The Man: lover of porn and pizza

In a few days time it will be one year since my 33-year-old brother died of heart failure. His name was Dan. Dan the man.  It is a sad reality of grief that I lie in bed every night missing my brother. It shocks me every night as my head hits the pillow, a whisper into my ear telling me my brother is dead, and I I hear it as if I have just heard the news for the first time. I let the shock pierce through my tummy and the tears well up in my eyes and I pretend it isn’t real and drift off to sleep. It’s not unusual for grief to hit anyone daily I’m sure, but the reason it always hits me at bed time is not just because it’s when I have some quiet in my day. It’s because trying to get to sleep and not being able to is inextricably linked with my brother – THAT BASTARD KEPT ME AWAKE EVERY NIGHT OF MY LIFE UNTIL I MOVED OUT OF HOME!

Let me tell you about The Man.  Dan was not of this world, and I like to sometimes think that’s why he was removed from it.
Dan was a big guy in every proportion, he had long brown hair, a hobo style beard and until his first heart scare in his early twenties, he enjoyed smoking a lot of bongs, smoking cigarettes  and cranking up the bass so you could feel it in every floorboard of the house. He argued about EVERYTHING. He loved Asian women and Pauline Hanson. He made no sense – and he was incredibly loved in spite, or perhaps because, of it.
Dan lived life exactly as he wanted to – he ate pizza at 3am while foraging through his suitcase – yes an entire suitcase – of porn. When I asked him to turn it down – porn really doesn’t require surround sound – he’d tell me: “I can’t hear you, the TV is too loud.” He was a star bowler, an archer, astronomer, and a car and aquarium expert.
He would put his massive head in front of you while you watched TV and demand you gave him a head-stroke.
He once tried to put my head in the oven because he didn’t like having a little sister take all the attention.  He would come into my room late at night and tell me he was scared and confused, or lonely, or excited about his next venture (he resold things off ebay, started a mobile seed business and planned to build an astronomy centre.)
He said my political views sucked. He told me I should be Prime Minister.
Dan had a mission to squeeze the nose of every animal God had created. He didn’t believe in God. He claimed to be a Jedi.
He watched a lot of Star Trek.
Dan said he thought my anxiety attacks were bullshit and he didn’t have time for them. When I once called him from a payphone in Thailand whimpering that I felt scared and panicky and wanted to come home, he stayed on the phone for hours telling me about all the normal boring things that were going on back in Sydney until I was happy and didn’t want to come home anymore.
Dan taught me about men’s bad intentions. He told me not to spend time with muscly testosterone-fuelled men then criticised my boyfriends for being too girly. He liked the boyfriend I have now. When I introduced them he took him to a shooting range.
I knew all of Dan’s secrets. Mostly because he told me, partly because I’d sneak into his room and go through his stuff when I wanted a cigarette. I blamed the cigarette smoke on him if my folks ever asked. I went through his video tapes and saw things I can never unsee.  Dan really liked asian women.
Dan loved to be a hero. If there was a car accident or someone getting harassed he was the first person to jump in and help. I sometimes wonder whether he could have saved himself through a better lifestyle. But he stopped smoking and doing drugs long ago, and it was really just his eating and non-exercise habits that remained. I find myself resenting people in their Golden Years who have managed to get away with their lifestyles. It probably wasn’t even his fault. Porn and pizza doesn’t kill a 33-year-old man. He was just unlucky. The cause of his death has never really been explained. He got some “weird flu” that “enlarged his heart”. Eleven years later he got another “weird flu” and all of a sudden I’m on the phone to him at work.
He says:
“Kim I don’t feel too good. The doctor says it’s my heart.”
“What about your heart – why did he send you home then; what did he say you need to do?”
“There’s nothing I can do. It’s my heart.”
I say “what do you mean, what did he say, what exactly is the situation?”
“I TOLD YOU!” he screams down the phone while walking through the isles of Woolworth’s with my father. “IT’S MY FUCKING HEART!”
We argued and one of us hung up the phone,  I don’t remember who. I’m glad I don’t remember.
The next call I received was from my father 24 hours later. I lived on the opposite side of the country when I got the call from my dad.
“It’s Dan. He’s not looking good. He has asked for you.”
I replied,  “What do you mean, he will be alright won’t he?”
“They don’t think he’ll make it through the night. Come home.”
Mercifully my boyfriend organised the next flight while  I vomited. The next flight was six hours away and it was another five hours to Sydney..
At some point in the airport I was robbed of my wallet. The taxi driver took pity on me when I arrived cashless and confused at emergency in Sydney later that day.
I walked into the room to find my family and some other people sitting in silence in a waiting room. I put down my backpack, made some ridiculous inappropriate joke then walked into intensive care to find Dan with his eyes taped shut and plastic tubes shoved into various orifices.
“I’m sorry,” someone said. ” He is in an induced coma. “I don’t think he will regain consciousness.”
He was later transferred to a hospital specialising in hearts.
There I met with all the extended family my brother fought to keep in contact with.
The surgeon, or someone showing some high degree of authority, brought us into a fluroscent room and told us the score.
He looked at a chart. Maybe it was a she, I honestly can’t remember.
“All of Daniel’s organs have failed. I’m sorry but I think it is only going to get worse,” they said.  “All we can do is wait and keep him alive on the machines and see what happens in the morning.”
They set up a bed for my mother and I and we had a short valium-induced sleep.
In the morning I visited Dan. His hands were cold and I could tell he was already gone in a sense.  I felt like that was the moment when I should be saying lots of gushy things. It wasn’t.
I jumped onto his massive body and told him he was a bastard.
“You fucking bastard I love you” I said while sprawled across his obese torso.
He had a much smaller nose than I remembered. His hair smelt nice.
The doctor asked to speak to my mother and I.
“I’m sorry his condition has worsened overnight. His heart has failed, his liver has failed, his kidneys have failed, his…
“I suppose he won’t be an organ donor!,” I interrupted with some bizarre and ill-fitted humour.
The doctor looked at me curiously. “We are going to have to shut the life support off today.” “Wait till my father gets here,” I asked.  Mum was pretty silent.
When dad arrived he gave Dan a stroke on his head then headed downstairs to roll a smoke. He told me that Dan is a tough, brave boy and he will be okay. I then realised no one told him about the life support being turned off at midday.  I knelt down in front of him and held his hand.
“They are shutting off the life support at midday, dadda.  He’s gone.”
My dad cried and his head whirred in misplaced guilt.
For the next few hours Dan got a few visitors and mum and I tried to organise a medical script for her. She was in the middle of chemotherapy for breast cancer and needed to make sure her medication was sorted. We sat in a city doctor’s waiting room as if we were any normal mother and daughter at the doctors – not two people with a few hours left before life support was to be removed from a son and brother.
 When midday came we pulled back the white curtain and gathered around him.  A gorgeous blonde nurse got a damp cloth and wiped away the muck from his face.. Dan would have liked the attention from this hottie, I thought.
My dad held Dan’s right hand, I held his left. My half brother Kit put a hand on his right thigh and my Godmother Sonja put her hand on his left. Mum sat behind the crest of his head and gave him the head-strokes he had always demanded. She kissed his forehead and smelt his hair. A priest dabbed oil on his forehead and we lay roses over his body.  He would have hated that wanky crap, but loved the attention.
I think it was the pretty nurse that turned off the machines. I like that it was her.
After a few minutes of his vital signs dropping Dan took a huge gasp. I think part of me was waiting for him to then sit up and laugh – PRANKED haha it was all an elaborate joke!
It was his last gasp. The heart monitor went flat.
The sheet went over his head and we were shuffled into the bleach-soaked corridor.
When I got to the family home I gave his dogs a love up then crawled into his bed, preparing myself for the phone calls I was to make.  I was never one to mince my words, and so many of his friends were greeted with: “Hey, it’s Kim Dan’s sister.  .. yes yes I am fine thanks.  Look. Dano is dead.”
I didn’t tell people that ” he had passed”. It didn’t feel like some spiritual passing over. Dan was dead and it was unfair. It sucked but it was the truth, and I was going to report it as such.
“Hey, it’s Kim, Dan’s sister. yeah yeah, I’m ok. But Dan isn’t. He is dead.”
That night I lay on a sheet on the floor of what was my childhood bedroom and endured the eery silence that I’d always wished for in the past as I had tried to sleep.
I couldn’t fathom my father’s pain. I certainly couldn’t bring myself to imagine my mother’s: her bald chemical ridden head and body lying nearby thinking about the son she had reared.
I couldn’t even fathom my own pain, and I still probably can’t. I just remember the peculiar feeling of wishing that fucking beautiful bugger was keeping me awake again – surround sound and all.
     
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