Old Family Wounds Fester Yet Again

My brother relapsed again last weekend. It’s been 2 1/2 months since the last time he pulled this. I swear he waits until Fridays so I can’t call his doctor and bitch about prescribing an addict controlled substances, panic-attacks be damned.

My mother called to inform me that he was slurring his speech again and his motor function was off and she was afraid for his breathing while he slept it off on the couch.

“Mom, what do you want me to do about it?” I asked, incredulously. I thought, “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Apparently.

“Well, can you come over? Maybe check his pulse….seems fast, and his breathing is pretty rough.”

“No, I can’t right now! I’m right in the middle of refinishing my countertop at work!” I surprised myself with the sound of my own annoyance. “And i’m STILL NOT A DOCTOR, mom! If you think it’s an emergency, dial 911!”

I really hate that my 91yr old mother has to worry about this shit at her age. She should be enjoying her twilight years, not tending to my brother’s addiction issues.

At that moment I could hear my brother rouse from the couch and protest my mother calling me for help. He took the phone and immediately I could tell that he was high again; slurred speech, memory issues. I think someone’s been into the Aprazolam again, and I told him as much.

When my mother got back on the phone I confirmed her fears; he’s relapsed again. How may times has it been now? A half-dozen in the last two years?

I told her I’d come over after I went home to walk the dogs. She settled down. That made her feel better.

“Well, can I call you in case anything happens?” she asked sheepishly.

“Of course you can, mom.” I assured her, feeling a little guilty for my callousness.

Not long after I returned from walking the dogs, my phone rang again. A deep sigh escaped my lips before I answered.


“You have to come over here. He’s being a real problem. He’s digging through the trash looking for his pills, wandering down the street. He might fall! And I’m still worried about how he’s breathing.”

“Ok, i’ll be right over.”

When I arrived, my brother was already sleeping on the couch with a T-shirt wrapped around the top of his head, a habit he’s had for as long as I can remember. His breathing was indeed bad, but like my mom he has Emphysema, so it’s not really that unusual.

“He’s high,” I said. “Just let him sleep it off, mom.”

He roused momentarily, long enough to let me ask him if he’d taken his Spiriva. He mumbled a “Yes” and dozed back off again.

Just then, my mom received a phone call. It was the automated message from Rite-Aid that her prescriptions were ready. I offered to pick them up for her and she gave me her debit card. I told her I’d be back soon.

Not soon enough, apparently. During my brief absence she decided to call 911 anyway. The paramedics and cops arrived shortly after I retuned, two vehicles each crowded the street and driveway.

Here we go again.

I went out into the open garage and gave the cops and paramedics a re-cap. They nodded and mentioned they’d been here before.

I chatted up the female officers who stood outside while the male paramedics rolled a chair-dolly into the house to retrieve my brother. There’s no room in these little post-WWII, G.I.-loan houses for gurneys, so you have to get the patient out of the house first, and then onto a gurney.

When my brother emerged from the house strapped to the chair dolly, he didn’t look at me, but I looked at him; he seemed pasty and puffy and older than his 64 years. He’s been in excellent shape his entire life, did yoga every day for over thirty years, but you’d never know it to look at him now. It made me sad.

Soon, he was whisked away to our local hospital yet again and all the official vehicles left with him. Peace in the neighborhood again. Peace for my mother, who at least won’t have to worry herself to death tonight whether her first-born was still breathing ok.

“Being a mother never ends, “ she said. “You think at some point you can relax, but you can’t. Not even at 91.”

She’s always been a fierce advocate for her children and only her children. She paid no attention to her grandchildren; only as much as she needed to satisfy her children. It’s just one of her many peculiarities.

Afterwards, I took her garbage out and offered to take bills to the post office. Then I gave her a hug and left.

That very same night, at 10:15 PM, the hospital called me to come pick him up. (Already? At first I was annoyed and then realized that if he was home he wouldn’t interfere with my kayaking plans tomorrow).

The hospital didn’t do much, it seems; made sure he was stable, injected him with some saline solution, then cut him loose. He was still high when I picked him up. But hey, everybody got their cut, didn’t they? Nobody offered any explanations as to treatment, as usual.

I didn’t speak to my brother at all on the way back to my mom’s house. I didn’t need to, and he wasn’t in any condition to offer anything new. I didn’t want to hear it anyway; we’ve been through this so many times already it would just embarrass us both.

I dropped him off, walked him to the door and then to the couch, kissed my mother and went home. Hopefully, that would be it… at least for a couple of months.

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