verbal abuse. He kept his head high and said not one negative thing about his time with Sue. He walked out of the house giving it to her.

The new woman, Pat, he'd known for 15 years. The onset of their attraction for each other was sudden and overwhelming. She has a heart as big as the Ritz; a plain spoken, devastatingly honest woman, hard working, kind, considerate. I took to her immediately. I watched the two of them blossom in love and caring for one another. Neither has had any children; their partnership is with one another and I believe for the first time in his life my brother is experiencing genuine, all-giving love. Last year they 'eloped' and got married. I was thrilled.

It was she who wrote to me yesterday that she wants to believe that everything will be all right; that the cancer, contained, can be removed. And, she added, "no more putting off for tomorrow, we have promised now to live our dreams each minute and not wait for the right time, the right weather, the right bank balance." I had to break the seriousness and tease her- "and not for the right pair of shoes" I wrote back to this shoe addict sister-in-law of mine. I was crying. I know she was.

Image: Edward and Pat Spring 2007

Articles from archived Connections for Women

Breast Cancer Screening
Blindsided by Cancer
Stepping off a Cliff
Life - Take 2
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