Summer Time

My father use to quote the song sung by Ella Fitzgerald Summertime from Porgy and Bess saying, “Summer time and living is easy.”

Well, that’s not been my summer.  It’s been busy, stressful and less than fun.  “Easy” isn’t the word I’m using.

A few weeks ago I got the call that my older brother, Billy, was taken to the hospital and that started a chain of events that still isn’t fully resolved.  The diagnosis is not unexpected for a 73 year old.  He had pneumonia and a stroke.  Now he’s in “rehab” – the modern name for conversant hospital.  He also has cerebral palsy which just makes treating him that little bit more complicated.

Somewhere along the line I went from younger brother to care giver to case manager to “health care agent” as defined in his Advanced Directive.  In these days of HIPAA closing off family’s access to information on a hospitalized patient, this magic document actually requires the medical staff to call me and keep me informed.  It also becomes one of those burdens I’d rather not have.

The normal first conversation with a doctor after you inform them of an Advanced Directive generally starts with the question, “Is he full code?”

It’s at that point when part of my mind detaches from my mouth and I hear myself saying, “For now, but under the terms of his advanced directive these are the conditions when I am asked to give a DNR order …”

“Full code” as in do everything to keep him alive.  “DNR” as in do not resuscitate and let him die.  It seemed like a good idea at the time Bill and I signed the document that I should make that choice for him when he can’t.  Seemed so simple nine years ago.

Simple like those days when we were boys.  Bill could walk then and had a train set and a slot car set in the garage.  He was a teen, I was in grade school.  I was small and could help him get wires and track setup where he couldn’t reach.  We’d spend hours on summer days listening to AM radio and 60’s rock.  He’d rebuild the train’s engines and I’d climb out to the middle of the plywood table to set up more track.  The trains would run too fast and derail.  The little slot cars would go flying around the track and sometimes into a wall.  We’d laugh and have simple fun.

I remember the red three wheeled bike he rode.  He’d ride to the hobby shop to get parts or the hardware store for tools while me and the other kids on the street would follow along.  Sometimes we bought model cars to build or would stop by the five and dime for a candy bar.

Those were good times and living was fun and easy.

This summer is not easy.  Last week I was standing over his hospital bed when he smiled and I saw that missing tooth.  A tooth he lost as a teen while riding his bike and pulling neighborhood kids on skateboards.  The game was you’d get on your skateboard then hold on to the basket of Billy’s three wheeler and he’d race down the sidewalk as fast as he could pedal.  At the corner he’d turn right and you’d let go just before the turn and fly off the curb and into the street.

It was great fun, but as every mother said in the sixties, “It’s all fun and games until someone loses an eye.”  In Bill’s case our mother would it change to: “loses a tooth.”

There was that one run when Billy missed his turn and his bike flipped over.  I didn’t see what happened but I was the one sent running to get mom.  I brought his bike home and could see through the kitchen window that mother was cleaning blood off his face.  Mom told me to stay outside.  The next day the dentist was able to put the tooth back and for many years it stayed in.  A couple of decades later another dentist had to remove the tooth and he’s had a gap ever since.

These last couple of weeks I’ve spent a lot of time on the road driving to and from San Jose and sitting in hotel rooms waiting for a doctor to call.  Part of me remembers those carefree days, while another part waits for more information to make another decision I don’t want to.

This week I’ll make the trip again to his bedside.  I’ll talk to doctors, nurses, case managers and social workers and this time I hope to be able to say to him, “Dude, it’s summer time and the living is easy.  Let’s get you home.”

About Andrew Reynolds

Born in California Did the school thing studying electronics, computers, release engineering and literary criticism. I worked in the high tech world doing software release engineering and am now retired. Then I got prostate cancer. Now I am a blogger and work in my wood shop doing scroll saw work and marquetry.
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49 Responses to Summer Time

  1. Dave says:

    I’m sorry to be so late in reading/commenting here, Andrew. Our move to the South has me woefully behind on WordPress. But I still felt it necessary to reach out. I hope there is a positive turn of events (for both of you) by now. Your accounts of a happy childhood with your brother are great to read, and I’m glad you gave your post that perspective instead of simply accounting for present events. I relate to those stories, being a younger brother of brothers myself. I only hope I don’t find myself in a similar situation as you are right now, but my age and the odds being what they are, I’m prepared to be the supportive sibling where needed. All the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. mitchteemley says:

    Praying for both of you, Andrew. It seems being a good brother (and you are) sometimes means doing what you never expected to have to do.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Oh Andrew…I’ve been pretty much (like totally) off the blogging grid of late and am just now trying to get caught up. I’m sorry your brother has been going through such a difficult health crisis on top of his CP. He is so incredibly blessed to have such a loving, caring brother in you. I loved reading your memories of growing up with him – it made my cynical heart feel all warm and fuzzy… Except for the blood and missing tooth parts. My siblings are 6 and 12 years older than me, so I don’t have those types of memories. Prayers for his healing and for wisdom for you as you work with this health care team toward the most favorable outcome for him. And safe travels for you!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. So precious, this story, at moments I was sure I could hear your voices and laughter, and then my own brothers mixed in from days gone by. So hard, too, to see the “gap” where we want things securely in place. But your big soft heart, Reynolds, does such a good job of filling it. You are one terrific brother. I know it’s not easy, but you sure do carry it as if it were… Remember that other song, “Lean on Me”? How many people are there in our lives that we can really lean on? You’re one of those guys. ❤️
    Deb

    Liked by 1 person

  5. G. J. Jolly says:

    I’m so sorry to hear about your brother. And I’m so sorry that you’re having to change your role with your brother. Taking care of a loved one in later years is a humongous burden. I haven’t been put in the role yet, but my brother is on his 2nd time around with it.

    Keep on trunkin’, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. kathy70 says:

    Sending prayers your way for all your family.

    Like

  7. Lakshmi Bhat says:

    Praying for your brother. So many decisions to take. Thank you for sharing your memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. All my best to both of you, Andrew. I hope he is able to go home soon.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Well, this is sad indeed. It’s so hard to see ourselves and our loved ones getting older and sometimes ill. Sending prayers your way. I smiled when you shared the story of the bike incident. I have a twin brother, we had an incident with a bike when we were young too. No broken tooth, but a twisted ankle from foot that got into the spokes. He was riding on the handle bars, feet dangling. MEMORIES — YES, let’s get your brother home! Looking forward to THAT post!

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Sometimes things happen and it feels as if we can’t stop the train to get off 😦 Living for me is all about the memories.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. What a terrible, stressful time – sending you and Bill and your family best wishes for strength and healing.

    Liked by 1 person

  12. WebbBlogs says:

    So sorry your going through this Andrew. Hoping your brother gets to be released soon and he can go home. Well wishes

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Hugs and prayers…

    Liked by 1 person

  14. Gosh, I sure hope he can go home. Lifting him (and you) up in my prayers. This getting older gig isn’t fun, is it?

    Liked by 1 person

  15. Franknbean says:

    Someone commented how well you segued between the childhood memories and the now. I emphasize that praise. An older cousin of mine just reached out to me saying I hope your “each day” is better than the last one. We hold to our faith and look to find the beauty in our life’s situations. Praying for your ability to find each day’s beauty. Keep your heart where your hope is.

    Liked by 2 people

  16. Daya Bhat says:

    Prayers and lots of healing wishes! This post moved me to tears.

    Liked by 1 person

  17. What keeps us busy as we get older. I am so happy Bill has you there to help.

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Aw :-(… praying for Billy. Hang in there. Life remains life every single day.

    Liked by 1 person

  19. Praying for you both at this difficult stage of life.

    Liked by 1 person

  20. jfwknifton says:

    That is a very moving blog post. I really hope that everything goes your way in this, but don’t forget that both you and your wife have a good claim to some easy living of your own as you come to the autumn of your years.

    Liked by 2 people

  21. Oh, Andrew, life is so much harder when we are older. I have spent so much time in hospitals with both my sons. One is fine now and the other improves and then takes a step backwards [we are in a backwards phase now]. I wish all the very best to you in dealing with your ill brother. Hugs.

    Liked by 2 people

  22. Terry says:

    Very well done, particularly the transition to the childhood memories. The best to you and your brother .

    Liked by 2 people

  23. SusanR says:

    I hope so too, Andrew.

    Liked by 1 person

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