Monday, 19 November 2007


I had heard tell before of watching people change before your eyes, but never believed it. Surely this was an illusion of passing time, a shocking, stark realisation when you suddenly came upon an almost familiar face. But no. I watched him change in front of me. As I tried to hold him together, keep him safe from hurt, I felt a part of him trickling away like sand between my fingers. He still needed to tell his parents, they didn't know. I offered to go with him, to be of little help, but just to be there. He refused, rightly. This was a moment for family.

I thought about nothing else all evening.

The morning came round soon enough. How could this be? How could the world carry on as normal, when it should have stopped? I was desperate to do something, anything to help. I called in at a newsagents on the way to work, bought an armful of magazines for him to take to the hospital when he visited later that day. Film magazines, music magazines, anything that would appeal to him and his brother whilst they sat together in the hospital.

Time passed. A week. A sudden flurry of activity at the hospital. They could operate. Take it away. Make him better. The operation took place, taking away the unwanted thing from inside his brother. The evening of the operation, a beep from my phone. I had received 1 new message. I hesitated to open it, closing my eyes and offering a prayer to any god that would listen, hoping that it was from him and it was alright.

Instead it was from his brother, telling me he had kindly donated some of his brain to medical science, hoping to give them better taste in music. I wept with relief that here was the man I knew, the brother of the man I knew so well, the two men so alike.

Waiting. After the operation, a prognosis. We spent hours on the Internet, search engines speeding on slippery rails, not knowing their destination, but calling at every station to glean any information we could about this unwanted thing. We became experts in our field, knowing the grades of tumours, the symptoms, the treatment.

The outcome.

Finally, an end to the waiting. His brother seeing the consultant to talk to him after the operation. I knew that he was waiting for the call, could see him at his desk from mine. Waiting. My senses on alert, I heard his phone ring amongst the office noise and watched while he answered it. He talked for a while, then stood from his desk. I watched as he walked up the office towards the door. A gesture of his head towards the door had me on my feet in seconds and following.

Outside, he told me. Grade 4. As bad as it could be.

I watched his hands shake as he tried to light his cigarette, placed my hand on his arm to still it.

No words.

Christmas approached, sweeping all before it. I took him Christmas shopping, him desperate to seek some normality for himself and his niece and nephew, children both. Office chaos, as so many Christmases before, but this time watching from the outside. I attended each party I was committed to, guilt in every step, that I could be out, having fun, while his life fell apart.

Christmas came and went. Nothing remarkable in it. He spent time with his family, them holding each other close to prepare for the year ahead, to show the world that they could beat this, to show the world how strong they were.

The last day at work before New Year. A traditional early finish, just after lunch. A group of us walked to the pub together, a few doors down. We drank and we drank. At some point in the late afternoon, someone bought a round of whiskies and we drank a toast to the New Year. We sat and talked quietly whilst everyone got louder, two people cocooned from the rest. We talked of his brother, we talked of the future, what it held. I looked into his eyes and saw fear and hurt and the pain of the man I knew better than any other in the world.

He said it was time to go. Would I go with him? Of course. He was due to meet his friends later in the evening, perhaps I could go with them, he suggested. It was time they met me, he smiled. I smiled too. Time indeed.

We didn't meet his friends. We talked and talked, of everything and nothing. I wept for him and his brother, and he held me while my heart ached with guilt. It wasn't meant to be this way, I was the one who should be giving strength.

We spent the night together. A parody of an office party ending. Him, wanting something, anything to take the pain away and to feel normal, alive again for just a little while. Me, desperate to take his pain and make it mine. to bring him calm before the storm.

Afterwards, of course, it was a mistake. We both knew that. We talked about it. He told me how he felt how close we were, but he couldn't be there for me. Not now. I have a son, and if he was to have a relationship with me, then he wanted it to be with my son too. Not now, when he couldn't care for me as I needed, as I deserved. I understood, of course. He couldn't ask me to wait for him, he told me he knew that, it wasn't fair. I nodded in agreement.

He looked into my eyes and said,

'But please don't leave me.'


belle said...

There were no words then. There are no words now. ((((Tina))))

Mid-lifer said...


debio said...

Oh my goodness!!

Tina said...

Belle, thank you.

Mid-lifer & Debio, am hoping they're not horrified exclamations!

Manic Mother Of Five said...

Hey lovely lady.

Managed not to cry!

Do you know my first reaction was to tell you BOTH that no, your night together wasn't a mistake. Maybe not the beginning of a future as a couple but surely an expression of love in its most fundamental state.

Got no problem with him not being able to make space in his life for more than being there for his family. Being an only child these glimpses of sibling devotion really touch me..... I hope my tribe are as close when they are grown. That said I have told them I will haunt them if they don't look after each other when I am not around!

Starting to see how you have ended up where you are.

Yes, I sympathise that he's had a rough trot BUT...........

Keep it coming honey xx

Tina said...

hello my lovely MMOF, I'm an only child too, so I mainly stare in wonder.

Am glad you managed not to cry though!

Swearing Mother said...

Brilliant post.