The Other I

February 25, 2008

Jack’s display: suddenly it’s all different

Filed under: Just Stuff,Survival Strategies — theotheri @ 9:18 pm

The call came on Saturday out of the blue from my sister in Chicago.  Our brother Jack collapsed last night as he was helping clear the table after dinner, sending dishes, scraps of food and the family cat flying across the room before a final flourish during which he knocked over the table.  He didn’t lose consciousness, though, and said he was fine, an assurance belied two minutes later when he collapsed again on the stairs.  His wife Mimi refused to be convinced by his theory that his loss of balance was due to an ear infection, and called emergency.

At the hospital they diagnosed a haematoma in the brain, probably resulting from a fall some weeks before.  They prepared for immediate surgery.  But Jack was conscious and insisted on phoning his four children first.  He woke them up individually at about 1 am to tell them that this might be the last conversation that they would ever have together, that he loved them, and to take care of their babies – the various grandchildren who adore him in about the same proportion as he adores them.  Mimi says listening to the phone calls is something she will never forget.

He went into surgery at 3 am.  As I write this he is in intensive care, and says he expects to be back in the office by Wednesday.  The doctors say the best case scenario is that he is going to be in intensive care for quite some time, and will then almost certainly need physical therapy.  How much and what kind is still unclear.  Further surgery might even be required.  But at the moment the prognosis is a good deal more hopeful than it was at 1 am this morning.

I know he’s my brother, but I think it takes some bottle to call up your children in the middle of the night for what might be an ultimate farewell.  It must be something he’s thought about before, although he doesn’t go around talking about dying all the time.  I think it’s a legacy from our mom who talked to each of us quite explicitly when she knew she was dying.

His four children, in the meantime, are trying to come to terms with that midnight call, a once in a lifetime experience they hope never to repeat.  But will always, I am sure, treasure.  Even if their father lives for some good many years to basque in their delight.  We’re hoping he will.

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