Raymond was sixteen years older than I. He was my mother's son from a disastrous first marriage. He was six years old when my father met my mother and raised him as his own.
I have a lot of mixed feelings about our relationship, and his death. You see, Raymond was a traditional Puerto Rican man. Though he was born in Ponce 73 years ago, he was educated here in NYC.
When I was little, he used to put me up on his shoulders and take me out with him. I recall nights where I'd be sitting up there listening to him and his friends sing doo wop on the stoop of our tenement in East Harlem or at the corner store. It was the late 50s. I remember he wore a dark leather jacket, smoked Winston cigarettes and drank Johnny Walker Red. I used to try and sing harmony.
I still can't sing to this day... and to this day second hand smoke and the smell of leather remind me of him.
I was always the sensitive sort and Raymond always teased me. I remember watching, I think it was Blue Velvet with Elizabeth Taylor -- you know the one about a race horse that was put to sleep. I was horrified that this could happen and I threw myself face down on my bed sobbing about this horse who was about to get killed.
He teased me mercilessly because what was wrong with me? It was just a movie!
As I grew older, so did the distance between us and during my marriage and divorce, the gap between us grew wider. I did my thing, he did his. We knocked heads because of our very different views on life.
On June 24, 2005 our father had a massive stroke. Raymond dropped everything and went down to Puerto Rico to take care of him and my mom. When Papi died, Raymond stayed with Mom for about a year until she insisted he go back home which he did.
He returned to Puerto Rico on June 8, 2009 when Mom had her stroke and he'd been there ever since providing daily care for her.
My bf tells me it was three weeks ago that he was admitted to the hospital. I don't know anymore. All I know is that over that last month or so, whenever I called, he didn't sound like himself. He finally asked his wife to join him because he didn't feel well. When my sister-in-law arrived, she was alarmed enough to call an ambulance and rushed him to the hospital. He was immediately admitted to the intensive care unit with fluid in his lungs.
A procedure was performed and a tube inserted to begin draining the fluid. He was put on oxygen and only allowed 1/2 hour visits twice a day with his wife. He had begun refusing food.
Yesterday, October 14, 2014 I got a call from my sister-in-law at the office. I told her I would find a quiet place to talk and call her back. I grabbed my cellphone and ran across the street to Port Authority because I was uncomfortable taking this call from her at my desk.
And that's when she hit me with the bombshell. My brother had cancer and it was terminal. There was nothing they could do for him.
The bottom fell out from under me and my head spun. I immediately got a headache. All kinds of things raced through my mind. Mami, first and then Lupe, my sister-in-law. They were married 45 years. They spent a large part of the last four and a half years apart. What must she be going through? I told her I would call her when I got in later that night and discuss flights. I wanted to see my brother before it was too late.
I never got the chance, but at least I spent some time with him in June. We drank Coronas.
I am of the belief that life is like school and we are here because we have lessons to learn.
If there is a rift between you and a loved one, mend it.
No one is promised tomorrow. We received the diagnosis Raymond was terminally ill hours before his passing.
Do. Not. Wait!
I believe in reincarnation. I believe we will meet again.
Raymond, sleep in peace. One day I will sit beside you and we will have our Coronas like we always did.
I love you; always will. No matter what.