He never wavered. Since he was four years old, he knew he wanted to be a doctor. My oldest brother, Melvyn, three years older than me, is an excellent gastroenterologist.
As kids, Melvyn, Arnold and I fought a lot. But we also stood up for each other. When I was 4 or 5, we watched TV at a neighbor’s house–a real treat since we didn’t have a television. Our friend George’s parents were very formal, kind Old World-type people. When it was time to go home I tried to stand up but my legs buckled, having gone to sleep. I sat right back down. Silly to be embarrassed at four, but I was.
I couldn’t figure out how to get out of the room without making a fool of myself in front of Mr. Wageman. Somehow Mel figured out what was going on. He moved in front of where I sat on the couch. “Get on my back,” he said, like it was the most natural thing in the world. I climbed onto my big, seven-year-old brother and he piggybacked me home. My hero!
As an adult, I suffered with colitis. After a lovely dinner with Mel and his wife Vicky one night, I began to cry because of the pain. Mel listened to me and gave me some suggestions on how to deal with the colitis going forward.
And when I left a legalistic ministry after 10 years, I was physically and emotionally shattered. The separation felt like a divorce. Because of my questions about leadership, I was told to leave town that night. I packed enough for a month and drove away in my butter yellow Ford Pinto. I held back tears until I was packed and in the car. Then they flowed freely. I didn’t know where to go or what I was going to do. I drove two hours out of town, then stopped for coffee and made a phone call.
“Hi Mel. It’s Carol. Can I spend the night at your place?”
“I’ll be there in about 2 hours.”
When I arrived, Mel helped me carry in my bags, then sat me down.
“OK, why did you run away?”
As I recounted the events leading to this night, Mel and Vicky just listened.
“Seems to me you need to make a list of pros and cons to figure out whether or not you want to go back,” he said.
I always looked up to Mel. I still do. Quieter about his feelings than his younger brothers, he still lights up when he talks about something that excites him or makes him happy. The other night Mom took Mel, who was in town for a medical conference, and Don and me out to dinner. I loved watching my brother’s care for our mother. At 92, her walk is a bit unsteady and he was right beside/behind her, not hovering but yet, right there in case she needed him.
Mel is the father of three beautiful daughters. He and Vicky also lost two sons–they have walked through deep pain. But Mel’s faith and commitment have remained strong and he dearly loves his wife, daughters, sons-in-law, and four grandchildren.
When my first husband was facing his last surgery, I knew the chance of his survival was only 10%. After talking to the surgeon, Mel walked me through the decision process. Apart from a miracle, recovery would not occur. But if we did not do the surgery, Jerry would die with no warning. Mel said that every time I left Jerry for shift change, a meal, or sleep, I would wonder if he would be alive the next time I returned. After Jerry’s death, Mel also helped me learn not to focus on what might have been done differently, in another hospital, etc. – to let go of all the “what ifs”.
Jerry’s surgery and death occurred in Florida. Two brothers, Arnold and Bob, escorted me away from the hospital and the life I’d shared with Jerry; at my wedding to Don four years ago, two brothers again escorted me. Melvyn and Bob walked me to meet Don and enter a new life with him.
I’m deeply grateful for these three brothers, for the love, trust and respect we share, for the difficult times we’ve gone through together, and for the father and mother who taught us about faith and values by example and by word.
Mel, I love you. Happy Father’s Day.