Yesterday, I visited an ex brother in law who's been in a California nursing home for 12 years. He ended up there after a stroke in the County Jail. By the time he received medical care he'd lost use of half his body.
For several years every two weeks I've sent him a money order to supplement his small Social Security check. His family used to get pissed at me. They said that he gets everything he needs at the facility. That he just uses the extra money I give him to buy alcohol, marijuana or pills.
But I told them I didn't care what he did with the money. That never once in the 52 years I've know him has he expressed a desire to get sober and clean. And that if he was interested he knows he could ask me for help in that area.
While we're visiting on the facility patio several other residents are also chatting, smoking and visiting. Several of them can barely talk. Others are drooling on themselves, One is wearing a helmet so if he has a seizure he won't get hurt too badly. All are in wheelchairs. Some of the garbled conversations I overhear make no sense.
As we sit there I recall many years ago when we used to party together, when he was known as the "Brown Bomber." As that time he was 200 pounds of muscle who loved nothing more than fighting in bars with 3 to 4 people at once. It wasn't that he was mean or angry. It was just something he liked to do.
And now, as I gaze at his wasted 120 pound frame I reflect on how life changes us all over time. How we all experience losses of some kind.
And that what we can really count on is that nothing stays the same.
I leave the visit thinking about gratitude and how we should appreciate the blessings we have in our lives.