My mind wasn’t catching up to what was really happening. I had been visiting Al and trying to concentrate on my job. I couldn’t get a handle on the fact that our Dad had died the week before.
Now I had this estate to take care of and the phone call from the doctor put my mind at a slow halt. What was I doing? What was I going to do? I immediately went to the hospital. I just couldn’t believe Al drove himself to the doctor when he was having a heart attack.
But I have to keep in mind that he was mentally challenged. All he knew was that he was hurting. Once I got to the hospital it was confirmed that they were transporting him to Fort Wayne hospital where there was a heart floor.
I waited with Al until the ambulance came and then I stopped at the gas station so I could buy more smokes. I was a nervous wreck. I thought my head was going to explode. It was just too much at the wrong time.
I sped all the way. I beat the ambulance by a few minutes. Once I registered him they prepped him for emergency surgery. It was after he was announced alright that being his sister was not good enough.
Here was a mentally challenged adult who had always lived with our parents. I was not his legal guardian so I fought for everything I wanted Al to have. After a few days he was dismissed and I was allowed to take him home.
I ended up spending that night but still I was thinking I will just keep a good eye on him. I will check on him every day. I can do this. As I spent more time at the house I discovered Al had such a good routine going that he didn’t have any decent food in the house.
In the freezer was seven boxes of generic breaded chicken patties. You know, the ones that you aren’t sure if there is really any chicken in them? He also had several packages of hot dogs. It is no wonder he had a heart attack.
As I went through his room thinking I was just going to tidy up, I began to notice things weren’t right. There were health issues here. Ever since Mom had died, Dad never opened the house again. Central air or heat was on all year round. The windows had not been opened in seven years.
I found white mold growing inside dressers, under the sink, on several floor moldings. I am a clean person and seeing this scared me for Al’s health. I went home and got some clean clothes and decided to spend a few days since I only worked Friday through Monday mornings.
Everything Al did was on routine. If his routine was messed up or changed Al was lost. He is mentally challenged in the cognitive area. This is the only way he made it for seven years after Mom died and Dad moved on with his life leaving Al to fend for himself. Al stayed with his routine.
He bought groceries on the same day each week. He ate the same food for breakfast 52 weeks out of the year. He packed the same lunches. He drove the same route no matter what the weather was. He went to ball games in the winter. He went to auctions on Saturday nights even if there was six inches of snow on the ground.
On the day that it would have been laundry day I decided to help him out since he was healing from his surgery and so I gathered up his laundry and started to sort. I noticed there were no white clothes to wash.
I went back in his room and asked him where his undies were. He said, ” I don’t have any. They all got holes in them.”
” Well why didn’t you go buy some more?”
” I didn’t know I was supposed to,” he told me.
It was at that moment that some of my fog cleared and I realized Al had been just getting by. I sat down on his bed and talked to him about me moving in. I wasn’t sure how he was going to take it. He had grown so accustomed to hiding when Dad was home; I wasn’t sure how he would react to a new change and it being a family member.
The conversation was fairly simple. ” What do you think about me moving in and helping you out while you get better? I could help you pack your lunches and fix your suppers through the week.”
That part must have interested him. Before our Grandma moved to Florida to live with her daughter, Al always went to her home for supper. He told me I could move in. I made sure he was going to be alright for a while and then I went to my apartment and packed a week’s worth of clothing.
Without me realizing I was already beginning to take care of my brother. For a few days I spent my time between taking care of him and cleaning the house. I scrubbed down mold, cleaned bathrooms, swept and opened the windows to get fresh air in.
Al had a doctor’s appointment. I went with him so I could hear what the doctor had to say. The doctor reported that Al could go back to work on light duty. This made Al angry. He was concerned about what his boss would say. All I remember Al asking was, ” What is Scott going to say when I don’t do my job? He will fire me, I just know he will.”
It took a while to get him calmed down so I explained to him that we would go talk to his boss. I had Al go with me inside to where he worked. I explained what was going on and they were happy to let Al go back to work, even on light duty. Al felt better and the tears disappeared. To celebrate I took Al to Wendy’s to eat.
He had no idea what he was supposed to do. He didn’t know how to order food. He told me he didn’t remember ever being on the inside of a restaurant. I am sure he had been but it bothered me that maybe it had been so long he didn’t remember.
Slowly I taught Al about the other part of life. The fun parts, other than work and sleep. I taught him how to understand the menu boards. I showed him how combinations came with a sandwich, fries and a drink. It wasn’t long at all when I would take him to eat he would stand right up there at the counter and say, ” I want a 2.” The employee and I would chuckle together because she was thinking that he was so hungry he couldn’t order properly, but I knew that this is the part he understood and this was the way he was going to get food.
- Chapter 16 (terry1954.wordpress.com)
Terry, thank you for writing this, for opening a window onto your experience, on Al’s experience, its difficult in words, in writing to express the reality, language is a very limited tool, and you seem to be able to write in such a way as to get to the truth, the reality….
Thank you Carol. I have my first book in the publishing area right now but this book is very difficult for me to write. It brings up so many emotions. Thank you for a wonderful comment. hugs my dear friend
I am so glad you are writing these memories Terry!
I am not sure if I am doing it for me, Al or for people who need to know they are not alone. Families aren’t perfect, we need to accept this. thanks Julie
Ah, it takes courage to share something that personal and you are very brave to do that.
I am glad i found you. Thanks for sharing.
May God give you strength and your brother good health.
Best wishes. Good luck =)
thank you. I am writing this book so others know they are not alone. Illness happens, families break, there is no perfect life.
Hmmmm…Thats great.Good luck with your book ! 🙂
It’s not easy to share memories. You have a wonderful talent for writing and sharing.
thank you so much!
Thanks for the recounting of your love and care of Al. Lord bless.
you are welcome. It is very healing for me
Thank you for sharing this window inside of your life. My thoughts are with you!
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