If I’d Been There….Dirty Secret Time
Copyrighted by Lorna Tedder. Originally published in Third Degree Below.
My oldest brother was with Daddy when he had his heart attack. He and my mom. They are both stung with guilt because my dad cried wolf constantly and faked so many injuries and illnesses that, even when they were taking him to the ER, they kept thinking he was faking again. As in, when he was dying on the kitchen floor, they were throwing up their hands in frustration, thinking he was “testing” them yet again. He’s done this so often. You just don’t know how often. You just don’t know. This is part of the emotional rollercoaster I’ve spoken of. That constant need to prove our love and devotion for him, regardless of what it did to us, again and again.
It’s so ironic.
I’m CPR-certified, defibrillator-trained. Got that a couple of months ago. My other brother’s wife is in the medical field and she’s usually there when he is. Or the man he treated like a son, who has paramedic training. It’s so ironic that it was my oldest brother who was with him and not me or our younger brother’s family. He pretty much disowned my oldest brother when my brother got divorced 30 years ago (from what I saw, it seemed his wife had lots of boyfriends and had abandoned their child)…but the divorce made our dad “look bad” to his church friends. He didn’t seem to care for this son of his at all, and yet that’s who was with him.
My brother has told the details of the heart attack over and over and over to me. He can’t get it out of his mind. The details or the sight. He keeps replaying it. I know he resents that this was Daddy’s parting gift to him. It was my choice not to see Daddy’s body, but he didn’t have that choice. I can’t alleviate that for him.
The truth is, if I’d been there instead of my brother, I could have hit the drill I’ve learned so well for work— sent one of the girls to call 911 while I started pumping his chest. Of course, Daddy wouldn’t have thought me capable. He never really felt that anyone who carried purely his and his wife’s genes could be capable of any- thing. A grandchild, a niece, a stranger on the street, but not his own child. I could have done it but….
But see, in March 2000, he died and came back. He wasn’t supposed to come back, but I interfered. I made excuses for it as being ethical, and I attached to him and he came back. I felt him dying, literally felt the heat with- draw in his limbs, the ache of it engulfing me empathically. But he saw me in the tunnel and came back. He got a second chance, and what he did with his second chance was not make amends with his children and treat our mama as she deserved, but instead, he made life hell for her. For all of us. He squandered his chance at a joyful life surrounded by his loved ones and did everything in his power to manipulate and control us until he drove us away and no one was left but my mother on an emotional leash, who in the end wasn’t allowed out of his sight or to talk to anyone or to get a single night’s sleep. I have bludgeoned myself with guilt just as much as others in the family who prayed for his recovery last time. That is the regret that I have played over in my mind for these past six years.
So the question is this: had it been me there instead of my brother, would I have placed my hands on Daddy’s chest or would I have thought instead to spare my mother any further hell?