I am so glad I took this picture of Steve and Randi, because all I have to do is glance at it and I am transported back to Room 805 of Seattle’s Swedish Medical Center, which has been home to my little brother for way too long. . .(about a week and a half) but not for much longer, I’m happy to say.
Steve went into the hospital contending with cirrhosis of the liver (I have had to learn how to spell cirrhosis), hepatitis (yet another term I now can spell) and a serious stomach ulcer – and I don’t mean to sound melodramatic when I say that at the toughest juncture, it was an all too real possibility that we might be sitting down with Scott to look at cemetery plots and choosing hymns for the funeral. But thankfully, Steve seems to have pulled through and is likely to be a persistent irritant to his older brother for some time to come. And I could not be happier about that. There is something absolutely absurd about a scenario where my younger brother is contending with such a life-threatening situation while my worst medical malady at the moment (as far as I know) is toe fungus. Life’s script does not always make sense and this experience has been profoundly bewildering. But we are thankful that things are looking so encouraging right now.
I really chose my words poorly at the top of this blog entry when I said that Seattle Swedish has been my brother’s home for a week and a half. It would have been much more accurate to say that it has been home for Steve’s partner Scott and for my sister Randi as well. . . because they have engaged in an around-the- clock vigil that has been so moving to behold. There might be people reading this blog entry who for whatever reason might have trouble with the notion of same-sex partners, but I am here to tell you that I have never seen more beautiful love than that demonstrated by Scott for my brother through this ordeal. . . and more than once I found myself giving Scott a big hug and thanking him for loving my brother so much. . . for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health.
And if they ever erect a Mount Rushmore for devoted sisters, Randi’s face had better be carved there. She flew out to Seattle as soon as she heard that Steve had gone into intensive care and scarcely left the hospital until she flew back home this morning. Of course, she could offer not only her presence and concern (as I did for several days- and Dad and Sonja did before that) but also her expertise as a medical doctor. At every turn of the road, she was able to explain procedures, clarify terminology, and maybe most importantly, served as a powerful advocate for Steve by raising questions and concerns as the need arose with an impressive mix of firmness and graciousness.
The only bad thing about it was how stupid and relatively useless I felt, by comparison. In a typical exchange, a nurse might enter the room saying “it sounds like the thrombostic ligatures in the ostrempic glands are what’s causing the exclevination of the pancro-cyplonic strumbellum.” To which Randi would reply “maybe you could ask the doctor if that might be due to ploktubations in the rendroxite flow.” And meanwhile, the smartest comment I could contribute to the proceedings would be to nag Steve about drinking another can of Ensure, while trying to keep my mouth from dragging on the ground in slack-jawed awe. I knew that my sister was brilliant, but I didn’t really know it until I watched her in action at the hospital in exchanges like the one I just described. But far more important than the smarts she displayed was her warm-hearted compassion and patience and concern. I left Seattle thinking to myself “I wish she were my doctor! But at least she’s my sister, and I am so proud of her.”
I may not have been the medical whiz bang expert that Randi was – nor did I run a million and one errands like Dad and Sonja did – but beyond just being there, I was a very real help to Steve and Scott by spending some time with their son / my nephew Henry. . . but that is worthy of a blog entry all its own. Suffice to say that I was so glad I was able to go to Seattle and spend some time at Steve’s bedside – joining my voice to the chorus of relatives and friends who love him so much and who would have gladly done just about anything to help him through this. . . while knowing that here in Racine, up north in the Twin Cities, and in places all across the country there were people praying for my brother to be healed.
May the healing continue. And may my brother continue to wrap himself in this amazing blanket of love which has already given him such comfort and strength.
pictured above: Randi and Steve in the hospital room.