Tonight I think of him laying in a bed in Christ Hospital, the same hospital that he was taken to when the accident occurred in 1977. I think of being with him, doing the intake, the clerk asking about his health insurance. She needs proof that his care is covered by a catastrophic claim with Workers Comp of Ohio. But, we get through it and she gives me information for Billing and I say okay and then I go to my brother's side.
There's a tube in his nose, a respiratory therapist, by his side, and a barrage of questions. No he's never had a heart attack. No, he doesn't smoke. No, he doesn't suffer from C.P.O.D. And then I cut to the chase: Paul laid in a coma for 4 months a long time ago. He had a tracheotomy. Now he has scar tissue that's built up and the throat muscles are collapsing and he has a feeding tube that he doesn't want to use because food is his only pleasure, besides the dream of maybe one day seeing his daughter again.
Paul's right hand lays clenched by his side. He doesn't say anything. I take it, and he fixes his glassy eyed gaze on me and grips my hand until the circulation is nearly cut off. I don't mind.
Most of my life I minded everything about my brother and his imposition on my life. But something has change within me. Not to be trite, but like the song from "Wicked" recounts, "I'm through with playing by the rules of someone else's game."
I fought the idea of compassion for a long time, mercy for my brother and a full-circle feeling have over taken me. He didn't ask for this. He's 63 years old and labeled with the word debilitated. It was a favorite word for my mother to use. Tonight I want for my brother to have peace, to feel some sense of hope, not just turn his head to stare off at a clock as if time were not on his side.