Inappropriate Laughter

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Dad’s Story Part 6

My brother, Mike, is nine and a half years my junior.  He’s always been a quirky kinda guy {does this surprise you???}.  As a kid he used to giggle at the word “pantyhose” and I once caught him flexing his pecks in the bathroom mirror.  He was about seven and absolutely covered in muscles.  When he was just a wee one in grammar school he held down his buddy so some other kids could punch him…Mike didn’t like that his friend had called the other boys terrible names, so, in his juvenile mind, it made perfect sense to help the victims take care of business.  I remember being oddly proud of my little brother when I heard about this.

I used to babysit Mike while my parents were away although I was still quite young.  One particular weekend he got mad at me for disciplining him.  I don’t remember what it was but whatever he did made me remove some sort of toy that I had given him from his possession.  “Indian Giver!” he screamed at me with that wide mouth of his.  Hmmm….this was a new one.  So inappropriate for such a small child!  I think he did it for the shock factor.  He’s got a knack for that.

As a teenager Mike and some buddies acquired a video camera.  This was long before the show Jackass and I’m pretty sure that those guys on MTV stole the idea from them.  It seems like he was always up to some kind of shenanigans.  Constantly, our father was lecturing him and warning him…like dads should.  When Mike bleached his hair in high school my dad thought he looked like a fool.  When he pierced his ears Dad shook his head and rolled his eyes.  For his 18th birthday I bought him diamond earrings.  {heeheehee!}

Over the years Mike has grown into quite a fine young man {if anyone knows him I know you’re giggling right now} but has suffered and survived way too many tragedies for someone not even in his thirties.  He’s lost more than his fair share of friends and family members to awful accidents and sickness.  He’s tough.  Too tough.  I know that buried under the cover of humor and sarcasm is that same tender boy who used to snicker when I whispered “underwear” in his ear during dinner.

So much like our dad my brother is.  I spent some time with him in South Korea last summer after not seeing him for a whole year.  He escaped the craziness of the American “bubble” for a while to stretch his legs a bit…find some adventure….teach inappropriate things to sweet South Korean children .  Somehow he made head teacher position shortly after arriving. In the last year since his English teaching position has ended he has traveled to at least six countries with just a backpack, a computer, and a photograph.  He’s grown a real beard and has his blonde hair done up in dreadlocks.  He did a short time as an instructor in a small Sierra Nevada Mountain outdoor school where he took students on tours of bear caves and listened to water flowing through trees with a stethoscope.  Now he’s living on an Australia mandarin and cotton farm in an old subway car turned apartment.  He’s my idol.

The day I drove him to San Francisco to catch his flight that was taking him to Seoul ,and on to a life of action and adventure, he looked over at me in my truck and confessed that he was just doing this to “do something”. He didn’t think they would actually hire him. {Now at the time he was clean shaven and dread-lock free….he looked like the All American Boy plus he was smart as a whip…I wasn’t surprised a bit.} I turned to him and just smiled.  Go, I said, go…you have no responsibilities here…go and enjoy…go while you’re young and brave.  Go, Mike….Plus, I added, that there was no way that I was going to turn this truck around.  When I saw him off at the gate I waved as he disappeared with only a backpack and a nervous smile.  I watched him until he vanished into the sea of people flooding into the terminal.  I was so proud of his independence and also a bit envious.  Standing there alone I suddenly realized how my dad felt when he saw me off.  Proud.

*****

After the emotional trauma of realizing what it was our dad requested…removing the ventilator keeping him alive….my family and I took action.  We put our sentiment away for a while and started making plans.  It’s not like you just walk up to the doctor and say, “Let’s do this”.  There is protocol.

It took a day to get everyone together necessary to make this kind of decision.  The family members gathered in a room with a doctor and went over the process of removing the tube. What to expect from our dad in the hours and days.  He said that removing the oxygen would not cause him to immediately go…it could take hours…most likely days.  Dad would probably not be able to speak after the removal of the tube due to the irritation of the throat.  And soon after that they would heavily sedate him so that he would never be uncomfortable again.  The doctor wanted to stress that this was the end and we should begin arrangements.

*****

Our dad isn’t the first person Mike has loved and has lost.  When in high school, he had a friend die because of a stupid adolescent mistake.  A car accident took a dear friend.  Shortly after, another crash took his little brother {seriously, a brother from another mother.  I kid you not.}.  Mike has always been pretty sentimental and symbolic.  After each of these deaths he got a tattoo to remember each of them by.  I jokingly called him his “death tats”.  Every time I saw them peek from beneath his shirt sleeve I felt a little pang.

*****

Within an hour of the meeting the tube was removed.  Dad was resting peacefully and breathing on his own once again.  Shallow breaths, but his own all the same.  The nurse left us to be alone with him.  My siblings, Debbie, and my grandmother were gathered around his bed.  We took turns praying over him.  Debbie stood at his feet. My grandma, sister, and Joel stood by his side.  Mike and I faced each other up by his head.  Everyone’s eyes were closed as words of love and hope were murmured over him.  I’m not sure how long we had been standing there when I decided to open my eyes.  The first thing I saw were Mike’s eyes……staring at me. I got that “What?!?” look on my face.  He smirked.  Then…and I have no idea how nobody else heard….he says, “I see another tat comin’ on…” as he glances down at our dad.

You know when you are in a situation…a very serious situation…and you’re not supposed to laugh…but you do…and it makes it harder to stop laughing…and you try to bury your giggles and then you start crying and shaking??? Yeah….Grandma thought we were pretty choked up.

*****

That photograph….the one I mentioned Mike carried with him as he traveled the world…Mike turned it into a tattoo just days after dad left us.  It covers Mike’s entire left side…armpit to hip, just about.  It’s a picture of our dad in Hawaii on his honeymoon after marrying Mike’s mom.  Dad gave it to him in a frame when Mike was a little kid.  It’s always been in his room.  Later it was displayed in his tiny Korean apartment and then in his backpack as he roamed the world.

But it will never be lost…

As it is permanently inked on his side…

Near his heart.

Our dad…

On a beach in Hawaii…

Holding a huge surfboard…

Wearing a Speedo.

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