Today would have been my brother’s 55th birthday. He died on July 26, 2003.
When I think of him, which I often do, I think of the idealized brother that death has provided me. I tend to forget about the mental illness that ravaged his brain and made him ill-equipped to handle this life. I also tend to forget that we did have a semi-normal sibling relationship until he was in his 20s and diagnosed with paranoid schizophrenia. I see an ideal brother/sister relationship without arguments or fights of any kind. But for the moment anyway, I do remember the frustration I felt when dealing with his thought patterns and paranoia. I remember wishing with all my heart that he could experience life with some level of normalcy. I remember praying that each change of medication would be the change that would bring my brother back to me and that he could have the life that he craved.
A good bit of his last few weeks was spent on a respirator. He was finally taken off of the respirator but had a lot of trouble talking. My last ‘conversation’ with him was mostly me talking; I told him about school starting soon, how glad I was to see him off of the respirator and then I told him I was about to go to Wisconsin for our yearly vacation there. I told him I would gladly stay home if he wanted me to but he indicated that I should go ahead and make the trip. I remember thinking how ‘normal’ he seemed. It felt as if the schizophrenia was no longer present at that moment in time. Then he tried to clear his voice to speak, took a sip of water and croaked out “I”………”love”……..”you”. Not only did I tear up then, I still tear up at the remembrance. I hugged him and told him over and over that I loved him too. I still miss him.
So Danno, if you are up there watching and reading, I’ll answer that eternal question that you asked every year on your birthday………You would say, “It’s my birthday today, I’m xx years old. Aren’t you proud of me?” and to that I say, ‘yes Dan, I am proud of you. I only wish you were here for me to tell you in person’…………