Because we no longer see or touch our children, grandchildren, parents, or friends on a daily basis, it is more important than ever to say “I love you” via telephone or e-mail. Little things mean a lot.
I’ve mentioned my youngest brother before, a resident of Prescott Valley, Arizona. He contracted Parkinson’s disease a few years ago. Our other brothers and their families live in Michigan. After Dean’s wife died in 1998, with no other siblings close by, we became special buddies. During my travels, I called him frequently. As soon as I called him “Sweetie,” he knew who it was. One of Denny’s waitresses always called him that.
While I winter nested at North Ranch, we sometimes wiggled our way across State Highway 89 to the ghost town of Jerome just for warm homemade rhubarb pie and ice cream on the English Garden’s deck overlooking the Verde Valley. Neither of us needed it, but it was food for the soul, and we delighted in each bite. I didn’t often cook for him because I loved him too much. Little things mean a lot.
A neatnik extraordinaire, Dean sometimes needed a little extra help with behind-the- scenes housework, trimming the roses or raking leaves. He always helped until he was exhausted. He liked nothing better than to get a laugh on me while we were doing it. I would laugh and enjoy the joke with him instead of pounding him into the ground like baby sisters often want to do.
Though his walk eventually became a shuffle and I had to tuck him in tightly before fastening his poor bones in the seat belt, we still managed breakfast occasionally at his favorite restaurant in Prescott Valley, Michael’s. The waitresses all called him by name, and he loved their attention.
At Thanksgiving, we went out for dinner and ate too much. His birthday was November 28 and mine, November 23, so we celebrated our birthdays, too. Of course I never let him forget that he was seven years older. He never let me forget the night I was born in that Michigan log cabin while he and my brothers “listened to you squall” from upstairs. Little things mean a lot.
Ten days later, I stopped to see him unexpectedly and discovered that at 2 p.m. he still hadn’t been able to get dressed and had no medication or food. I stayed the night and got his world back in order, with promises to be in touch by Tuesday.
On Tuesday afternoon, I drove the one and a half hours from Congress because I couldn’t reach him, and he didn’t return my calls. I thought I could see him on the floor through the back window. I called 911. My brother was fiercely independent and did admirably well until a few weeks ago, but his reluctance to let anyone have a key or hide one on the premises was a mistake. Firemen broke a window to allow medics inside. They were so gentle with him.
I realized he hadn’t made coffee since I had been there on the weekend. He had fallen and lain on the floor since before 7 a.m. on Monday.
After a few hospital days, he went to a nursing home for physical therapy. I happened to be there for one of his memory sessions, and he did really well. We took a six-piece, large-size puzzle back to his room to keep jogging his mind. It took us both a half-hour to put it together. We decided I should move in with him!
Although we ordinarily didn’t exchange Christmas presents, I took him a few small gifts to open. The one thing that lit up his eyes, however, was a card from Michael’s Restaurant. All the girls had taken the time to write him a little message and say how much they missed him. We both cried as I read it. Then I teased him about flirting with them so they would give him a good table. Little things mean a lot.
This gentle soul was improving but couldn’t go back to living in his own home. Losing control of his life, his truck keys, and going next into Assisted Living was very distressing. We changed the subject to accommodate his long-term memory and reminisced about his many RVing trips throughout the U. S. with his wife. He had great memories.
I stayed with him while he ate dinner. He laughed at my bungling with putting on his wheelchair legs upside down and backward. My excuse was that none of the considerable family mechanical ability filtered as far down as the last one born.
It surprised me when I left that he asked to go to the door with me. He hadn’t felt that strong before. He insisted he could make it back to his room. I told him I didn’t want to hear that he had been found wandering the back streets of Prescott. We laughed; I kissed him, and told him I loved him.
Five days later, at 5:30 a.m., a phone call informed me that my buddy had died. I am happy for that last sound of his laughter. Little things mean a lot.
For information about six RV-related books written by Sharlene Minshall, see www.full-time-rver.com. Send questions or comments to email@example.com