My brother deployed two months ago, but had a month of training stateside first, so he has been in The Land of Sand And Camel Spiders for about a month now. My SIL and the three kids on their own (sort of, they live twenty minutes from her parents) in AZ. The kids are Blossom, 13, Brick, 11, and Petunia, 7.
About a day after my brother got to Sand Land, Petunia, my youngest niece, started having these weird "episodes" where she would announce that she felt weird, and her head would turn to the side, and her arm would curl inwards. It would be over in seconds. It happened once. Then again. Then again, ever increasing in frequency, until it was happening several times a day.
A few doctors, a 24 hour EEG or whatever it is observation, and several trips to the children's hospital later, there are no firm answers. There is a firm not: it's not just stress. There is a firm problem to explore: they found on abnormality on one of her brain lobes.
Petunia is sweet, and feisty. Although my brother and his family have moved around a lot, she has somehow wound up with a southern accent, and she knows how to play it up. She has blond curly hair, blue eyes, with a round face reminiscent of Lis, my dad, and his side of the family. She is petite. She has eyes that twinkle, and a smile that sparkles. She has a great sense of humor. She loves Lis and Telly, and can't wait to see them in October. When we first got Telly and took him to Buffalo for a visit when Petunia et al were also there, we woke up in the morning to find a pile of dog toys outside our bedroom door that Petunia had apparently insisted on having my brother and SIL buy for the dog. When we took Lis out to AZ last Thanksgiving, Petunia was like glue. Lis and Petunia went everywhere together.
I feel sick. This cannot be happening.
My brother is beside himself. It's a cliche. It's a phrase that doesn't actually mean anything other than really upset, until you see someone who is almost literally giving you a visual of what it would look like to be beside yourself with anger, fear, grief, and terror. He is thousands of miles away, and he can't help. He can't get home. He is not there. If it were possible, he would rip down every tangible and intangible barrier to be there.
My SIL is hanging on--she texted me that she was okay, but really sad right now.
You expect things to come up during a year long deployment. You expect, attitude problems, stress, water heaters breaking, some broken bones, bad grades. You don't expect that a day after you get there, something goes wrong with your daughter's brain. You don't expect to have a whole year looming large in front of you with that dangling out of reach.
I don't know what to do for them. My SIL and the kids are coming out in October--at least, that's still the plan. What they need are answers, and they don't have them yet. Without answers, there ar eno plans. Right now, there is only limbo.
This hit Vor hard. Of all my nieces and nephews, I know Petunia is his favorite. He would never say so, but she was just a baby when we started dating, and he would hold and cuddle her, and he taught her how to bang on pots and pans, much to my brother's and SIL's dismay. She is the only one who has only ever known him as Uncle Vor, and never as just Vor, Aunt Grace's boyfriend.
I told him the news, and like newbies (seriously, you would think that we of all people would know better!) Googled the tentative problems and options, and of course, there are many, many bleak outcomes and treatment paths.
Vor did something I have never seen him do. He walked out of the room, and downstairs, filled up a small shot glass with Tequila, and took a shot. He came in and laid down on the bed, and stared at the ceiling, teary-eyed and silent.
I ache, because I know. I know he loves Petunia, and he is so scared for her. I know he hurts for my SIL because he knows how hard this kind of process can be. He feels desperation for my brother, who must be feeling so desperate that he would sell his soul to get back and fix everything. Not that it can be fixed. I know, because I feel it all too.
And, oh God, I don't even want to say it out loud, because this is about them and how scared I am for them, but I could see the shadow in Vor's eyes, thinking of Lis. I could see as he laid there trembling that tunnel vision look on his face, and suddenly I knew what my face looked like the other day. You can call me selfish, but this is bringing back terrible memories for us. I feel numb, perhaps because I've already had my little incident. But Vor? I don't think he's had an experience quite like that until now.
I'm waiting for answers. If there's at all a need for me or all of us to be out there, we will go. If I can send food or get them a cleaning service or figure out a grocery delivery or find friends out there on base that can help with car pooling, I will figure it out. As far as Vor and I and our memories go, it's amazing that both of us got such wake up calls within days of each other. I thinkw e both know we need to talk to someone who can give us some direction in how to cope with it better.
In the meantime, we wait for answers and we think of plans. I will keep sending copious amounts of Swedish Fish and jerky to my brother, and always, always, always take every phone call from him, from my SIL, and from Petunia.