|Subject:||2005 in Review: the good, the bad and the ugly|
In January, Linda Francis Brandt-Cox succombed to cancer after a long fight.
I remember waking to the call that Friday. It was my sister, Kristin. Earlier in the week, Aimee had worried that she wouldn’t know when to call me to come back home, but there it was. I called the airline to arrange a flight (they would subsequently charge an additional one hundred dollars because Ray charged the fare even though they knew the circumstances involved in the travel), woke Dan for a ride and then cried myself through a shower.
Sheila picked me up from the airport and we drove to my mom’s house. Mom looked worse than I’d ever seen her before, barely responsive. I said, “I love you” and she replied “I love you too.” (Actually, the last thing I heard her say.) I rode with Aimee to pick up some prescriptions and we grabbed Mighty Taco during the wait.
Sheila and I (mostly I) stayed up all night so that the rest of the crew could get some sleep. The path to the DVD player was blocked by sleeping sisters and a cousin and the only disc we had access to was Super Troopers. We watched it roughly five or six times. Someday I’d like to thank the Broken Lizard guys for that movie because I can still laugh at it. Periodically my mother would wake and I’d shift her to make her more comfortable or wake someone to administer drugs (I wasn't taught).
I got a brief bit of sleep the next day then went to Blockbuster with Leslie (my cousin) and picked up more movies for what I expected was another night up. The adults (my mother’s siblings) and the kids (Aimee, Kristin, Leslie and I) got into an argument about the use of morphine. We were less concerned about coherency and more about comfort. My Aunt JoAnn arranged for a priest to come and perform last rites. I remember seeing my mother’s eyes looking so scared as he stood above her. She knew.
Then, just after the priest left, I remember someone yelling that she was going. Stunned, moments later we were all standing around the bed they’d brought to the house for her and she looked like she was suffocating. The phone rang and Kristin said she would kill whoever that was (it was our father calling). I cried so hard in those moments that I actually gave myself a twitch in my eye for the next few days and I wasn't sure it'd ever go away.
The funeral home people came pretty quickly. My Aunt Nancy said she wanted to stay in the living room while they took my mom away. The hospice worker advised against it, but Aimee, Kristin and I sat with Aunt Nancy and the hospice worker said that we were very strong and uncommon for that. Then my Aunt Nancy said something that is burned into my memory -- “She wasn’t just my sister, she was my best friend.” Even typing this eleven months later, that still makes me misty.
We decided on two viewing sessions. The funeral home did a great job making my mom look more like how I remembered her and not as much what the cancer and treatment had done to her. It was one of the major things that helped me handle it all. (Being there to tell her I love her while she could still respond was the biggest.) I touched her hand. I didn’t know if I was allowed or supposed to but I did and while no one was around, I sang to her. ("Nan's Song" by Robbie Williams)
Inbetween the viewings, a group of us went to Swiston’s for a Beef Off (where we tried to eat as many Beef on Wick sandwiches, with the pickle, as possible...) and a lot of alcohol: shots, beers and drinks.
The next day was the church service. I was upset that the priest left out the fact that my mom was a wife, saying only a mother, sister and friend, as that was a slight to both my father and stepfather and a funeral service is no time to take a hard moral stance.
An austisic friend of the family asked at the church if Sheila was my daughter, which served as a good laugh and then at the reception at Aunt JoAnn’s which followed he continued to hit on her.
In July, David Allen Brandt fell to a fatal heart attack.
It was weird, days before at the 3rd of July party, my father went all in against Ray during one of the Texas Hold ‘Em matches. They both ended up with 3 7’s but Ray had a stronger hold card. (I guess I should explain that it was weird because it was father against stepfather.)
Two days later, for my father’s birthday, it was my gift to take him to lunch. He decided he’d rather pick up wings and a pizza from Pizza Junction and share his lunch with Aimee and my nephews. While waiting for the pizza and standing under an awning to avoid the rain, my father confessed that he still loved my mother. I asked him if he felt he could love again and he said yes. It was a very open, heart-to-heart conversation. It was the most adult conversation I'd had with my father -- one where it felt like it was just two men talking. We went back to Aim’s, shared pizza.
Aimee called early the next morning and the next time I saw him, he was laying in a bed in Kenmore Mercy hooked up to machines. He had a heart attack in the middle of the night. (Of course, no one at the hospital was kind enough to let us know that exactly.) We met the ambulance driver who came to his aid in the hallway and he said that he’d never felt that scared for a person during a pickup. I remember seeing dad in the hospital bed and thinking I should get a picture of it so that I could convince him to stop smoking when he got out of the hospital. A rotating crew of me, Aimee, Rose (my dad’s “girlfriend”), Uncle Don and Aunt Mary kept watch over him in the ER. They never found a regular room for him during that day so he stayed in the ER throughout.
Aimee, Bill and I snuck away during the night because it seemed like he had stabilized and we’d previously arranged to meet some people out for a drink. My friend Craig came in from Rochester and was the first one there. A couple shots and beers in, but before anyone else showed up, we got a call to come back to the hospital. Things had gotten worse. We stood around his bed and told him how stubborn he was and how he could beat this if he wanted. It seemed like his heart would get stronger every time we swore so we took turns swearing (which is probably frowned upon in a Catholic hospital). Suddenly, Aunt Mary said “you’re stubborn, David, remember you beat malaria...” and all of us, even Uncle Don, turned and said, “what?” It seems that while my father was stationed in Korea, he’d contracted malaria, but it never was officially reported because his treatment there may have led to his deployment in Vietnam. He was sent home and recovered from it stateside. Something I never knew about my father. Probably one of many things.
His heartbeat got strong enough for a doctor to come and put a pacemaker in. Believing we were in the clear for a bit, we all grabbed some sleep. I slept in the back seat of my sister’s van and woke to hear Uncle Don rapping on the glass. By the look on his face, I knew it couldn’t be good. He said he was sorry but my dad had died while we all slept. He hugged me tighter than I’d ever been hugged. Kristin was still on her way up from Philadelphia.
My friends really responded to the loss of my second parent. We received cookie baskets, ice cream (John), and even a Harry and David's basket from work. (When I got home, there would also be a GC to Burke Williams -- yet to be used -- and notice that two trees had been planted in honor of my parents -- which made me cry at the thoughtfulness.) I remember standing in my sister's backyard the night before the church service and hearing "Nick, one of your friends is here" and thinking "oh, it must be Joe or Goo..." and then walking into my sister's living room and seeing Jessica. I was surprised. She came to hold my hand and get me through and I can't say how much I appreciate that. It took two women (Sheila and Jessica) to really help me get through my parents' deaths.
2005 saw the first production of a screenplay written by me going by the title of Hollywood Kills. Post Production will carry that over into 2006 so hold onto your pants. (If I get an audio commentary track on a DVD release, that would cover one of my list of things to do in life -- produced screenplayS being nearly in reach.) Theoretically, there will be movement on The Secret Lives of Dorks early in 2006 as the option as it stands ends in March. Multiple parties are seeking multiple creative works from me, yet no one wants to pay me enough for writing to be my day job. I decided this year that my "shingle" will be linDAvid productions, in honor of my parents.
So there you have it, a glimpse at my 2005... it was rough, easily the worst year of my life, but the clouds came with some silver lining and hope and possibility. I'm thankful for all my friends who've helped me along (especially for any and all laughs you've delivered) and I wait with baited breath for 2006: A New Mack (to be followed by 2007: The Mack Strikes Back and 2008: Return of the Mack*).