Friday, 10 March 2017

How Family Should Work

The older of my two brothers is asleep in the bed in our dining-room enclave, the space B.A. and I call the "Polish Corridor" as the guests who sleep there tend to be Polish students. It's amazing what a difference it makes to have another person with me in the Historical House. On the rare occasions B.A. is away out very late at a Men Only Supper, I sense Something at the Bottom Of the Central Staircase. On Wednesday night, I thought I could sense this terrible, surely fictional, monster. Last night I did not.

(Incidentally, when you live in a Historical House, never ask if there are any ghost stories associated with it. There are ghost stories associated with the H.H. that are kept from tourists out of respect for the departed family. The worst one involves a ... Never mind.)

When my brother arrived at Edinburgh's Waverley railway station, we checked his bags into the baggage office and went for a "Full Scottish" breakfast at the nearby Cockburn Café. It was a lovely, sunny morning: just the thing for jetlag. When we got to the café, Nulli called home and discovered that his mother-in-law had cancelled her trip to Paris and her birth country so as to help his wife (her daughter) with their children while he was in Scotland with B.A. and me.

I am really touched by that. Meanwhile, my mother told her 90-something pal at the hospital where they volunteer the whole story, and Ina said something like, "My, you have a close-knit family." When my mother related this to me, I said, "Yes, we do, thank God" although actually this "close-knit" family lives in at least seven separate domiciles, none of which houses three generations, and most shelter only one. There is no iron-clad pilgrimage to senior members' home (or homes) for Sunday Dinner, although my single brother and sisters do often drop by our parents' house on Sunday evenings. The siblings can go for weeks or even months without phoning, emailing or texting each other.

Nevertheless, the bonds are strong, as this week's emergency has proved. After I got off the phone with my father (4:15 AM for me; 11:15 PM for him), my mother phoned Nulli and Ma Belle Soeur, and as Ma Belle Soeur is a doctor, she knew better than any of us what could happen and said to Nulli, "You may have to go."

As I have taken away B.A.'s computer and he can't read this, I will say that Ma Belle Soeur was thinking about the funeral arrangements. The "tiny chance" B.A. and I were told about every time he signed consent forms was apparently really 10%. After Ma Belle Soeur told my brother this Worse News, she rolled over and, exhausted from an endless day of doctoring, went to sleep while our poor Nulli stared sleeplessly at the ceiling.

But "what a difference a day makes" as the song goes. From 4 PM Wednesday, everything has been much, much happier. All the same, I would be going quietly out of my mind when at home alone, so I am SO grateful my brother is here---and SO grateful he doesn't have to worry about his kids driving his wife around the bend, thanks to his mother-in-law's wonderful decision to cancel her Paris trip.

The doctors are discussing what to do with B.A.'s brain when they have their weekly meeting today, so I ask your prayers again. I asked Polish Pretend Son to pray that it wasn't cancer, and so far it isn't cancer, so PPS's prayers seem to be efficacious. The lead surgeon, by the way, wasn't a Pole but a Czech.

Funny, by the way, how a  married couple of 40-somethings decides whom to tell when one of them is in danger of death. In our case it was:

1. Kindly neighbour-friend with car. (Transportation/grown-up of parents' generation.)*
2. FSSP priest. (Last Rites and priestly prayers.)
3. Four devoutly Roman Catholic friends by telephone text message. (Prayer warring by those who would be properly concerned and pray fervently but not feel personally devastated.)
4. My parents. (3:45 AM loneliness overcoming daughterly wish to spare parents perhaps needless worry.)
5. B.A.'s mother. (Natural Justice.)

*Invaluable, by the way. She made me take a shower when she drove me home on Wednesday evening so I could rush about backing a very late bag of overnight things for B.A.

"Have a shower," she said.

"I don't have time!" I yipped.

"Make time," she said.

My mother found this story true evidence of the neighbour's excellence.  The neighbour is sort of genteel Marxist, Guardian-reading agnostic, which I only mention to point out the deep goodness of many lefties. Sometimes the right-of-center forget.


  1. Continued prayers for BA and yourself

  2. I'm praying too.

  3. Thank you! This morning he is at home, sitting up in bed, bright-eyed, drinking coffee and chatting with Nulli!

  4. Oh my goodness! So scary. I'm so glad to hear that he will be okay, and that your brother was able to come be with you. Praying for you both!

  5. I've been away for a while, so I just heard about B.A.'s medical emergency. I'm praying for both of you.