Tag Archive: Family

Melvyn

Mel and his granddaughter, Avery, as she studies our dog Kelly

Mel and his granddaughter, Avery, as she studies our dog Kelly

He never wavered. Since he was four years old, he knew he wanted to be a doctor. My oldest brother, Melvyn, three years older than me, is an excellent gastroenterologist.

As kids, Melvyn, Arnold and I fought a lot. But we also stood up for each other. When I was 4 or 5, we watched TV at a neighbor’s house–a real treat since we didn’t have a television. Our friend George’s parents were very formal, kind Old World-type people. When it was time to go home I tried to stand up but my legs buckled, having gone to sleep. I sat right back down. Silly to be embarrassed at four, but I was.

I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the room without making a fool of myself in front of Mr. Wageman. Somehow Mel figured out what was going on. He moved in front of where I sat on the couch. “Get on my back,” he said, like it was the most natural thing in the world. I climbed onto my big, seven-year-old brother and he piggybacked me home. My hero!

As an adult, I suffered with colitis. After a lovely dinner with Mel and his wife Vicky one night, I began to cry because of the pain. Mel listened to me and gave me some suggestions on how to deal with the colitis going forward.

And when I left a legalistic ministry after 10 years, I was physically and emotionally shattered. The separation felt like a divorce. Because of my questions about leadership, I was told to leave town that night. I packed enough for a month and drove away in my butter yellow Ford Pinto. I held back tears until I was packed and in the car. Then they flowed freely. I didn’t know where to go or what I was going to do. I drove two hours out of town, then stopped for coffee and made a phone call.

“Hi Mel. It’s Carol. Can I spend the night at your place?”

“Yeeeaaahhh.”

“I’ll be there in about 2 hours.”

When I arrived, Mel helped me carry in my bags, then sat me down.

“OK, why did you run away?”

As I recounted the events leading to this night, Mel and Vicky just listened.

“Seems to me you need to make a list of pros and cons to figure out whether or not you want to go back,” he said.

I always looked up to Mel. I still do. Quieter about his feelings than his younger brothers, he still lights up when he talks about something that excites him or makes him happy. The other night Mom took Mel, who was in town for a medical conference, and Don and me out to dinner. I loved watching my brother’s care for our mother. At 92, her walk is a bit unsteady and he was right beside/behind her, not hovering but yet, right there in case she needed him.

Mel is the father of three beautiful daughters. He and Vicky also lost two sons–they have walked through deep pain. But Mel’s faith and commitment have remained strong and he dearly loves his wife, daughters, sons-in-law, and four grandchildren.

Melvyn with his oldest daughter and her two sons

Melvyn with his oldest daughter and her two sons

When my first husband was facing his last surgery, I knew the chance of his survival was only 10%. After talking to the surgeon, Mel walked me through the decision process. Apart from a miracle, recovery would not occur. But if we did not do the surgery, Jerry would die with no warning. Mel said that every time I left Jerry for shift change, a meal, or sleep, I would wonder if he would be alive the next time I returned. After Jerry’s death, Mel also helped me learn not to focus on what might have been done differently, in another hospital, etc. – to let go of all the “what ifs”.

Mel, relaxing at a family reunion

Mel, relaxing at a family reunion

Jerry’s surgery and death occurred in Florida. Two brothers, Arnold and Bob, escorted me away from the hospital and the life I’d shared with Jerry; at my wedding to Don four years ago, two brothers again escorted me. Melvyn and Bob walked me to meet Don and enter a new life with him.

I’m deeply grateful for these three brothers, for the love, trust and respect we share, for the difficult times we’ve gone through together, and for the father and mother who taught us about faith and values by example and by word.

Mel, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.

Arnold

smiling toast

“May the love which you both learned with your past spouses carry you forward into this new marriage.” My brother raised his glass as he gave the toast at Don’s and my wedding reception. Arnold and his wife Carol had been a significant part of my deepening love and commitment to Don after he and I both lost our first spouses. I bounced thoughts, concerns, questions off them and valued their wisdom as well as their desire to know Don.

As teens, Arn and I were both on a Bible quiz team that competed nationally. At one conference, some girls noticed how much we enjoyed each other. They didn’t believe we were brother and sister. Arn looked at me across the person seated between us.

“Want to show them?” I knew exactly what he meant. We leaned toward each other over the table and both … wiggled our eyes! The girls jumped backwards. “We believe, we believe!” Yup, eye tricks are a deep skillset he and I share.

Arn was two years ahead of me at a small Christ-centered college. Whenever I had a problem I’d ask him to take a walk with me. He taught me positive ways to deal with anger by writing it out, helped me find lost contact lenses in the dark…and listened to my questions about boyfriends, classes, faith challenges. Arn has been a Psychology professor for many years. His interactions with students were positive, challenging, and fun. I know. I’ve sat in on some of his classes.

When my first husband went in for a transplant, he asked Arn to promise that if something happened to him, Arnold would take care of me. Five months later, with Jerry’s life hanging in the balance, Arn told me and I spoke by phone.

“I’m ready to come as soon as you tell me you need me,” he said.SONY DSC

The next afternoon I told Carol it was unlikely Jerry would survive surgery the next day. Nine and a half hours later, Arn arrived in Gainesville, Florida. He came to the hospital from the airport, took Jerry’s hand and looked into his eyes. “I’m here to keep my promise,” he said with tears in his own eyes. And he stood behind me, rubbing my back as I leaned over Jerry, loving him as his life ebbed away.

SONY DSC

A number of years ago Arnold became quite ill. When one doctor mentioned it could be cancer, my brother and Carol stayed awake all night, talking about what would happen if he should die. That sickness was diagnosed and Arnold has recovered. A year and a half ago Carol had a life-altering stroke. She is resilient and determined to regain her mobility; and the love they have for each other has only deepened with the challenges of a new kind of normal. Yes, there are times of frustration and impatience; but the two have worked together, often for hours a day, at recovery. And they continue to laugh and love each other, a love which is very visible to all around them.

Arnold is a father and grandfather with two children, a son- and daughter-in-law, and eight grandchildren. While Arn and Carol have had their ups and downs as a couple and as parents, they have deep friendships with their family members. They encourage open communication, have supported their kids through their life challenges, and have put their arms around five “bonus grandchildren”, literally and figuratively.

Arn, I am so grateful for the love and friendship we share. Happy Father’s Day!

Bob

Scanning an old photo album, my eyes lingered on a picture of my younger brother, Bob, feeding a squirrel. He was eleven, I was twenty-two. Bob spent a wonderful week with me in Los Angeles. One night I had a small group of girlfriends over. This good-looking kid brother of mine flirted shamelessly with all these pretty girls, and they loved it! Every night Bob and I prayed together before going to sleep, and I was touched by the depth of his conversations with God.

We spent a few days in Yosemite, where Bob hand-fed that squirrel. Dad had given Bob some money to take me out to dinner one night. We dressed up and my handsome, blond little bro pulled out the chair to seat me. People around us stared, amazed at the sight of an eleven-year old with such manners. Later, Bob paid the bill. I felt treasured, he felt tall.

Bob is now a father and grandfather. I love watching him interact with his four children, three daughters-in-law, and five grandchildren. He is patient, kind, and willing to tackle difficult conversations.

One night we were at their house. Bob, who was an active duty police officer at the time, told us about a dangerous incident that occurred that day. Before he told us the story, this Dad covered his four-year old daughter’s ears. After he removed his hands, she looked up at him. “Why did you cover my ears so I couldn’t hear?” she asked. “Because you’re my precious, sweet girl and it’s my job to keep you that way.”

This younger brother of mine went through some difficult times. But he grew into a respected man of God who gives to others in a myriad of ways. Bob is involved with his family, others in Bible study, caring friendships, ministering in practical ways to the needs of the community, and serving in his church.

When my first husband was ill Bob and Sheilas family christmas 12and subsequently passed away, Bob visited us several times although we were on the other side of the country. One day he sent me back to my temporary housing to take a much-needed nap. About two hours later I returned. Walking quietly into Jerry’s hospital room, I saw that he was resting, his eyes closed. Bob sat by Jerry’s side, holding his hand and reading. Since Jerry couldn’t speak at that point, touch was even more important to him. When I told Bob how much that picture of his love for his brother-in-law meant to me, he said, “Don’t tell anyone. It’ll ruin my tough guy image.”

Tough guy, yes. He’s dealt with homicide, crime, and threats. But his heart is soft toward God, his family, and others. I am deeply grateful for this kid brother who has become a husband, father, brother, son, whom I respect, love, and trust.

Happy Father’s Day, Bob!