So, my first ever contribution to The Mirror Project has gone live.
Along our Route 66 road trip, dad and I would occasionally check email, and we found out that my dad's brother Bertin had just been checked into the Veterans Hospital in Amarillo, Texas. I don't recall exactly what prompted this, but suffice to say Bertin's been in poor shape for quite a while, and it was only a matter of time before he would simply be unable to live unassisted.
Amarillo happens to be smack dab in the middle of Route 66, so we headed to the hospital after a lunch break. It was an eerie experience, driving up to, and then walking into, a veterans hospital. Outside, a flock of old guys sat in chairs and wheelchairs, smoking and looking at nothing in particular. We made our way through the building, received assistance from an orderly, and found my uncle sleeping in his room.
We startled him awake, and he was quite a sight. Outfitted in a hospital robe, a respirator plugged into his nostrils, his pasty pudgy body heaved upward into a sitting position. My dad chatted with him for quite a while, catching up, talking about their mom, Bertin recounting stories from his life, lamenting that he can go nowhere without an external bladder, all the while, repeatedly gasping for air.
I didn't have much to say, and mostly just stood around, listening, looking out the window, looking at Bertin, looking around. I went to the mirror, and saw I could frame myself in between the two brothers talking, and snapped the photo you see on the site. My dad is older than Bertin, and in infinitely better shape. I wondered just what dad was *thinking* as he was looking at his little brother, who probably tagged along with him on the streets of Cleveland, who probably looked up to him in that way that younger brothers do, and now, as they enter twilight years, the younger brother is clearly going to pass long before the older. Which I suspect must seem weird.
I didn't really know what to make of the picture, except that I liked it, I liked capturing this odd moment, healthy brother talking to dying brother, my standing between them, related, yet removed.
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It is an interesting picture, especially with the mystery figure of the Dad being almost invisible.
It is also interesting, and commendable, that you refrain from projecting or editorializing thoughts or feelings into the exchanges between the two bothers. Typically, such projections are the exercise of weak minds trying to find substance by investing others with their own meager ideations.
Since I had not seen Bert at all for twenty years, and hardly at all since we both left home in separate directions in our teens, he is not someone I know. Yet he is not a stranger. Those sharing blood, family and early childhood can never be strangers. So, across the years and the continents and the diversities we sat as two old men who didn't really know each other, but could never be strangers because we were brothers.
I don't remember, as well as you do, what we talked about--except his medical problems. The biggest purprise and impression he made on me was how much he looked like our father. That was somewhat disconcerting: to talk to a kid brother who looked and sounded exactly like my dead father.
The other thing that impressed me was his casual humor about his physical and medical problems. He had a chuckle about most of his infirmaties, except maybe for the catheter up his penis. Until I reminded him that at his age, he's peed enough.
Posted by BJMe @ 10/05/2002 10:34 AM PST [link to this comment]
This is the most inspired mirror project photo I've seen.
Posted by Michael @ 10/05/2002 06:32 PM PST [link to this comment]
I sent this picture on to have it enlarged so I can see the brothers better..
I also like doing mirror photos, but my main interest with this one was with my brothers.. I was thinking (from another pic) Bert looked like our paternal grandfather, so dad must have favored him... I personally think B.J. and I favor my mothers side, in looks that is...
Two old men? Being the baby of the family doesn't make me an old woman, does it?
Posted by meturn @ 10/06/2002 08:13 AM PST [link to this comment]
Posted by Erica @ 10/08/2002 02:19 PM PST [link to this comment]
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