Good news first, for a change.
Today, at roughly 7 pm Eastern Daylight Savings Time, John and I completed our second home refinancing. This momentous event took place, appropriately enough, in the choir rehearsal room at Christ Church in New Brunswick, where John's life is centered nowadays. And, helping us as legal counsel, was one of the Wardens of the Vestry, Paul Ambos, whose mere presence made the proceedings seem far less ominous and forbidding than I had expected. I think there was a cross, up on the wall above the dry erase board, so I guess one might even say we had other company as well. But I'll stick to the less metaphysical stuff.
Mercury being retrograde, the notary handling the closing was almost two hours late. But John, Paul and I made fairly good use of what would otherwise have been thumb-twiddling time -- solving some illumination problems for next Wednesday's evening service; going over musical assignments for the choir; and me chatting away about almost anything, apparently afraid that if there were any silence at all, something bad might happen. Sometimes I'm just a laugh riot.
When the official did arrive (he'd called, shortly before 5 pm, to alert us to his position -- nearly stagnant, as it happened -- on the Garden State. We weren't unduly optimistic about an early appearance), he set right to work, and was, I thought, quite affable, while doing an efficient job of guiding us through a small novel's worth of paperwork. Sign here, date here. Sign and date here and here. Just like in the comedy sketches. Except that this involved our home, and hundreds of thousands of dollars' worth of value. I was wearing a really nice shirt and tie, just in case that might help.
And when we'd finished, and John had gone off to make even more copies of the copies of the copies of the original documents, so nearly everyone in the Western world could hope to have at least a tiny scrap of paper from our transaction, the notary and Paul and I chatted. I asked Mr. Dunbar if he had relatives in Maine, and he said no, that his family originally came from Russia, and that Dunbar, far from being Scots, was an anglicized version of their Russian patronymic. I thought, with his great blue eyes, and shock of white hair, that he resembled a theater director from Maine with whom I used to work -- and the world being the sort of place it is, it wouldn't have surprised me if the two men had been related. But today, not the case.
A propos of not much, Mr. Dunbar is left-handed, as am I, and President Obama. And Bill Clinton, it just occurred to me. A propos of time and space, Mr. Dunbar was facing two more closings, to begin at 11pm, and at some considerable distance from our choir room. So, when John came back with sheaves of paper, Mr. Dunbar took his bundle and said good night. Paul went off for physical therapy. John and I went out to eat. Ah. And all through the dinner, I kept having this luscious sense of deep relief and satisfaction -- we had done a grown-up thing, we had completed a beneficial financial transaction, it was all finished. The sensation kept welling up, like some delicious perfume. Ah.
(While we're on good news, I found my grommet setter. It was on the table where I'd left it months ago, but buried under the archaeological accumulation that seems to be a hallmark of my presence anywhere. Burial didn't seem to impair its operation at all -- I put two grommets into two pieces of my Combat Paper, and they look great. Now... the next creative step, whatever that may be)
(And the grommet setter isn't green -- it's blue)
It's about my brother George. According to a report my sister Barbara received, from a legal assistant in Oregon, George has lung cancer, an impaired liver, and shows some early signs of age- and alcohol-induced dementia. He has turned his immediate affairs over to a woman with whom he used to work -- a respiratory therapist who, according to this record, is willing to care for my brother on a daily basis, and to honor his requests that his immediate family be excluded from any of these proceedings.
This is one of the brothers I had to chain in bed at night.
George has said that his siblings are 'estranged' from him. The same form telling us about his choice of legal guardianship also indicates that George isn't competent to make his own decisions. My sister wants to go to Oregon and bring George back to Boynton Beach with her, so she can take care of him in her own home. My brother Glenn, living in El Paso TX, is bracing himself for the flight up to Oregon, where he will hitch George's trailer to whatever vehicle George uses for local transportation, and haul the entire household south, to Louisiana. Where, Glenn says, Barbara can take over, and motor George to her Atlantic coast home, for whatever remains of his life. I sit, at my kitchen table, making no phone calls to anyone, asking no lawyers any probing questions, harvesting no public records, scheduling no flights to the West coast...
I feel oddly inert. According to the report (and I do hate to repeat myself, but...) George's immediate needs are being met. According to the report, the young woman who goes to George's trailer every day, and makes sure he eats and bathes, and walks around a bit, is the only person in the world that George trusts. According to Barbara, in her most recent talk with our brother, he refused (in what I think of as an oddly coy manner, for someone so seriously ill) to tell her just what his exact medical condition is. He said he'd tell her in a couple of days. Like that's going to make a difference? And then Barbara gets a copy of a public record outlining George's diagnosis, and accessible to anyone who can read at the fifth grade level.
I feel oddly disoriented. It just occurred to me -- in a way, this is eerily similar to my experience yesterday, with Route 10. I knew where it is, I knew how to get there, but when I arrived, even having gotten there wasn't quite what I'd expected. Without warning, I discovered that I actually had to go somewhere else, to get back to where I just was. And if I hadn't spent so much time living in New Jersey, and didn't know about the infamous 'jug handle' concept, who knows what part of Canada I might be driving through right now. Looking for Route 10.
And so, it seems to me, with my brother. He will tell others that he doesn't trust his siblings, but when his siblings talk with him on the phone, he says he'll consider visiting Barbara in Florida. In spite of the fact that his guardian says he's not healthy enough to travel. In spite of the fact that, when he talks with me, or my sister, or Glenn, George says that the woman, who comes to visit him every day, never comes to see him, and that he doesn't know what's illnesses he might have. Unless maybe it's his knee that's out of whack. I kept thinking, listening to his seemingly lucid explanation of how he was going to take himself to the local clinic, to have his drastic weight loss assessed, that this was a man in charge of his faculties. Then he said he'd been held in a locked facility for three weeks, and had just walked away the day before, without interference from anyone. Except that his phone records, and the observations of neighbors, placed George firmly in his little trailer all the while.
Where do I turn? How do I know when I've arrived? What is there for me to do? If a man desires to spend the end of his life in a trailer, across a continent from his only living relatives, who he says he doesn't trust, what does one of the untrusted do? At least on Route 10, there was a spot, just north of the intersection, with a small, badly-positioned sign, indicating that soon, by turning in the opposite direction, it would be possible for me to reach my goal. Here, my brother appears stubbornly determined to end his life in the care of relative strangers, and I strain to see something like a small, badly-positioned sign, to tell me what might be the best thing for him, and for me, to do.
© 2012 Walter Zimmerman