It’ll be a year tomorrow since I began calling Eddie for things other than obligations.

Tomorrow our mother will be eighty.

A year ago Ed was mostly a burden.  He relentlessly called for perceived needs he believed dire.  I avoided his calls and felt alone in the carrying of that rather large burden called Ed. 

And then we had birthday cake with our mother…and we laughed…and he asked if I would help him, for the entire year, remember her age and where she lives…and something happened on that infamous 1…2…3 day… that date our mother had seared into our memories as young children, sing-songing “When’s Mommy’s birthday?  One, two, three.” 

I began calling Eddie, the way I call others; friends, colleagues, family.  I found out he was in the middle of the biggest crisis of his life; his connection to others had been cancelled due to glitches in technology and in an inability to communicate why this was a huge need.  I found a spark…then two…then many  within the ranks of the folks who care for him, and those sparks turned into flame…not a huge one, but enough to get him back on-line and back in touch with the world.

He is no longer my burden.  He is my brother.  He is my friend.

That does not mean is not a pain in the ass sometimes.

He’s been calling non-stop precisely because our mother seared the date of her birth into our soft minds.

“Beth….” he says slowly, “What are we doing for Mom’s birthday?”

“I’m going to pick you up and we are going to see her,” I say.

“You know, last year Vic brought me and we took a cake…we should bring a cake,” he says.

I cannot believe it.  The moment, our moment with our mother last year on her birthday, the one that altered my relationship with Ed forever….he’s changed the cast of characters…and the role of me is now played by my sister, who, by the way, was not present last year.

“Eddie!”  I yell.  “That was ME!”

“You sure?” he asks but starts laughing because he knows he blew it.

“Yes…I brought you and the cake.  I cannot believe Vickie got credit for that,” I say, but he is laughing too hard to hear me.

He gets suddenly serious, “We should bring a cake.”

“Of course we will bring a cake.  I know how to celebrate birthdays.  That is why I…brought…one…last…year!” I say.

He sort of laughs then says, “I got her a stupid present.”


“I got her one of those things with tape that you get lint off your clothes with,” he says.

“That is a stupid present,” I laugh as I picture our mother who wears nothing but sweat pants and knit tops and doesn’t remember to brush her hair without prompting, caring about lint.

He laughs, but says, “It was easy.  I wish I had more money…I would have gotten her something nice.”

I suck.  This is important to him, this gift our mother will not understand or remember. 

We negotiate the pick-up time.  He gets worried I will drop him off at the mall, where he walks as a human billboard, late.  I ask, “What will happen if you are late?  Really?”  He says, “Nothing,” then laughs, “My boss might get mad,” referring to himself.  “I know,” I say, “he’s such a jerk.”  He inhales a laugh that somehow erases my guilt over dogging him about the gift for Mom.

“Okay,” he goes over the details of the morning for the fifth time then says, “so I’ll talk to my people here…”

“Yeah,” I say, “You talk to your people, I’ll talk to mine.”

He laughs, “Call me to remind me….okay?  Bye-bye?”  He then fumbles to turn off the phone.  I hear his labored breath and vocalizations of effort.  A burden-less click follows.