What can I tell you about my brother? Listen to the song, it sums him up perfectly as a child – and indeed as an adult.
When my brother phones and says, “You couldn’t do me a massive favour could you?” your heart sinks because you know it’s going to be something totally unreasonable. After a wail of “OH RICK-EEEE, NOOO!” you usually end up doing what he wants, cringing as you go.
His latest idea was a corker. “You couldn’t do me a massive favour could you? Can you just …..” (Just!? Fecking JUST!?!)…………his idea was for me to just find a nice lady dog to mate his twelve year old, half chihuahua, half King Charles spaniel, completely blind, senile, arthritic dog with. “Well, he won’t last for ever, I’d love a puppy from him.”
“No. It’s not happening, he’s not exactly a catch is he? I’m not even sure he could manage it, he’s about 65 years old in dog years. Who’s going to want to breed their pedigree dog with him? No, Rick, no.” *puts the phone down really quickly so he can’t talk me round.*
As a child he was a walking accident. His glasses were always fixed with sellotape. His shoes regularly ended up in the canal after he’d kick a ball of a stone or even just set off at a run. Talking of running, he’s the only child I ever saw kick his own backside as he ran.
How? I have no idea. Spindly legs and knock knees, I suppose.
I could list his exploits for many a post and not run out of tales to tell.
After one of his many accidents he used to stand in front of our mum with a look on his face that would translate as ‘please don’t kill me.’ Of course, we were brought up in the days when it was perfectly acceptable, indeed encouraged, to give your children a good walloping and Ricky had his fair share of them. Mum would flail at him with both hands while he just curled his spindly body into a ball, elbows and knees sticking out everywhere. In the end mum would give up as he was hurting herself more than she was hurting him so she’d just shout as she walked away fuming, “Oh, RICKY, You’d make a fecking saint swear. “
She wasn’t wrong.
As we grew up Ricky became my best friend. We’d go out together at the weekends, get drunk and then go back to my house with our respective partners and friends, listen to Pink Floyd and contemplate the meaning of life. Other times we rocked out to Ritchie Blackmore’s Rainbow, Deep Purple, ZZ Top or any of the other bands that took us through our teens, twenties and thirties. We laughed, conversed, played poker and just generally all enjoyed being in each other’s company. Good times.
It was Rick, who when he met Boofuls for the first time, recognised that there was something special going on. I think you’ve met your match there, he said. A prophesy that was proved to be correct. It was almost exactly year later when he walked me down the aisle and gave me way at our wedding.
Latterly, Rick has settled into a more sedate lifestyle. Not totally of his own choice. A bad accident a few years ago left him less mobile than previously and years of smoking took their toll. Really, people with asthma and emphysema shouldn’t be smoking but suggestions that he stop smoking fell on deaf ears as you’d expect.
Last week, Rick was suffering from a particularly bad chest infection. “Rick, get to the doctor’s, this is ridiculous. ” He must have felt gruesome because he did exactly that.
While he was there he collapsed and suffered heart failure. I suppose if you are going to collapse then the best possible place to do it is in a building full of doctors. He’s always been jammy like that, our Rick.
He was given CPR and then taken to our local hospital critical care unit where he was put onto a ventilator, dialysis and all manner of other things I don’t even have names for. Tubes, drains, sensors, clips, bottles seemed to be coming in and out of him from every angle.
It turned out that Ricky had developed pneumonia which was just too much for his already overworked organs to deal with. He suffered multiple organ failure and sepsis.
For the last few days the family and a couple of close friends of his have been with him almost constantly, taking it in turns to sit with him, chat to him, stroke his hair and listen to the constant beep beep beep of his life support machines.
Yesterday morning I got the call we’d all been dreading. “Get the family together and get up to the hospital as soon as possible.” At the hospital we were informed gently and sensitively by the doctors that Ricky wasn’t responding to any treatment, in fact his condition continued to deteriorate despite massive medical intervention.
The decision was made to turn off his life support.
We all said our goodbyes individually and then we surrounded his bed, stroking his head and holding his hands as his life support machines were turned off.
It took him less than five minutes to die. He slipped away listening to his favourite song ever, ‘Never Before’ by Deep Purple.
We don’t know if he was aware of what was happening at all, if he knew he was dying. We don’t know if he heard the nurse telling us how it would happen. We don’t know if he heard or understood that we were going to turn off his machines and kill him by doing so.
We don’t know if he heard us tell him that we love him.
I do know that when I noticed a tear in the corner of his eye as his life left his body I fell apart.
That tear will haunt me until the day I die.
My funny, clumsy, clever, cheeky, irreverent, unreasonable, amazing brother, it has been an honour to be your sister.
I love you.