Wednesday, 21 November 2007


I managed to laugh through the tears that had appeared from nowhere and told him that I wasn't going anywhere in a hurry. The spoken words so different from the ones that my heart beat out in an insistent rhythm.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Time passed as it does and almost inevitably we saw less of each other, his brother living far away and him making an almost daily drive there and back to see him. We caught up with each other whenever we could, a pattern already set of a daily text message from me each evening, checking he was OK. Brief glimpses of the man I knew best, but his heart torn away with worry for his brother. So brave for the rest of his family, his niece and nephew, his sister in law, his parents. And of course his brother. His father complimented him on what a rock he was for his family, how he was holding them together at this time of fear.

He told his father that it was because of me, that I made him the man he was.

I promise that I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

A semblance of normality resumed. We made boxes together of useful things, took them to his brother and his family. CDs, talking books, DVDs, vitamins, energy drinks, pineapple for mouth ulcers, special towels to soothe and gently dry a head ravaged by radiotherapy. He gave me a notebook, so that I could write down any more useful ideas, help him to plan. He had one too.

I have mine still.

We spent the day with his family, talking, laughing, lunching, playing with the children. Making arrangements to see a gig on my birthday. Looking to the future. The night of the gig came swiftly, and passed with little incident, until we left. The venue was packed, a struggle to get out, a hurried arrangement to meet outside. I met up with him and his sister in law. No sign of his brother. We waited. And waited. I caught a glimpse of his face, watching him silently mouthing "Where are you? Where are you?' over and over again. He emerged, of course, smiling at our worry, having resumed his normal practice of searching the merchandising stand for a memento of the evening. I could see the relief on his face, and the fear for the future.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Spring appeared, a trip planned to a music festival for him and his brother. The chance for them to spend some valuable time together. Time spent day and night in each other's company, harking back to a younger time when there were just the two of them. Chance for them to relive their youth.

Time for him to notice new symptoms, problems not so apparent before. The weekend over quickly, a return to his brother's home, hurried appointments with the hospital.

Quicker than the seasons passing, it had returned.

Talks of further treatments, more surgery, extra medication. Lunches with him sitting outside in the late spring while he told me of the news. Lunches when he was calm, but his manner belied the fervent prayers to god or the devil to give his brother time, let him see his children grow up and settle. A lesser prayer, to let him see the children finish school.

A final prayer, as the summer sun shone high in the sky, to let him see the children's school holidays.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Symptoms worse and worse. More time spent in hospitals. Further treatment abandoned. Mobility restricted. A stay in hospital and then a release home in a wheelchair. Plans of changes to the house, to make things easier. During that weekend, his sister in law phoned me, to say thank you. I'd sent her a box to take to the hospital, when she and him would be able to think of little else, giving them toiletries, chewing gum, cigarettes. Things to keep them going. He was getting better, she said, had been able to stand. Was laughing and joking. I smiled with relief and prayed for a miracle.

Next day, an early finish for me at work. A shopping trip on the way home to treat myself. A normal evening, studying to do. Working on the computer in the boxroom I laughingly call my study, the phone ringing downstairs. Typically, it stopped by the time I got to it. No message. I heard my mobile ringing in the room I'd just left. Again, it had rung off by the time I'd got back up the stairs. I checked the number. His.

I called him back, and smiling as he answered, asked him if he was looking for me. Yes, he said.

His brother was gone.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Funeral arrangements in the summer heat. A plea not to wear black which few of us heeded, wanting an outward display of how much we mourned. I compromised. Black trousers and blouse, pink shoes and scarf. Crowds of people at the funeral. I watched as he and his brother's friends prepared to lift the coffin. Watched him as he squared his shoulders and took a deep breath. Watched as the six brave, strong men put on their sunglasses, Blues Brothers all.

A eulogy delivered by his father, bringing laughter and tears in equal measure. I learned later that he had written it, not his father, had practised reading it until he knew he could do it without breaking down, wanting to make his brother proud. And then, the morning of the funeral, had given it to his father to read instead, giving his father a gift, a last chance to say goodbye to his firstborn son. The recessional, as we filed out, made us smile. The Blues Brothers singing that everybody needs somebody.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Seven months. He had only seven months to lose his brother, to fit in a lifetime of love that he had for him. His heart broken, crushed, smashed. His life changed immeasurably, the future with his beloved brother ripped away from him. I knew then that part of him was gone forever. I tried to help, but fussed and fretted, doing more harm than good, anxious to please, to try to make things better, where no better was to be found or desired. Eventually, we found a new normal, and tried to rebuild the friendship we had.

And we tried to take it too far, to where it should never have gone. Two people who cared about each other, but both with baggage, both with hearts already bearing scars that would fade but never heal. And our actions tore us apart, have made it difficult for us to be as we were. I had to walk away from him, could see no other way to hide the pain in my heart.

I promise I will never leave you and if you need me I will be there.

Where is my promise now?


Manic Mother Of Five said...

Jesus, you never had a chance and on a completely different level, not did his brother.

Funerals of those taken too soon just destroy me. My best friend's sister died completely out of the blue earlier this year - she didn't even make 50 but at least her children were grown.

Perhaps you remind him too much of those terrible times.........

Can't think why I was curious but what was the gig you went to?

As ever, a big cyber hug coming right at you. And I'm getting better at this - can't see the screen too well but no leaking tears yet! XX

belle said...

Poignantly and beautifully writen, my lovely. As ever, hugs xx

Swearing Mother said...

Wow Tina. Just wow.

Anonymous said...

Grief is one of the strongest, if not the strongest, emotions we will ever feel. Perhaps your promise is there somewhere, lost amongst the emotional roller coaster of bereavement.

Crystal xx

menopausaloldbag (MOB) said...

Tears streaming down my face. What a post. You have a gift for writing.

Anonymous said...

Tina, just wanted to say thanks for leaving a comment on my blog about filth, i.e., Paeodophiles. I hate them, have no time for listening to excuses and cannot stand to listen to do-gooders who think they can change the world with their emotional clap-trap.

Hope you are well.
Love Crystal xx

aims said...

Gosh Girl - you need to write that novel...

Came upon a comment you made at MOB's - and had to come over to have a look.
Now - after an hour of reading your back sitting here stunned....

Blogging has definately brought out the writers in the world....and you are certainly one of them...

As for all the pain - ah yes - the pain........

Tina said...

MMOF, glad there were no tears, don't worry, we're nearly at the end! And it was Bauhaus, you know, 80s sort of Goth band?

Belle, thank you.

SM, thank you. Am hoping it is a positive wow, not a stop wallowing, you dumb woman wow. Which is a very valid comment.

MOB, sorry to make you cry. And coming from one with a gift such as you, that is praise indeed.

Aims, how lovely of you to visit! I will return the favour, and come to see you too. And thank you very much for your kind words, they mean such a lot.

Tina said...

Crystal, firstly, I think my promise is still there somewhere, it just needs to find its place again. Secondly, you're more than welcome. Like you, I lose patience with the excuses. It was a brave post Cystal, and a worthwhile one.