TALK TO A
Established April 15, 1995
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3 May 2007
My brother, Larry Thomas, spent 44 of his 47 years being a wonderful, gentle brother. The third of five (and the youngest of 3 sons), he sometimes felt left out and neglected; I suppose I (as the one closest to him in age) indeed neglected him at times. To my regret.
Larry never found Mrs. Right. As a long-haul truck driver, he wasn't home enough to sustain a dating relationship - at least, not long enough to create sufficient ties. A relationship takes time, Larry knew; in contrast, he spent several months at a stretch on the road. Larry therefore dated while he could, but bunked with our sister (the youngest) when he was at home. This coming-and-going made it difficult for anyone to detect any kind of pattern in his behavior or health.
Larry had headaches for many, many years. He seemed to eat Advil and Tylenol as some would cashews. He insisted, though, that they were migraines. He had headaches a few times per month, and they were certainly monster headaches. But he would take a few pain relievers, stretch out, fall asleep, and usually (not always) awake many hours later feeling better.
About three years ago, he received a diagnosis of failing vision. About that time, he began to act unusual (for Larry) - leaving his long-haul job, staying away for days on end (then weeks on end), spending money wildly, and not calling to verify how he was. Eventually, my sister became concerned about his erratic behavior, particularly when bill collectors began calling her to find out where he was. Frankly, we wondered if he had started "doing drugs," the change in him was so dramatic. So my sister changed the locks on her house and told him he could come home only when she was at home as well. Larry took offense at this and left for good.
I hadn't seen Larry for two years. In the interim, our grandmother died; I had major abdominal surgery; joys and sorrows crossed the lives our family lived in Larry's absence. We tried to find him, and we left messages everywhere we called. But he returned our calls only one time - in the middle of the day, when he knew my sister would be at work.
On Sunday, April 22, 2007, my sister received a call that Larry had collapsed and died. We didn't believe it. I rushed over to my sister's house, and we spent the entire day chasing down parties who could tell us what had happened. Originally, the coroner's office treated Larry's death as a homocide, since Larry's age (47) and the circumstances seemed suspicious to the coroner. I remember asking the coroner if he was SURE the person was my brother; he assured me that two parties identified Larry, and that the picture on his drivers license matched. He gently told me he was 99 percent sure it was Larry.
So we had to await the results of an autopsy, scheduled for Monday, April 23, 2007 at 8:00AM. Within 90 minutes, we received the results: A golfball-sized aneurism at the base of Larry's brain. The coroner did not say the aneurism had ruptured. Instead, he stated that the aneurism had grown to such an extent that it pressed against Larry's brain stem until he "passed on." He assured me that Larry passed painlessly. The coroner said Larry's aneurism was the largest he had ever seen - that, at that size, Larry should have had some symptoms.
We remember again the headaches and the loss of vision. When Larry went on his stable-brother hiatus, we wondered if he feared loss of vision and the subsequent dependence that would cause. We wondered if he wanted to "live it up" while he could, so he spent wildly and lived recklessly. The man we knew over 44 years was NOT the man he was in the last 3 years of his life, which makes this loss so very, very aching. Larry was pronounced at 8:58 AM on Saturday, April 21, 2007; the coroner estimated he had been gone for 12-18 hours by the time he was found. I am in shock; I am in disbelief; I am in pain that I (and my siblings) never had a reunion to find out why he simply walked away. And I am in pain as well because he had the symptoms; I just didn't know them well enough to be able to nag him to seek care.
One of the last pictures I have of Larry was taken on Christmas Eve, 2004, at our family gathering - also, the last time I saw him. In every picture, he leans forward with his elbows on his knees, his head in his hands. I remember handing him a whole bottle of Aleve. I wonder now if an aneurism can cause a change in personality. The coroner said Larry had no signs of illegal substances in his system, so our fears were ungrounded that he was on drugs. What, then, caused this change in personality? I'll probably never know. But I grieve deeply for the great brother who threw himself into helping his sisters and brothers; I grieve for the hiatus-brother I missed over the past few years. In short, I grieve over the brother I helped lay to rest at far too young an age. Despite his absence, I loved him. I was mad at him - you bet! He left a wreck behind him in both partings that we (his sisters) have and will put aright. But I adored him - WE adored him. I will miss him so...
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