Contemplating Joe

My brother, Joe, is 6 years younger than me. When he was a brand new infant, fresh from the hospital, I wanted to take the umbilical cord remnant off his belly button because it marred my, otherwise perfect, baby brother. He was the only one among us that I was old enough to care for when he was an infant. I could give him his bottle and help bathe him as long as I was very careful.

In one of the photos above, he is standing next to me; he is 4. In the “posed” photo he is being very patient while I put him through the paces with my new instamatic camera. He wore a plastered on bubble gum tattoo, looking up when I asked him to, trying not to grin, because I wanted a serious “shot”. I wish I had a picture of him all dressed up in a flannel nightie, wearing lipstick. The two little boys were like live dolls for me and my sisters. They were good sports and tolerated all manner of undignified antics.

He was Mum’s favorite because he was the baby. He’s a more handsome version of our father. I think she hoped he’d be a better man too.  Joe called me one morning, just before his life tanked, and asked if he could come over for coffee. He sat at the table and talked about the turn his life had taken. He put his head down in his arms and cried his heart out. I didn’t say a word. I rubbed my little brother’s broad shoulders while I worried about how I could help him.

We did all that we could. We’re advocates of tough love. We had him arrested for bail violations, banished him from our homes, drew lines in the sand. One of the worst things I’ve ever heard was the fear in his voice as he was being brought from jail to the court room for arraignment. It’s not the worst thing but almost. He’s in one of the biggest and best hospitals in the country today, waiting to hear there is nothing to be done for him. He doesn’t know that but I do.

About elroyjones

Married, no children, responsibly self-directed, living happily.
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21 Responses to Contemplating Joe

  1. Oh, crap. A sigh just didn’t seem enough. Sorry.

    • elroyjones says:

      You know how I feel about sighing, uses up the air allotment. It is a sad situation. He worked his tail off to provide for his family when he was a young father, then somewhere along the way he started taking oxys, still working hard, to support his habit, and the next thing I know he’s paralyzed from the neck down. It’s very sad to say that my worst day is still better than his best.

  2. gkinnard says:

    Damn . . . (I guess I already used that word, but it still fits.)

    You’ve written about Joe before; this is a softer post than I remember.

    I feel for you both.

    • elroyjones says:

      I think there is rampant anxiety in my family that causes people to self-medicate. Joe made a choice, over and over again, and he refused to listen to anyone regarding any of the ill informed decisions he made, particularly those regarding finance. I love him but that doesn’t preclude anger, criticism, or disgust. There is a lot more to this story than I want to tell now. The bottom line is he is my brother and when he is afraid I’ll be right next to him trying to soothe his fears. Thanks for reading and commenting, George.

      • gkinnard says:

        I understand . . . a bit, anyway. I’ll be thinking about you guys.

        I’m betting you’re someone who likes control—and I mean nothing bad at all by that—and there’s not much you can control here. . . . You can care, give comfort, and be present when possible—that’s a lot.

      • elroyjones says:

        I LOVE control, to be able to repair the damage and make things better, to be well informed. No control in this situation, no way to stave off the emotional suffering for him. Typically, people who are born into chaos yearn for order and predictability. That’s me! Happy Wednesday MBFAM!

      • gkinnard says:

        Had to look it up! [Old man smiling here!]

  3. judithatwood says:

    Another touching, lovely post. My best wishes to Joe!

  4. John says:

    I admire your candor, especially in your replies to the comments, and, I very much admire that you’re still there for him, regardless of all the bad. Many people just walk away.

    You say in a comment above that: “I love him but that doesn’t preclude anger, criticism, or disgust.” I suspect that much of your love and support comes from having faced your own demons, and knowing how tough they can be to overcome. It’s heartening to know that there are people like you out there, who, whatever your feelings, will always stand by those you love.

    • elroyjones says:

      Joe is my second time around with drug abuse tragedy. My brother Brian, also one of the “little boys”, died from opportunistic cancer as a result of HIV/AIDS contracted via IV drug use. Brian’s situation was very different from Joe’s. He was a considerate addict in that he sheltered us from the less attractive aspects of his life. We loved him and did all that we could to demonstrate our love when he needed us the most. Brian was funny, smart, and gentle. He was also physically handicapped from birth and struggled to find a place where he was accepted. The street was that place.

      I don’t know that facing my demons has given me tremendous insight but I understand a little bit of the remorse of time wasted and opportunities ignored. It troubles me that Joe has had no epiphany from his incapacitation. I feel 100% sure that if he were given a 2nd chance today, he’d get out of that bed and go get as many pills as he could buy. He would rationalize his behavior by believing he’d dodged the bullet once.

      I stand by those I love in a crisis but I could not entertain them for an extended social visit. Look at you, caring for your mom and entertaining family!

  5. Today I’ve read about George’s Sam and your Joe. Two opposites, though with some similarities — the greatest being that they’re both loved very much. After reading this post, I called my brother (he’s out of town) just to tell him I love him. Thanks for the prompt. I hope that your brother comes around so that he can love you back.

    • elroyjones says:

      The challenge with drug abuse is learning to listen very carefully to what the “addicts” are saying and learning to accept what is offered, which is often less than what is requested. I don’t believe Joe will ever stop abusing opiates any more than I believe he’ll move again. In the meantime, I’m hearing what he tries to tell me. He loves me the best that he can.

      The most recent Sam post was terrific, he is lucky to have George and Patty.

  6. sacha1nch1 says:

    it seems there’s no logic to the selfishness of an addict; but there are too many instances to suggest that it’s not a cold, unfeeling shelfishness; it just has no memory, and no foresight….much like the love they receive form those who stand by them

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  8. maesprose says:

    I don’t know how I missed all of these about Joe. I thought I had read everything. I know you’re thinking of him…first holidays are like that. I won’t say, “I’m sorry.” I know that gets on your nerves… it gets on mine too.. I’m just thinking of you.

    • elroyjones says:

      Hi Mae, it’s year end so I am very busy working. I do miss knowing Joe is in the world but I don’t feel as though I’ve had the time I need to think about him the way I want to. There has been some other interesting drama beyond Joe, plots and subplots which I will write about after the year end is done and records and reports have been sent off.
      Best wishes for a Happy New Year!

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