I Am My Brother's Keeper
June 14, 2015
When I was born, he was only fourteen years old, but he was given the full responsibility of taking care of a child – c'est moi! Larry was not just a brother; he was my whole family. Our mother, having to make a living to support us, was hardly seen around, so my brother took care of me from the day I was born and stood as a father until I was nine. Larry was also a good teacher to me. I learned almost about everything from him: especially love, patience, compassion and dedication.
Larry was also tall handsome guy. He was fond of music, played drum and was a passionate singer. He loved nature walks, and, among sports, he favoured playing basketball. He was a down to earth type of guy, a loving father, and a good provider.
I remember when I was seven years old, I encountered misfortune. I fell down a twenty-step flight of stairs and injured my head so badly that it needed to be stitched up. I was hysterically crying for my mom, who was not there at the time. However, as always, it was my brother, Larry, my lifelong guardian angel, who was there to pamper me and soothe my pain.
Another incident which made me come to realize Larry's continued and strong presence was the time when a strong storm hit Manila. It tore apart the roof of our house. I was terrified to death, but Larry was there to save me and to protect me.
I kept asking, "Where's Mom?"
Larry calmed me down patiently saying, "Don't worry. She'll be here soon. We're going to be ok."
His love and generosity helped me become who and where I am today. He sacrificed a lot for my survival. These special traits of his were the most important lessons I have ever learned. He once said, "No one should be left behind, no matter how hard life gets."
Having been such a loving and caring brother, Larry has not had the pleasure to experience the life he deserved. Diabetes changed his lifestyle to a more stress free, better diet with exercise until a massive stroke left him paralyzed.
The basketball player who loved nature walks became wheelchair bound. The maximum distance Larry could walk with the help of his caregivers was only ten steps. The singer became a mere listener to music. He got into the habit of watching a lot of TV and spending his time in the neighbouring mall. The patient and understanding character became such an irritable person that he could easily get annoyed over nothing.
Abandoned by his wife and three children who no longer cared about him, Larry had nobody else. His children very easily said, "We would rather feed our own family than feed our father, so you better take him away from us because we could no longer look after him." Very shocking! We come from a country (family is a paramount) where abandoning parents is very seldom heard about, and what his family did was beyond my imagination!
I came to a conclusion; I became Larry's sole physical guardian. His love for music, sports, and long walks were now just a part of his many great memories. It broke my heart whenever he would not remember my name nor his own due to Alzheimer's.
Sometimes his slurred and garbled speech left both of us frustrated, but silence was the only way out. Then I would ask him to sing a song, which he surprisingly remembered well, word for word. That was how I did my best to pamper him and keep him hopeful enough to battle his desperate situation.
One and a half years ago, I had another unfortunate accident, a disastrous one! While I was walking across the street, a car hit me so hard I went airborne. I suffered a broken pelvis and concussion. It was raining, and I was motionless, staring into the sky. I could feel death touching me kindly, but I started to pray to God. It was about Larry: "Oh, God! Don't take my life away because Larry will be left alone and no one will take care of him." I did not even pray for my own family because I knew they would be fine. My Mom's last wish rang in my head too, "Never abandon Larry." I guess Mom knew how much he had sacrificed for me.
I also remembered the time when my mother passed away, we did not find her body until three days later. Larry was upset and questioned me about it.
"Why was she living alone and not with you, Margery or Madeline? He asked.
"Mom wanted her independence, her freedom. She preferred to live on her own to do the things she wanted to do," I calmed him down.
Floating between life and death, remembering the loved ones' concerns for each other and that they did their best despite their limitations. I promised God and myself one thing - never give up!
Fortunately, I recovered from the horrible accident, though the consequences were severe.
Despite all the pressure, I still shoulder responsibility for Larry. There is no welfare state in the Philippines, nor free healthcare. I wish he were not too far away from me so I could have looked after him better, but faith had stored something else for us. I had to travel to the Philippines twice a year to look after his affairs. Sometimes I thought that it was too much on my shoulders, but then I would get the flashbacks of his love and protection towards me and that carried me through. Despite all of the financial and emotional stress I faced, I would have never given up on Larry. What he had done for me was priceless! After all, "No one should be left behind, no matter how hard life gets."