Tuesday, March 01, 2005

My Brother's Birthday

Originally uploaded by savtadotty.
With my vast Middle Eastern connections (ha!) I arranged a birthday surprise for my oldest brother, Sailorman (SM), last year, and repeated it today:

SM lives in a convalescent care facility nursing home in the Southwestern USA, near the ocean. Our other brother, Googleman (GM)(he taught me the meaning of the word "google" in 1950) was only 8 years older than I am, but he died suddenly 7 years ago, of an aneurism. SM and Googleman were as different as chalk and cheese, as far as sociability and temperament go. SM left home to join the Navy when I was only 6, and he never lived in the same house with us after that. In fact, after he finished college, he never lived in the same house with anyone. Definitely a loner.

When SM was in the Navy I used to look for his face in every newsreel at my Saturday matinee movie outings. When I went to the dentist, which was often because I had cavity-ridden teeth, I would be brave because I wanted to be brave enough to be worthy of my big brother, the sailor. While the dentist was drilling, I would visualize SM in a Returning Heroes Parade down the main street of our town, where all the soldiers and sailors would "fall out" as they reached their home streets and walk up the steps to their homes to the cheers of adoring crowds. His Navy service lasted three years, and when he did return, it was just for a short while before he went off to college.

SM was an engineer in three industries: automotive, aerospace, and oil. He loved car motors, and always gave me terse, sound advice about what car to buy. When I got divorced, he offered me a second mortgage interest-free, so I could buy out my ex-husband's share of our house. I paid it off long ago, but I'll never forget how generous and helpful that was.

SM had a ladyfriend over the years. They lived in the same neighborhood, never together. She wanted to get married. He didn't. After many, many years she moved away, to be with her last living sister and nieces and nephews.

4 years ago SM had a medical "event": he fell down at the entrance to his home, observed by neighbors. He refused to go to hospital, but they kept an eye on his comings and goings (there weren't any), and brought him meals the following day. He didn't answer his doorbell. His car was in his driveway. They decided to call the police, who came and found him unconscious on a landing at the top of the stairs. He had been there for many hours. Those good neighbors saved his life (#1)!

When SM came to in the neighborhood hospital, they wanted to operate on his arthritic hip. Luckily, a doctor cousin intervened and had him transferred to the geriatric rehab department of a large Veterans Administration Hospital. That cousin saved his life (#2)! The VA hospitals don't work under the "we do something or you go home right away" pressures of today's American medical business model. SM underwent three months' worth of diagnostic tests and regular physical therapy. During that time he regained most of his cognitive abilities, but his hips and shoulder joints were not functioning well: advanced arthritis and osteoporosis limited his walking. Tests revealed that he had had many small strokes, and various other non-fatal problems which taken together made him a poor candidate for surgery. So hip and shoulder replacements, so wonderful when they work, were not on his menu.
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Last year the home where SM lives hired a dynamo activities director, and he came out of his lifetime shell. It was an amazing transformation. We call her "Stupefyin' Jones," because she a drop-dead glamour girl, similar to Al Capp's creation in L'il Abner, the one who caused all the men in Dogpatch to freeze in their tracks whenever she appeared. SM is completely charmed, infatuated, besotted. Of course I've checked her out thoroughly met her in person, and she's a lot of fun. She's a newlywed, not a gold-digger. She is teaching him to use his laptop, but he is learning very slowly, so the lessons can continue. Stupefyin' is savin' his life again (#3)! SM now calls family members on the phone just to say "Hi," and everyone who visits him is astonished at the change.

The moral: Where there's good neighbors, a doctor cousin, and a Stupefyin' Jones, there's hope. Happy Birthday, Sailorman!


Third Street said...

Love this.

PPB said...

Nothing beats a good activities director.

elswhere said...

Stupefyin' Jones even got my dog-fearing daughter to let a dog (SJ's dog) sit on her lap! Mermaid Girl still talks about it.

B2 said...

Why am I picturing Julie from The Love Boat?

Savtadotty said...

Welcome B2. Now I do feel old: my mass-culture memories are all hard-copy or radio, with the exception of Sid Ceasar, Saturday Night Live, and Colombo. Recently I've watched the occasional "Love Boat" rerun on Israeli cable TV, but it put me into such a trance that I didn't realize the characters had names. Julie? Is that a folk singer/rock/hip-hop group?