My brother arrived only two years and ten months after me, but his arrival is ingrained in my memory. I had the measles and was banished to what felt like the farthest corner of our small cottage in Romsley; separated from everyone else.
I remember the intensity of my feeling of resentment. Terrible as it sounds now, in my mind, there was only one word for this interloper--poop. Poor Robert did nothing to deserve this.
Throughout my childhood, he was my partner in endless battles, unless someone dared to pick on him. If that happened, although I was the victim of bullying myself at school, Tiger Girl took over, with a fury that banished all fear. I once chased an older boy around a field with a dog leash swirling over my head like a medieval flail because he was threatening Robert.
A while ago Robert described how important it is to him to make sure Mum's clothing is clean and not stained in any way and we remembered how she always kept us “spotless” (her word). We laughed as we remembered the spit on a handkerchief method that Mum would employ and I reminded him of the big brown birthmark on his thumb that he had wanted her to “get off” when he was little. Mum’s response was, “But that was why I chose you.” She told him that out of all the babies, she saw him, and noticed that he was special because of that mark!
Yesterday he told me that he had been by her bedside, holding her hand, then said that he was just going upstairs to his flat for a few minutes to wash some dishes. Mum stroked his face and hair with the back of her hand, and said, "Don't be long," with much tenderness. Robert commented that so much can flow through a touch. We spoke of when Dad was in hospital and had just days to live, six years ago. He and Dad had a very painful relationship, added to by the alcoholism that plagued Dad's life. In those last days, the real person that he was came to the surface and for the first time, Robert received the blessing of Dad's affection. This morning Robert remembered how Dad, with his big soft hand (by then,) rubbed his right arm and said, "Robert, you've lost weight."
Robert said, "Then I knew that he was seeing things." But it was the first time, for those brief hours when Dad was lucid, and also not under the influence of alcohol, that Robert felt his love and approval.
When Mum stroked his hair yesterday, Robert said that the hairs stood up on the back of his kneck and he almost felt as if Dad was there.
Mum is being attended to by a flock of helpers--the district health nurse, her doctor, social worker and her Helping Hands ladies. She is surrounded in much prayer and I am praying that we get there in time to tell her how much she means to us.
Tonight Brenda and I fly.