Ever since my mother’s birthday post…the first…I have called Eddie…as promised.  Only, he’s never answered.  This is weird because if he isn’t online he’s sitting in a large lounge chair watching a movie or TV or reading the paper next to his phone.  My brother is usually very easy to get a hold of…though I seldom utilize this constant opportunity.  Then, suddenly, I have committed to a year of daily contact and he is unavailable.  So I called and called and called for three days.  Our communication tables were flipped, it was I who became almost frantic to hear his voice.

Yesterday, a cold, foggy day here in Grand Junction, CO, I drove deliberately to his apartment to see what was up.  As I drove I realize that I have not gone to see my brother for any reason but to pick him up for holiday visits or to bring him whatever vital need he has been blowing up my phone over, like coffee creamer or Cheese-Its.  This was me wanting to see him.  And I really did, desperately.

So I arrive and he is sitting in his chair next to his phone watching “Meatballs.” 

“What the hell?”  I say.  “Why aren’t you answering your phone?”

He looks bewildered.

“I’ve been calling you for days…ever since we went to Mom’s for her birthday.”

He continues to look bewildered, then he says the way my brother says things with his brain-stem-injured mouth….slowly, deliberately and still difficult to understand,”I want to thank you for doing that.”

He seems so sweet and nice…not at all the brother of my childhood…my best friend/mortal enemy brother.

“So why haven’t you been answering?”  I ask.

He looks to his phone.  “Call me.”

I do, and the red light on his phone flashes, but no sound comes out.  I pick it up, push a slide button over and it rings the old-fashioned phone ring of our childhood.

He rubs his head, “I wonder how long that’s been off.”

“At least since Wednesday,” I say.

“Yeah….”

“Hey Eddie…” I say.

He looks up at me, “What?”

“How old is Mom?” I ask.

He smiles, “Seventy-nine.”

“Where does she live?” I ask.

He smiles, rubs his head.  He looks into space while he searches the files in his mind.

“Um…that place in Fruita…um…the health place.”  A light goes off.  “Family Health West.”

“Yep.  I told you I was going to call you every day to remind you until she turns eighty.”

He looks at me seriously.  “I can’t tell you how much that means to me.”

Really?  Where is this sweet monk of a man coming from?  You need to know things about him, about who we have been to understand my confusion. 

“Whatever…” I say being much more true to who we are.  “Just answer your phone.”

He smiles then looks past me to the TV…”Meatballs” is ending. 

“Do you remember this?” he asks.

“I don’t think I ever saw it.”

“Really? It’s a classic,” he tells me.

It’s one of his hundreds of VCRs he plays over and over.  Most of them are from the nineties.  He bulky, clumsy hands can’t negotiate the breakable DVDs so he hasn’t been upgraded.

“I’ll call you tomorrow,” I say as I start to leave.

“Thank you for coming by…I don’t know when I would have ever figured out the phone was off,”  he says.

As I walk through the snow warming into Slurpee I  come upon another head-injured guy ahead of me on the narrow path to my car.  He is going at the usual snail’s pace of the head injured.  I must slow down.  There is an etiquette about not passing these lumberers at this facility where they are gathered.  I have plenty of time to read the back of his wheelchair…printed rather large is the manufacturer’s name of this model…”The Quickie.”  Humor in the face of tragedy.

This inspires me to pull my phone from my pocket and call Eddie.

He answers immediately.

“Hey Ed…”

“What?”

“How old is Mom?”

He inhales a high-pitched laugh.

“Seventy-nine.”

“There ya go…bye.”

“Bye.”

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