I’ve had the strangest feeling since I found out yesterday that my brother died. I wouldn’t categorize it as grief as we’ve been estranged for several years. I found out he had cancer of the esophagus, not a pleasant thought, and that he died a week ago today. My 95 year old aunt from Florida called me because she saw his obituary in the paper. That’s how I found out. No one knew – it was a surprise to all of his extended family on his side. It seems like he disassociated himself from all of us in the end. And to add insult to injury I was just in Florida two weeks ago. I could have visited him if I knew. I’m not sure it would have made any difference but at least I could have told him that I hold him no ill will. But who knows what one goes through as they are in the last stages of life. At that point it’s not about me, it’s about him and his wishes. And I guess he did not wish to make any final connections. That was his choice and I honor that.
I wish him no ill, I never did. We were polar opposites in so many ways and we could never come to terms with that. I think I disassociated myself with him because of his tumultuous relationship with my parents more than anything he ever did or said to me. They were hurt by him in so many ways so many times, but to some degree I’m sure he was hurt by them as well. He had anger issues and drinking issues and that compounded the problem. I remember him once saying “I can write any of you off for good at any time” with a stone cold conviction. He obviously meant it. I was in a position where I did not have to take his abuse, but my parents on the other hand tried and tried to keep that connection going. After all he was their son. But it was not to be. So now, at this point, all I can wish for him is to rest in peace and hope that both he and my parents reunite peaceably in heaven. Somehow I feel they will as none of that messy human stuff will matter there.
But after spending quite a bit of time yesterday trying to quantify what I was feeling I finally figured it out. I am the last one left in my immediate family. That’s it, no more Drabik’s, just me. I never in my life imagined it would get to this point. I never thought it would happen. But it did and I feel a strange emptiness inside. My head hurt yesterday and my eyes ached but I could not cry. My heart was heavy but I could not understand why. For so many years I never felt like I had a brother, but I certainly never wished this for him. And now, here I am, feeling more and more like the next one in line.
Any immediate ties I had to my life as a Drabik are gone forever. Life is moving on and with it I get older and older. The grim realization that one day it will be my turn hit me in the face like a ton of bricks yesterday. In the back of our minds we all know it will happen but we fool ourselves into thinking that it will always be the other guy or happen to the other families. Don’t be fooled, it will happen to you. And it’s probably the strangest feeling for the last one standing.
Gone forever are the holiday dinners, the excitement of a family Christmas morning, the trips to see the White Sox play, the annual downtown holiday shopping sprees, the family birthday celebrations and on and on. Gone is any vestige of unconditional love (and I don’t care what you might think, a husband’s love is different). I thought I felt like an orphan when my mother died, but now I really feel like an orphan. Nowhere to run to, nowhere to hide – as it relates to the Drabik clan, I am the last one.
So what next, give up? That would be the coward’s way out. Although I am still struggling a bit I have a family name and family values to uphold. I was raised to believe in myself, to be strong and independent. My mother always wanted me to be an “A” student in school, I just never realized that she expected me to be an “A” student in life as well. Hitting the books was easy, living the life is much harder. But I am not a quitter just, at this point, slightly down for the count.
So with a heavy heart I pick myself up, dust myself off and move forward as the last Drabik standing. RIP brother Bob – I hope you, mom and dad are sharing a big hug right now!