A couple of times a week I try to visit my brother-in-law
John, who is suffering from both lung cancer pulmonary fibrosis. I try to visit
when it is convenient for them so as to not put a burden on the family.
Visiting someone who is ill is not so difficult to do especially when you love him/her:
yet visiting is difficult, because you do love the person.
|Always there for everyone|
We all have dealt with someone sick, someone in need of a
light to their dark day, someone to know that as they depart from this world,
they will be missed and that is because they are loved. My brother-in-law is
one of these people who when he became apparent that he and my sister were
going to marry, instantly became family, instantly was one of us. We need John,
we need him from an emotional sense, from a loving need, and from the joy he
helped spread these many years.
Over the years we have shared a lot of laughs and argued
things that were not important, we shared meals together and he brought some of
his Polish culture to our lives. For instance, because of him I have invented
the Polish Big Mac, which is Kielbasa on pumpernickel with white and red
horseradish piled neatly on top. This amazing combination can clear out a
stuffy nose, drain your sinuses and hours later remind you that you ate it.
He has embraced our culture, and was universally loved and
respected by the whole family, starting with Grandma Frances. In fact, the only
one who doesn’t get along with him is his wife, my older sister Tessie: much
older, who is always telling him what to do for his own good. Being a married
man he is use to living vicariously anyway.
John has an amazing spirit. He is mostly in a good mood,
loves singing and we love when he doesn’t. My Dad loved him, and to show it
would call him a cheap Polack. This
was a sign that Dad was comfortable with him and could tease him. John took it
all in stride and would rather be called frugal. It does sound classier.
During his day, he could play a round of golf or two, then
head out to the softball field where he would pitch a no-hitter, then go
fishing and maybe clam off his boat in the Great South Bay, all in one day,
come home and bar-b-q for his family and guests.
When people needed him, he was there, never said no, and in
spite of my Dad giving him the business because his daughter wasn’t living in a
palace, was very generous to everyone but himself.
So now he sits with an oxygen tube under his nostrils and
covered with a blanket looks for visitors to come to see him. That was
something he would do for sick people. I was in the hospital three times, once
from a car accident, once because I had a blood infection and once for the
heart operation, and each time he came, with a vanilla sundae and sat with me
and I ate my ice cream while we joked around. He made life good again.
Recently a friend of mine from my high school days said
something very profound. We were discussing a fellow classmate who has stage 4
cancer, and he said: “You know Joe, when you look at it, all the time we spend
on this Earth, it is so insignificant compared to the time that was before we
came on Earth, and all the time that will pass after we leave it!”
|With his beautiful family|
I have to agree with him, it is, but John made his time
significant, he raised his children without a handout, without thinking twice
about helping others, without any hatred toward another human being. He treated
the elderly with respect and worried about everyone. His time here is quality
time: his example was perfect, as friend, father, husband and brother-in-law.
One of the things that strike me is that he is stubborn, not
always doing what he is told until he sees the reason for doing it. As a result
when he does, he lessens the burden on my sister. He worries about her, always
has. Once they spent a month down in Venice, Florida, and my sister was getting
lonely down there. She called me to come down and stay for a week and I did, it
made her happy, but it made John even happier, thanking me for the visit. He
didn’t need me, his wife did, and that made a difference for him.
I worry about her, how she is handling things, how she is
feeling, coping, and keeping her wits, knowing she has a heavy load. And so I
go to try to cheer them up, make them both laugh, feel good about the day and
take their collective minds off of reality. She, like everyone in our family
loves to laugh, so that is what I like to do best, make them laugh.
Some day we will all wait for our time. Who will be there
for us if we stumble, who will care? When we are gone, who will notice or miss
us? Will there be someone for our family, and worst still, will they say
something nice about us AFTER we are gone? I know I’m not the only one who has
said nice things about John.