1000 Miles of Tears

tomWe coerced my dysfunctional, alcoholic brother into going back to Colorado. He’d kicked in the door between the house and the garage, and we had the cops threaten to put him in jail if he didn’t leave. We packed his stuff, didn’t even let him take the time to do it himself. I drove off at one o’clock in the morning, and drove straight through. It was a horrible, horrifying, and heartbreaking trip, even worse than I feared. But we got there safely, though I have several painful bruises that he had no memory of inflicting. (He’d never hit me before, though I had hit him, I’m ashamed to admit. I’m not violent, and hadn’t hit anyone since childhood until he came here with his multiple problems and no sense of boundaries.)

When we arrived, I spent the night in a motel. He slept in the car, but he was able to get a shower and put on clean clothes that morning. We unloaded his stuff and packed it in his storage unit (a unit that he may or may not still have access to. The owner said he wasn’t to go there any more, though my brother has a note from the owner’s wife that he has access every morning). Then we drove around, doing “just one more thing,” “just five more minutes,” “just one more stop.” My brother always pushes things, and that “one more thing” ended up being several hours of driving around. During the last couple of hours, he refused to leave the car. He was afraid of being homeless again. He begged me to get a motel room so he could get one more night of civilization and a shower. I refused. (I’d promised to get him a motel room for a week, but there is a law in that town that no one can rent a room for another person. The homeless shelter is pitifully under-bedded, and there was no mental health place to leave him.) I knew that staying a second night would result in another day of “just one more stop”s.

In the end, I had to bribe him with the promise of a six-pack of beer to get him to leave the car. After I bought the beer, he wanted us to go get something to eat, but I was tired. Sick of the whole mess. Had no appetite. Just wanted to leave.

We talked for a while, then he told me I shouldn’t drive far before getting a room, that he was worried about my falling asleep. This concern for me, the first he had shown in the fourteen months we were together, broke me. I started to cry. Then he told me several sights I should be sure to see, and I cried harder. “Do you think this is a fun trip for me?” I said. “It’s killing me. I don’t want to leave you here on the streets.” (Sort of egotistic of me, isn’t it, to expect him to care about my feelings when he was the one being abandoned?) He touched my hand, and my tears dripped like a desert rain. He expressed surprise that I cared, and I explained that of course I cared. I’d spent the past fourteen months trying to keep him off the streets, which is why I’d lobbied for his camping out in the garage.

I really had no other choice but to take him to Colorado. My father needed my sister to help take care of him since I couldn’t do it by myself, and her presence escalated my brother’s psychoses beyond anything I could handle. Besides, if my father continues to decline, my brother would have to leave soon any way. (Or so I told myself to justify my actions.)

I reached out for my brother’s hand, needing that one final touch, but he turned and walked away, tears of his own in his eyes.

I expected to be relieved when I finally drove off, but my tears continued to fall. I cried the entire 1000 miles back, thinking that as abusive as he’d been, he was my brother.  (“Was,” not “is,” as if he’d died or were about to die.) You’ll be horrified to learn that I drove straight back with but a two-hour stopover at a rest area. I didn’t see the point of getting a room for the night because I wouldn’t sleep, and besides, it felt wrong since he would be sleeping outside by the railroad tracks.

My bruises tell me I did the right thing, and yet I know that every time I go into the garage, I will be reminded of my brother living on the streets, reminded that I didn’t even stay to have a final meal with him.

Not my finest hour.


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.


I Do Not Want to Blog About . . .

There are so many things I do not want to blog about today.

I don’t want to write about my father and his continued decline. Anyway, there’s not much to say. He’s doing exceptionally well for 97, but still, he is 97 and has congestive heart failure, hearing problems, and isn’t thinking as clearly as he did just a few months ago.

I don’t want to write about my future plans. (Yeah, I know — “future plans” is redundant since “plans” connotes the future, but in this case I’m talking way in the future, not what I plan to do tomorrow or next week.) The truth is, I have no plans, just dreams. Although I like the idea of roaming the country on foot, the realities are bleak (lack of water sources, possible health issues, inexperience). I also am getting uncomfortable talking about what I’m going to do after my father’s death, as if I’m trying to hurry him out of this life, though the truth is that he could be gone in an instant, and just like that (a snap of my fingers), I’d be homeless. I’d be foolish not to consider my options. But not today.

I don’t want to write about my homeless brother who is camping out in my father’s garage. (It sounds mean, but it’s the best my father can do for him. He is too dysfunctional to live in the house — he creates havoc, and my father wants/needs peace. Besides, if my brother were to live in the house where I had no protection from him, I would leave here.) Said brother is going through one of his manic phases, which means he is intolerable, demanding, insanely vocal, and very needy. I can’t fulfill any of his needs at such times, especially not the one he most wants — awed respect.

I certainly don’t want to write about his legal problems. He was arrested for being intoxicated in public a few months ago, didn’t show up for the court date, and now there is a warrant out for his arrest. When they catch him (because of course he won’t call the courts to get the matter straightened out as the deputy who made the courtesy call suggested), he will expect me or our father to pay his $5,000 bail. I won’t do it, and I sincerely doubt our father will. Besides, as much as I hate the thought of him in jail, I hate even more the thought of him here bedeviling me. I could use the rest. (As I was writing this, I got a phone call from him. He’s been arrested again for being intoxicated in public, but for some reason they waived bail, just gave him anther court date for both charges. I so could not handle being an alcoholic! Way too much work.)

I don’t want to write about grief and the death of my life mate/soul mate that precipitated my move here to look after my father and more recently (and very unwillingly) to do what I can for my brother. I’ve said about all there is to say about grief. It comes. It stays. What else is there to say? Well, I could say I’m mostly happy now which is true, but he’s still gone. I will never be happy about that until I’m gone too.

I don’t want to write about writing, my fallback topic. With self-publishing and we’ll-publish-anything-presses so prevalent, making authors believe they can write however they wish, there’s no reason to discuss right ways to do things. (Despite what most authors seem to believe nowadays, there are right ways. I just don’t feel like fighting about it anymore.)

Nor do I want to write about my aches and pains. I especially don’t want to talk about the gum infection that has me on high doses of antibiotics. (And probably why I’m not exactly overflowing with joy today.) The good news is that if I have any other infections, susunflowerch as strep or pneumonia, those microbes will be killed along with whatever caused my gum infection. The bad news is side effects. At least so far, all I’ve had to deal with is nausea. I haven’t developed a black furry tongue. (Fingers crossed here.)

While trying to think of a suitable ending for this blog post about what I don’t want to write about, I stopped by Facebook and clicked on a link for a test to see what flower I am. The results said: “You are a sunflower. You are the eternal optimist, always looking up. Nothing can shake your sweet, happy spirit. Friends enjoy your company because they find your joy contagious.”

Yep. That’s me today. Sweet, happy spirit. Contagious joy.

Gotta love the irony!


Pat Bertram is the author of the suspense novels Light Bringer, More Deaths Than One, A Spark of Heavenly Fire, and Daughter Am I. Bertram is also the author of Grief: The Great Yearning, “an exquisite book, wrenching to read, and at the same time full of profound truths.” Connect with Pat on Google+. Like Pat on Facebook.