RAYMOND REID: Saying Farewell to a Brother
I've written about my brother's antics in earlier columns.
Bob, nicknamed "Hoppy," had many funny stories to tell. I, along with his friends, especially those at the Pine Crest Inn, were always eager to hear them.
The Pine Crest was paradise to Bob. He loved to sit there on the front porch in a white rocking chair and talk for hours with folks he had just met. There's a picture there of the two of us taken in February, the last time he was able to travel to Pinehurst.
The stories, and his memories of them, were gradually beginning to wane. They stopped forever when he died Thursday, Aug. 6, after a short stay in Hospice of Union County.
"Short stay" is not exactly the right term, though, because seven weeks in a hospice home is an eternity. Seven days is more the norm. Hospice is the last stop in this life and the waiting room for the next one. The staff there was amazing. How can they get so close to people knowing they're all going to die?
I was there a week before Bob passed and was informed that he wasn't eating. That seems to be the deal at hospice. People just stop eating. And they're pretty much so drugged up or comatose (or both) that they don't really care.
Bob could mumble only a word or two, but I could see in his eyes that he knew who we were. Having had some experience with hospice patients, I had an idea about what he might eat: a Popsicle.
So we headed to the nearest convenience store there in Monroe and brought one back. It was a Lifesaver Popsicle and I thought how ironic it was that something called a Lifesaver might be my brother's last meal. But eat it he did.
It was round and had five flavors. I held it for him, and he went at it, starting at the top with grape. As he was sucking and chewing on the Popsicle his eyes would dart around, as if each flavor was conjuring up memories from long ago.
The grape flavor probably reminded him of the Concord grape vines he and daddy planted when Bob was around 15. Dad was always making Bob help him plant things and build stuff like chicken coops and pig pens. He never asked me to help do anything, maybe because I was his "pet," or I was totally inept at doing anything that was considered "work."
The pineapple flavor had my brother's eyes really jumping around. Had to be mother's pineapple upside down cake he was tasting; -- made from scratch using real pineapples, of course.
The cherry flavor surely was reminding him of his favorite ice cream, black cherry. Orange brought back memories, too, I'm sure. We always told our little brother, Jerry, that if he ate oranges (at his young age) he'd get "orangeitis," and his skin would turn orange and rot off. That way, Bob and I could eat all the oranges.
I noticed a slight grin when he was licking the lime section. He absolutely loved lime sherbet. I saw him eat a whole quart on more than one occasion.
It took him about 10 minutes to eat the entire Popsicle, and it did seem as if his whole life passed before his eyes. I know it passed before mine.
I remembered playing golf with him back in February. It would be the last time he ever played. After nine holes at Pinehurst No. 1, we headed to the Pine Crest Inn, of course. It was unseasonably warm, and we were able to sit on the porch in the rockers.
That night he said, "You know, sitting here and making new friends and having a cold beer is about as close to heaven as it gets."
Not anymore, brother. Not anymore
Raymond Reid can be contacted at email@example.com.
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