All That I Have Written Is Straw. . .

Meanderings of a Catholic Devout

What flows in should also flow out

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These past few weeks have involved grueling travel, a visit with my brother, and dealing with illness at home. As I was travelling to Salt Lake City, I received an airplane crash-course about the Great Salt Lake and Mormonism from a criminal defense attorney. What I took from it—that what flows into it never flows out—reminds me of why I don’t ever want to be a stinking dead sea.

It was a little uncanny that I happened to be reading up on commentary about the Gospel of Matthew, in particularly about Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan River.  In addition to its own Dead Sea, Salt Lake City has a Jordan River, too, that flows from South to North (one of only two rivers in the world to do so).  Just a little trivia there for you.

After a three-day trip for work to Salt Lake City, I got to visit with my oldest brother, B—, for a day in Denver, as it was a lay-over spot for returning home to Houston. I hadn’t seen B— in about a year and a half.  Apparently, he and his second wife are divorcing, so the timing of my trip was welcomed as he is in the process of moving out, but until his new place is ready to receive him, he looks for ways to get out.

We got to hang out in the downtown center of Denver, which neither of us had really discovered.  We’d both been there for various reasons (he more often than I, of course) and we had a blast. It was nice catching up with him but I couldn’t help noticing the sadness that sort of lingered over him.

When we talked about relationships, he was happy for mine and disappointed in his. I gave him dating advice for his newly single life, which is ironic considering he is 10 years older than me. I always had this memory of him being a slickster when I was a child because it seemed like he always had girls calling him or he was bringing home a new girlfriend. But, in fact, that wasn’t the case. I learned that his high school girlfriend was with him for two years. That shows how unreliable my memory is! I also learned that he had never had the gall to ask a girl out that he didn’t already know from school, or in recent times, from work. He’s never been on a real date! Here it is, 30-something years into my life, and I just find out this juicy morsel of information now?!

That’s where I was able to offer all sorts of advice. Of course, I wasn’t suggesting that he date anytime soon, but when he’s good and ready for it (and considering that he doesn’t share the same religious beliefs that I do), I had a thing or two to say about how to ask a girl on a date. I felt a little proud that I could be of some use to my older brother. After all, we are the only two siblings in our family to have gone through divorce.

I also learned that he had never really experienced true ethnic cuisine.  So I took him to a Brazilian churrasceria for an elegant night on the town and we stayed at a hip hotel, pop-culture and all.

It had been just short of a week since I’d been home and I missed I—. He wasn’t feeling well physically before I left, but apparently he just “broke” on the day I was to return. He couldn’t sit, stand or walk. He was in extreme agony from his sciatic nerve (sciatica). When I called him from the airport in Denver to confirm the pick-up, he was in such pain, I started crying for him in the waiting area. So my trip home was saddened. I took a taxi home from the airport, which is always a strange experience in your hometown (unless you live on the East Coast).

When I got home, I felt so helpless. I tried hard not to let him see me cry myself to sleep because I wasn’t the focus. He was miserable and the pain was so unbearable for him. He was so frustrated because he knew this was going to interfere with his work, which he could ill-afford to not do. 

This, I think, is the first time since my father was alive, that I felt utterly helpless. There was nothing I could do or say that would put his pain or his mind at ease. Unless there’s emergency surgery, there isn’t a way to relieve sciatic nerve pain other than time. Pain medications don’t offer much relief. It hurts very much to watch someone you love suffer. I keep reminding myself that suffering helps us to appreciate mercy, to appreciate our health.

On Sunday, the Gospel (Mark) relayed the story of John the Baptist and Jesus’ baptism in the Jordan. And the priest’s homily reflected upon why John the Baptist called for repentance—metanoia—a “changing of the heart/attitude.” He used an analogy of caring for a loved one who is sick. All of a sudden, your priorities change, your attitude changes, your heart changes. Selfish ways become ways of servitude and love. And so it is.

For now, we’re taking it day-by-day. I— got his MRI and he’s waiting on test results. Each day, though, he’s been able to stand or walk a little, tiny bit more. By this week’s end, he should have a final diagnosis (he’s betting on a herniated spinal disc) and should have a better outlook for relief.

Keep him in your prayers, if you will, and also myself, as I need the strength to keep him hopeful.

St. Vitus, ora pro nobis.

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Written by Written Straw

January 25, 2012 at 5:39 pm

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