Those are the words of my brother, in a text message to me last night, accompanied by this picture. Cigarettes in an ashtray on my father’s counter.
My father has cancer. His doctor was clear that the treatments he is undergoing would be useless in the face of this addiction. Treatments that my brother has rearranged his life to attend. Those cigarettes? Are a slap in my brother’s face.
Over five years ago, I got a phone call from my sister, dropping a bomb. My father had gambled away everything. The house we’d grown in, the 5th wheel he’d sequestered my mother into, his marriage, his children, his career, his health.
When my mother left him, my brother became front line warrior in my father’s battle. He was the only one in proximity. He has found my father almost dead no less than three times. When I got this message my heart cracked. My father had well and truly snapped my brother’s tether. My father’s last ally, gone.
To look at my father from the outside, you would see a sad man, a lonely man. A man whose family doesn’t call much, doesn’t visit much, stays far away and at arm’s length. We may seem cold, and detached and ungrateful to him. But then you look at this counter, this counter of a place that my brother fought to get him into, and we fight to keep him in, and there sit the very things that are killing him.
Without remorse, without regret, but rife with excuses he continues to kill himself. One labored breath at a time, and at the expense of my brother’s heart.
For years I have watched my own tendencies, that mirror his and bucked against them, sometimes given in. But when I look at this, at this blatant disregard and know that I have been guilty of the same, I know that I have so much more work to do. Never again will I make someone sorry that they loved me.