he girls trimmed and polished your nails last week. They used a hot pink nail polish that you would have loved. “The brighter the better” is what you would always say although Mother definitely disagreed. The trembling in your hands has increased to virtually non stop. I grip your hand in mine, and your involuntary arm movements jerk my arm back and forth in a handshake fashion. Just a few weeks ago, holding your hands would stop the movements now it takes more effort.
You squeeze my hand as I hold it. I talk to you about the boys, your girls, our brothers. I make a joke about our brother’s birthday. He’s “old” now, I say. You raise your eyebrows and your mouth makes a small smirk. I tell you that I told him “Happy Birthday, and that I loved him, I guess..” We are saying that a lot more to each other these days. We are hugging each other a lot more, too.
When Mom and I come to visit, you struggle, but you manage to say “Mother.” You try to say some other things to us, but they are unintelligible. It’s odd to think that we had a semblance of a conversation just a week and a half earlier.
While mom and I are visiting, J and D come in. He’s a ham as usual, and I tease him about turning 50. “Uh, I turned 49, Babe..learn to count.” We tease each other a bit, and you struggle to join in. It is obvious that you are remembering something funny from our childhood. When our conversation turns to each other, you sigh a frustrated sigh. We immediately reach over and grab your hands. I stroke your hair. We know that you’re still here. We aren’t leaving you out.
In so much as you can understand my words, I still can’t touch you enough. I love you. We all do. Your exhaustion is obvious. The doctors tell us to be prepared for your sleep needs to increase. Your hands and arms continue to shake. Our brother walks over and lays his hands on yours. He applies a gentle pressure and talks to you like he is talking to one of my boys, “There now. Just relax your hands. It will help you sleep. I’ll hold them until you sleep.”
We are all your caregivers now. You are in our hands. We are honored with the privilege. Siblings can bicker, fight, tease, forget birthdays, but they will always be the first and sometimes the last friend that you will ever have.
A woman commented to me recently, “Divorce is the worst thing in the world!” I looked at her and said, “Um, actually watching your sister die is the worst thing in the world. I cry over that more than a failed marriage that I tried to save for two years.”
I’ve learned that you really aren’t guaranteed or able to rely on many relationships–but my siblings will always be there for me. I feel complete with that knowledge and safe knowing that their hands will always catch me.