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Thursday, October 17, 2013

Secrets


In Britain there is an expression one often hears to describe certain kinds of people as "keeping himself to himself". It's often ascribed to certain kinds of neighbours and the reasons for not getting to friendly. I rather think there is a bit too much of that kind of thing -- and not just with the British, either!

This is a serious post about something that has happened in my own family.

On August 24th my only brother, who lives alone, was found by the police in a semi-conscious state in his bathtub. He could not walk and did not know where he was or what had happened to him. He may have been there for over 24 hours.

My brother, Bill, has always "kept himself to himself". When he was a little boy he had a paper route and we sisters use to joke about how we never knew how much money he had -- only that he always had nice presents for us on Christmas! If he had problems we never knew what they were, only that he was looking kind of sad and eventually we'd find out if it was really serious -- like breaking up with his first girlfriend, for example. What a song and dance that was! I found that if I had a quiet word with him he would tell me -- but always I had to ask -- information was never volunteered!

Three or four years ago when I was home for Thanksgiving I inadvertently discovered one of his secrets. We were at my mother's apartment and I went into her bedroom for something. Bill was there and I saw him taking a couple of pills from a bottle that looked like a prescription. "Ah", I said, "Do you have high blood pressure, too?"

He answered quietly, "No, I have Parkinson's Disease." He also asked me to "not spread it around" -- I didn't promise him one way or the other. After some thought I decided to tell The Man and also my youngest sister, but not my 90 year old mother. By the end of Thanksgiving weekend my other sister also knew.

All of us were relieved to know because we had noticed that often his words were just slightly slurred and his speech a bit slower -- like when some people have a bit too much to drink and try to look sober. We had also noticed the slight shuffling of his feet when he walked.

I've thought a lot about Bill telling me he had Parkinson's and the way he told me. I really think he wanted to tell us, but didn't know how -- until I asked about what I had perchance observed. It has made me wonder how often it is that people aren't really secretive at all -- they just aren't able to share problems. Maybe they don't want to burden people with additional worries -- or maybe they don't trust anyone enough to thank they will care. I expect there are many reasons for reticence -- ranging from 'pride' to 'insecurity' and 'fear'. Maye it's growing up with three sisters, who when they are together can be quite a formidable force. That he loved us all has never been in doubt -- he always has gone out of his way to see us when we are visiting and he always seems really pleased -- even content -- to be in our company.

Several years ago my brother's second marriage ended and since then he had been living on his own in an apartment about an hour away from my Mom's residence. Mom and sisters all wished he had a girlfriend, but of that there was no evidence -- suspicions maybe -- but not a shred! He even admitted to me that 'I do get kind of lonely'...

Over the past three years I've been able to visit the my mother once a year for  a few weeks at a time. In that time, I've seen some deterioration in Bill's condition, but on the whole he seemed to be doing quite well and it was good to know that he was there regularly for my mother. I was looking forward to seeing him in the Fall.

As you will see in my next post -- life often interferes with expectation...

34 comments:

  1. I can relate to your feelings of . . . frustration, sometimes? I know that's how I feel when my wife just will not ask for help or tell me that she is a bit below par and her condition means she can't do things.

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    1. Sometimes we can't even admit it to ourselves -- unfortunately...

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  2. Parkinson's disease can be very debilitating and extremely hard to live with. I'm not sure what to expect in your next post, but I hope the outcome is in some way positive.

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    1. We are hopeful, but there does seem to be a long way to go.

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  3. Thank goodness someone thought to call the police...I do hope there's a positive follow up.

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  4. It's a fine balance, isn't it, to ask and not ask, to be interested in someone's welfare and yet keep the appropriate distance.

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    1. Always a tricky business -- especially within a family. No one wants to be considered over-bearing.

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  5. Thank goodness he was found, sad under such circumstances. I do hope it was not because the tub eventually ran over and leaked downstairs.
    I'm looking forward to your next post; no guessing beforehand.

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    1. It was very sad and also quite shocking. My brother is a big guy and we've always though of him as being the 'stalwart' figure in the family.

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  6. I doubt the second part of your post will have a happy ending but I'll hold out for the best.

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    1. It isn't exactly happy -- but it is hopeful! Thanks, Stephen.

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  7. This was such a moving post with a lot to think about. I think you hit the nail on the head when you said that some people are just unable to share their problems for all the reasons you've given. Thank Goodness for organisations such as The Samaritans who perhaps can reach out to people easier than most of us can. It is, like Rosaria so wisely commented - a fine balance ...

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    1. I am just relieved that we knew enough to be able to find him!

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  8. Dear Broad, I so hope that your brother is all right and that he was rescued in time. I'm wondering how the police knew to go into your brother's home. Who alerted them to a possible problem?

    Words fail me right now as I don't know what to say to offer sympathy to you and to your family, your mother especially. Life is so mysterious. It can seem to be going by mostly smooth with just a few little bumps. And then a crater in the road stops us in our tracks and we must reconsider all we know of someone or something. Just as you are thoughtfully and lovingly thinking about your brother's reticence. I so hope he is all right. Peace.

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    1. Thanks, Dee. I've been thinking a lot lately about those 'craters in the road'. I'm glad to say I'll be visiting my mother for Thanksgiving. I've not seen her for over a year now. It's been a shock for all of us, but everyone has been amazing and we all hope that positive progress is on the way.

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  9. What a horrible thing to happen.
    Like everyone else, I hope there is a happy ending.

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    1. Thank you Jean. We are hopeful -- but I think it's a long road ahead.

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  10. The husband of a friend of mine was recently diagnosed with Parkinson's. It's frightening for those involved. My husband recently had a cerebral stroke. Right now we are enjoying the good in each day. Blessings to you and your family.

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    1. Oh, Barb, I am sorry to hear the news about your husband. Parkinson's is a frightening disease -- but it's also true that there has been great progress in its treatment. I hope that your husband is able to make progress, but it is so important to enjoy the good in each day. God bless you both...

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  11. So sorry to hear that, Broad. I do hope that he recovers a lot of what he has lost through that 24 hours, and I hope that you spend many more good times with him in the future. x

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    1. Thank you so much, Tom. So far progress has been slow, but there has been progress. I hope to see him in the Spring when I expect the prognosis will be much clearer...

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  12. Well, I'll wait for the next installment to comment on the whole, but I may be like your brother in some ways. For my part, it is not wanting to burden anyone. I am thankful that I haven't ever had any condition serious enough to cause alarm; it's usually just small things I try to not alarm others with. MY WIFE complains that I tell my blog readers more than I tell her, which is sometimes true (I once broke my hand and wrote about it on the blog but didn't tell her until weeks after the fact when it had healed.)

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    1. I'm shaking my head in disbelief, Sully! Why wouldn't you tell her you'd broken your hand -- were you being the strong silent type -- or had you been doing something she had told you not to do???;-) Long may you not have a condition serious enough to cause alarm!

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  13. G'day Broad. I do hope your brother recovers as well as can be expected. Your love for Bill is very evident. Take care. Liz...

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    1. Thank you, Liz! You comment is much appreciated...

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  14. This must all be really hard for you, being so far away from him. I do hope all is well. Jx

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    1. Thank you, Janice. It is hard and I do so wish I would be able to see him sooner rather than later. But I am so grateful that the family is so good about keeping us well informed

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  15. Sending good wishes to your brother... take care, Sonia

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    1. You are very kind, Sonia -- thank you!

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  16. I do hope that your brother will find help and won't be alone any longer. Thank you for sharing this so that those who are secretive might be able to find a way to share with loved ones. It's important.

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    1. Yes, it is very important. We all need each other more than we sometimes realize...

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  17. You are right, sometimes people don't actually 'ask' how you really are and so you just don't get a way to tell them.

    Good wishes to you (saw you at Rob Bear's)

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    1. Thank you so much, Suburbia, for stopping by. And sometimes people don't ask because they give up -- it's always a two-way street!

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