12 March 2013

Echoes and Ricochets

It wasn't the two sets of strangers' fingers digging into my groin that brought tears to my eyes. It was a heart attack what did it. A heart attack that does not belong to me, but in some guise feels as if it had.

I was standing in the exam room, after the obligatory Q & A with the surgeon and the medical student who accompanied her. I had been asked more than once if it was okay for the student to be there, and if she could also participate in the exam. As I long ago shed most of my squeamishness when it comes to medical exams, I told them I had no problem with it. The way I see it, we all have to start somewhere, and how else is anyone going to learn this stuff?

So there I was, two people I had met for the first time only minutes ago, poking and prodding my groin to identify that what we were looking at was indeed a hernia. (It was. Yay, me.) They pushed somewhat hard, and it was moderately uncomfortable, but endurable in the name of medical education. I winced.

What was really working on my mind was not inguinal distress (fancy talk for "groin pain"), it was history. The student had asked a series of pre-exam questions relating to my medical history and that of my family, and she asked what proved to be the sharp question. Sharp, pointy, like a syringe needle.

"Do you have any siblings?"

There was a moment of silence, broken only by murmurs from the hall. Always, there is this dislocation when I have to decide between "have" and "had".

"Yes, one brother. Deceased."
"What did he die of, what did it?"
"He died suddenly, of a massive heart attack."
(concerned look
"I'm so sorry."
"It took us all by surprise. Thank you."

We then segued into a general discussion, away from non-physical aches. Procedures and concerns and recovery times allowed me to step back from the edge of the canyon that had  opened up in my head. Shortly after this exchange I was asked to stand so they could conduct the physical exam I mentioned earlier. The pain on the nerve endings acted as cover for the pain I felt in my heart and head, a peculiar ache caused by the loss of something that cannot be replaced. Subconsciously I think I was grateful for the physical hurt as a distraction. Exam concluded, I tugged up my undies, tucked in the shirt, and sat down to conclude the visit. Surgery and soon is for the best, we agreed, and I would let them know as soon as I figured out what to do. I left the office, got into my car and began the drive home. 

The canyon opened up again, right there in the middle of a busy street. Memories of my brother flooded my head, and I nearly swooned. I sobbed, briefly. What to do with the shards of the past that deafen and sting when I least expect them? Sitting confused and helpless there at the stoplight, I wondered. I had the sensation that someone was in the passenger seat; and maybe, just maybe, my brother's ghost smiled and said "Duck and cover yer ears, bro, duck and cover yer ears."

It was just like him to say it. I ducked, I covered, I held him close as the echoes and ricochets faded away.


  1. Dang Gumbo. Thanks for sharing,...and not just about the poking and prodding. Years back my older brother called with cancer. He ended up beating it but I remember wondering what it would be like to loose him (as there's been no deaths in my family like that yet).
    You have the way with words, as mine seem hollow in comparison. Hold him close, and those echoes and ricochets will fade. Will there come a time when you will want them to hit you, to remember the good? I have no experience, but know you have my best.

    The Cheeky Daddy

    1. Hold him close I will. He and I had a relationship that damn near fell apart (mostly due to my pride and stubbornness) but we were much closer again before he passed away. Thank you.

  2. I was just telling my sister yesterday that I'm tired of the tears, the swamping memories, the loss. Then we both started crying about our sister, her son, my husband, our father.

    Loss is like heart cancer, it feels so terminal, yet somehow we keep living.

    1. Well, I reckon living is about all we can do, those of us still on this mortal coil. My brother in particular was always adamant that no matter what, we should keep on keeping on. He knows I will be sad sometimes, but his spirit insists that we remember the good, and celebrate it when we can.

  3. I would love to hear more about him, and your relationship.

  4. aww gumbo. i had no idea...i have only just peeked into the blog-iverse. so sorry about your pain....all of it..the physical and not so tangible....thank you for finding words to attach to it though...

  5. It will come and go, the pain. And then, somehow, the good memories overtake the funky. xoxoxoxoxox


"Let your laws come undone
Don't suffer your crimes
Let the love in your heart take control..."

-'The Hair Song', by Black Mountain

Tell me what is in your heart...