Tuesday, August 14, 2007

Confessions of a terrible, horrible person

Today is my birthday. As a gift to myself, I’m going to suspend the guilt trifecta (culture, religion, personality) that normally filters what comes out of my mouth but has no control over what goes through my head, and indulge in some self-absorbed brattery.

Yesterday morning I woke up feeling kind of crappy. So I called in sick with the justification that my brother will probably be going back to school sometime soon, and the more time I can spend with him the better. Plus, spending time would constitute lying on the couch, which would work well with the feeling crappy. It was a good thing I was around, too, because while things had been looking good all weekend, my brother woke up covered in a red (almost purple in some spots) and extremely itchy rash all over his body. Usually we would try to wait it out, but last year he had what turned out to be a severe allergy to a drug called Keflex that was pretty dangerous and had started the same way. So we went to the emergency room.

After several hours of shivering in the ER, they let the kid go and said that they'd stop the antibiotics (which make food taste like sawdust) and give him some pill for the rash. Unfortunately, that rash remedy is a steroid, which will lower his immune system's effectiveness, which makes him more susceptible to an infection, which is what they were trying to prevent at all costs with the nasty antibiotics in the first place. A vicious cycle to say the least.

The rest of the day went by as usual, with my brother claiming the BLT I'd made for him was the best he'd ever not tasted and showed his appreciation by not throwing it up. This was especially good because it was pretty much the second actual meal he's kept down in the last couple of weeks, and we're all very glad because he's not a big guy and has dropped 15 pounds since his surgery. (Bulimia must be a very powerful disorder indeed if people force themselves to live that way on purpose.)

At about 11 pm, he starts yelling and screaming that something is wrong with Mom. I guess she was having some sharp chest pains, so I went down the heart-attack checklist to figure out what to do next. The problem with having a nurse for a mom is that she is extremely quick to dismiss medical concerns because the rest of us are "laypeople" who obviously don't know what the hell they're talking about. Because of this, she is also a terrible patient. It turns out that she had forgotten to take her thyroid medication for the last two days (which my brother would NEVER be able to pull off without getting his ass kicked) and she said the pain was just a reaction to that, but that she'd wait and see if it came back enough to go to the hospital. So while I was one foot out the door in my pajamas to make a second trip to the emergency room, she calmly took her own blood pressure (is that even accurate?) and turned on a Hindi soap opera.

People like to tell me they think I'm overly paranoid and to "just chill out," "let it go," or "don't worry so much." But honestly, if a reminder that you could lose the things you care about most in this world smacks you in the face at least once a day, you'd start to clutch onto everything just a little bit tighter, too.

Here comes the part about how I'm terrible and horrible. Yesterday while I sat in the emergency room watching my mom rub my brother's feet to keep him warm under three blankets, I kept praying that he'd be okay and wouldn't have to get admitted. Of course, this isn't unusual. But even though I'm old and birthdays are just another day of the week to me now, part of that prayer was for not having to spend another August 14 at the hospital.

I’m not sure if it’s my bad fortune for having emerged into the world so close to the end of summer, or because my parents always made sure to get that day off from work at the beginning of the year and it ended up being convenient for his tests, but some of his same-day procedures, all-day doctor visits and one major surgery happened to fall on my birthdays. Hospital waiting rooms are not as fun as they sound, and I don't even want to think about how much the rest of my life would suck if--Thank God it didn't--something bad happened.

Don’t get me wrong--my parents have always tried to be fair and they made sure I had kickass parties sometime before or after the actual day. But when you’re a kid, it’s extremely tough being the sibling of somebody who needs a lot of attention through no fault of his own. Nonstop. Especially during those developmental years, when it's very difficult to grasp how hard it is on your parents. However, at the same time, they may never completely understand how hard it can be on you, either.

When a person has gone through a cardiac catheterization, the obvious choice is to ask that person what he’d like to eat for dinner when he hasn’t been able to eat for two days. But when you’re the sibling and it’s the actual date of your birth, it can be a real struggle to keep from yelling, “WTF?! Why does he get to choose? This is MY day, dammit!” at the top of your lungs. Of course you wouldn’t do that. Doing that would make your poor recovering brother feel worse about a situation nobody can control. It would also reveal that you are a terrible, horrible person. And the last thing you want to do is let that secret out of the bag.

So you graciously sign for the balloons that arrive at the front door on your day with a smile, or pretend that instead of Get Well Soon, the cookie bouquet somebody sent spells out Happy Birthday Cadiz. What does it matter anyway? You're still going to get to eat the cookies. Years later, you look back at your immature self and congratulate that kid inside for making the right call. Because with all the other stuff going on, the last thing your family needed back then was a whiny brat to make an already difficult situation unbearable.

If a spoiled princess like me had trouble relinquishing the spotlight a couple of times, I can’t imagine how terrible it is for people who are overlooked more often. Sure, they shrug it off as it's-okay-no-big-deal-don't-worry-about-it (always so agreeable, aren't they?) and never call their loved ones out for forgetting to invite them, or treating them unfairly, or not doing as much for them as they do for others. Perhaps they're content enough with themselves that it really doesn’t bother them. But honestly, I don’t buy one word of that crap. Nobody should feel like they are invisible, unless it's either buildup for a surprise party or else some tabletop canoodling a la Sixteen Candles. No matter how noble the reason, if you make a habit out of taking the back seat, it’s easy to start thinking you belong there.

Remembering people's birthdays is hard work, and the guilt of forgetting can be so pointlessly awkward. If you think about it, every date is pretty much the same anyway; they’re only made special when something is appreciated. Like just now, when my brother stayed up late to come down here, give me a hug and a kiss and wish me a Happy Birthday.

Let’s all celebrate this lovely day by calling up a person of value and telling them how cool they are, or giving somebody wonderful a big hug. You never know how many chances you're going to get to do it. And personally, I can’t think of a better occasion.


omar said...


My favorite part: "It would also reveal that you are a terrible, horrible person. And the last thing you want to do is let that secret out of the bag."

Does H read this blog? Because if so, the pressure is on you, man. A surprise flight into Chicago isn't going to cut it, this year. Something bigger... perhaps doing cartwheels all the way from Cali to Chicago while wearing an "I heart Cadiz12" t-shirt? That would certainly show devotion. It might be a little late to start your journey this year, though. File that away for next year.

angelciela07 said...

Happy Birthday Sweetie!!!
Your angels are thinking of you and your family! Enjoy the day, you deserve it!!!

Lia said...

Happy Birthday, Cadiz!

*insert virtual cookie arrangement*

That kid definitely made the right call, but what a tough call it is. Sometimes, after all, a little temper tantrum is cathartic.

Anonymous said...

Happy Birthday. You deserve some time off from worrying.

Is it just me, or do you agree that your brother's so-called "routine surgery" seems to have gotten out of hand?

Guyana-Gyal said...

I think we all feel we're horrible when we want attention and love and all the goodies at the 'wrong' times. And yeah, nobody should feel invisible. That's why it's good to have LOTS of cousins and friends who we can DEMAND things from!

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, CADIZ. Do something special for you.

And I hope your brother is better soon. I keep thinking now of Ale's rant against the pharmaceutical companies, I don't know why.

jazz said...

happy birthday baby!!!

Jon said...

Happy Birthday!! Has it really been another whole year?

I hope your brother gets back to his old self soon!

Radioactive Jam said...

"Hospital waiting rooms are not as fun as they sound" - I can't decide if that's A+ sarcasm, cynicism, understatement or just flat-out funny. I'm thinking all of the above.

You're a tough one (in a good way), and I'd be honored to have you as a sibling. Or as a child, for that matter. When the time comes you're going to make an A+ spouse and parent too, so you have that to anticipate.

And of course worry about, yes?

I'd tell you to hang in there but I know you already are, so - happy birthday. You're the best.

That's all.

Alexandra said...

hugs hugs hugs!!!

naechstehaltestelle said...

Happy Bday! I loved that your mom just went right back to watching her soaps. That's one tough cookie.

X said...

Happy birthday, chica.

she calmly took her own blood pressure (is that even accurate?)

You'd be surprised at how accurate. My mother's a nurse and she can guess blood pressure measurements by asking a couple of questions and feeling your brachial artery. Spooky stuff.


Librarian Girl said...

First of all: Happy Birthday! I am doing a little office chair dance for you as I type this. I totally am not kidding.

I am a huge fan of birthdays, just because it's a designated day to make sure you shower the people you love with attention. Everyone has a birthday, and everyone deserves some lovin'.

Great post!

Beenzzz said...

Happy Birthday, Cadiz!!!!

You know, it's really hard to be selfless 100% of the time. It's good that you got it all out. I hope for all the best with your brother and your mum, but especially you.

If I could, I would send you a bajillion balloons and a huge cookie arrangement.

Syar said...

Happy, happy birthday. I'm sorry I'm a day late and that all I can give are virtual good vibes.

I understand how you feel completely, mostly because that terrible, horrible person lives inside of me and I too am a whiny brat. It's hard not to feel spiteful.

But you hold it in well, and you do it for the people you love. Every post you just remind us of what a wonderful person you are.

So Happy Birthday Fantabulous.

Demosthenes said...

I would, but I don't have your number.

ML said...

HAPPY BIRTHDAY! I really hope you had a good day.

I hope good things for you and your family!

jinius said...

Im a little late on the bday train here but HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!!

You deserve more than a birthday cookie. Perhaps a birthday tri-level cake?

Here's to a year of good health. Lord knows youve logged in enough time at hospitals.

Becky said...

so i'm a total spaz and missed out on your birthday - not sure where i was, but it wasn't here, and i am so pissed at myself, because i would have made such a huge to-do about your birthday.

what are you, like 29? 28? you're just a young whippersnapper! i am glad that people were able to celebrate you, lay-off notwithstanding. here's to wonderful you, another year, and many more to follow!

Nadia said...

I'm a total idiot for taking this long to wish you. I blame The Man. Or limited downtime on account of exams. I'm not fussy.

Anyway, happy birthday, Cadiz! This was a great post, almost too unselfish to be believed (but I do), and I only hope that someday I have half the grace with which to face life as you do.

P.S. "No matter how noble the reason, if you make a habit out of taking the back seat, it’s easy to start thinking you belong there." Loved this.

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