Brother, Can You Spare a Dime?
“Don’t the best of them bleed it out
While the rest of them peter out?
Truth or consequence, say it aloud
Use that evidence, race it around
There goes my hero
Watch him as he goes
There goes my hero
The lyrics of the Foo Fighters’ song “My Hero” recently came to life for me.
Coincidental with my wife’s long overdue trip to visit her parents in France, I was forced to change home health agencies. The upshot of that circumstantial intersection meant that I was facing the prospect of three weeks with caregivers unfamiliar with my routine, and with no appellate mechanism should anything go awry. Outwardly, I feigned calmness, but inwardly I was anxiety run amok.
Thankfully, whenever ALS has thrust me into a predicament requiring an episodic hero, I’ve had a nurturing village to draw upon. Be they family members or concerned friends, my pond of heroes-in-waiting has been abundantly stocked. Undeniably, a three-week babysitting stint is a commitment above and beyond the call of duty. Upon request, my most frequent rescuer quickly agreed to assist me, with his ordinary aplomb.
I reached out to my brother Brian. I have known him the longest of any human, 61 years and counting. He lavishes unmerited praise on me. He is loyal to a fault, overlooking — at times even defending — my many inglorious actions and imprudent decisions. He has bled for me. His endurance on my behalf has never faltered.
All of that was true prior to ALS. Post-infliction, the tangled web that my life weaved became exponentially more complex. Yet Brian’s indefatigable support never waned. He has always cheerfully — at least by appearance — stepped up. Be it wiping my butt, emptying my urinal, or cleaning my expectoration, he has never retreated or flinched.
With that as a backdrop, I rather sheepishly suggested that I might benefit from his company while my wife was away. Once again, with precious little notice to boot, he unselfishly dropped everything to swoop in and save the day.
The necessary spontaneity didn’t come easy. Brian lives nearly 4,200 miles away, in Ireland. He has a wife and four children, three of which live at home. He has a demanding, high-profile job. A pandemic still rages. Despite those hurdles, a minor plane crash (one of the planes he was on clipped the wing of another as it taxied out of its departure gate), and trip-induced dysentery, he lovingly arrived several days ago.
Proof positive that affection can be contagious, Brian’s youngest, Aaron — whom I have only interacted with twice — insisted that I be brought a gift. He then went on to personally select an Irish Celtic tweed flat cap and a travel flask for potent potables. My spirit soared when Brian presented me with Aaron’s inspiration.
Shortly after Brian graced my doorstep, the “usual suspects” of ordinary tasks, which ALS has robbed me of the ability to perform, began to arise. True to form, Brian enabled the completion of each one. What’s more, he tended to my sudden problematic tooth, restored function to an inoperable power wheelchair, solved the balkiness of the television remote, and eradicated a trespassing critter from the house.
When we were growing up, Brian and I would periodically escape to a fantasy world together. Sometimes our flight of fancy involved emulating fictional dynamic duos. Being the oldest meant I would assign myself the alpha role. Thus Brian was Artemus Gordon to my James West (“The Wild Wild West“), Illya Kuryakin to my Napoleon Solo (“The Man from U.N.C.L.E.“), or Robin to my Batman. Little did I know that my brother would come to embody the best from all of them, and many others, combined.
The proverbial “they” say that time is money. If so, Brian has invested a sizable fortune in me. Add that to the actual currency that he has expended — particularly as related to his many trans-Atlantic commutes — and the total is an incalculable mountain of dimes.
Sure, if one were to characterize any single example of aid my brother has provided me, an apt descriptor could be ordinary. But strung together, in 100% unerring fashion, warrants a superlative. I choose heroic. Throughout the ALS portion of my life, I’ve encountered more heroes than I deserve. Brian stands front and center among them.
The next two weeks will find me basking in the extraordinary luster of my brother’s keeping.
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