The Passing of a Brother

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I grew up on Belmark Street in southeast Houston in a neighborhood called Overbrook back in the nineteen fifties and sixties. We were a close knit community then. Many of us went to the same church and Catholic School, Mt. Carmel. People were relatively settled during that era so I generally had the same folks living around me from the time I was eight years old until I graduated from high school in 1966. Nonetheless I fondly remember a time when new family moved into a home one street over from ours.

The Hulin family immediately fascinated me because it was somewhat like my own in that it was not typical of the times. While I lived with a single parent mom, the Hulins lived with their father and grandmother. The two kids were Patrick and Sandy and to my delight they were close to me in age, in fact Pat or “Bud’ as his family called him was in the same grade as I was. My mom almost instantly became close to Pat and Sandy’s grandmother and so it wasn’t long before I was climbing the back fence to go visit the wonderful new people who had so pleasantly arrived in our little subdivision.

The Hulin family welcomed me with open arms and I felt so comfortable around them that I rather quickly developed little crush on Pat much like thirteen year olds are prone to do. He was a rather nice looking guy with a very sweet smile and a friendly nature. In the end however I decided that Pat might be better as a brother because I dreamed of his dad and my mom getting together and making us a family. I couldn’t think of anything nicer than having a fabulous brother like Pat and a real sister like Sandy. I even adored Pat’s grandmother so my fantasies included her as well.

I remember a summer just before my eighth grade year when Mr. Hulin took me swimming with Pat and Sandy at a club pool to which they belonged. When he learned that I was a nervous swimmer he worked patiently to help me improve my skills and Pat was my biggest cheerleader. Pat was literally the first young man my age around whom I felt totally at ease aside from my male cousins. He had a very calming presence and a way of making me feel relaxed and happy. I viewed him as a wonderful friend.

In the eighth grade Pat had a little romantic fling with one of my best mates. I was happy that they got together but I saw less and less of Pat after that. Once we both started high school our opportunities to get together seemed to be even more limited. We were all placed with a certain group of students who became somewhat like a small school within a school for all four years. I rarely had interactions with Pat during the academic day and once I got home I was always busy with studying.

Even though Pat and Sandy and the rest of their family were only a block away we slowly grew apart. I was too old to climb fences and never seemed to make the time to walk all the way around to the next block but I kept a very warm feeling about Pat in my heart because he and the Hulins had always been so hospitable and kind. Of course, I also set aside my fantasy that we would somehow become a family when I realized that my mom and Pat’s dad were not interested in being anything more than friends.

After high school I busied myself with new adventures at college. By the time I was nearing my twentieth birthday I had married my sweetheart Mike and moved away. I never heard much about Pat Hulin or his sister until the fiftieth reunion of my high school class of 1966. I saw Pat for the first time then and he was was as amiable as ever but not doing well health wise. I applauded his courage in dealing with the issues that were so obviously plaguing him but I worried because he appeared to be so unwell.

We only had a passing opportunity to greet each other. There was so much going on that night but I really wanted to know more about him and find out what he had been doing during all of those years that we had not seen each other. I still thought of what a wonderful brother he would have made but I knew it would have seemed silly to tell him so. Those were of course the fantastical dreams of a thirteen year old and not to be taken seriously so far down the road of life.

I’ve become Facebook friends with Pat’s sister Sandy over time and I have enjoyed seeing how well she is doing. It was with great sorrow that I recently read a post from her announcing that Pat had died. The tributes that members of our Class of ’66 have written all confirmed what I had always known about Pat Hulin. He was indeed a very sweet person and I believe a courageous one as well. I wish that the times were not so unusual because I would surely travel to participate in his funeral or memorial even though it would be in the next state over. It would be just like climbing the fence back when we were kids.

I have no doubt that Patrick Hulin is with the angels. He had earned his wings a long time ago when he was so gentlemanly and kind to a little girl who needed a good friend to be like a brother. I hope that he is enjoying his beautiful reward in heaven. He is someone who really deserves an eternity of happiness and good health.

Who Are You Staying Home For?

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Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York created a campaign called “Who Are You Staying Home For?” It puts the rationale for our stay at home advisories into perspective because there are valid reasons for each of us to isolate not just for ourselves but for the good of someone else. It got me to thinking about my intentions for keeping to myself for almost five weeks now.

I have to admit that I do not wish to contract Covid-19. I tend to believe that if I were to do so I would survive just fine, but I don’t know that for sure. Exposing myself to the virus would be a kind of Russian roulette that our healthcare workers are forced to endure on a daily basis. They don’t need another case to deal with and so it would be incredibly selfish of me to flaunt the directives and potentially place myself in harms way. So I stay home for all of the dedicated individuals who are responding so valiantly to caring for those unfortunate souls who have somehow caught the virus. I hope that somehow I and others might lighten their load if we manage to stay well.

I’ve also been quite worried about my husband, Mike. He only recently had surgery to correct major blockage in the arteries of his heart. He is doing well but I believe that if he were to catch Covid-19 it would be quite dangerous. He’s seventy two years old with heart disease, a combination that does not bode well for anyone who comes down with the virus. I am vigilantly staying away from any situation that might be a source of the disease. I order all of my groceries and when they arrive I have a routine for disinfecting them that I use religiously. My hands are cracked and quite ugly from all of the washing to which I have subjected them. I am obsessively compulsive about taking all of the precautions quite soberly knowing that if I get flippant and catch Covid-19 there is a good chance that I will infect Mike.

I’m staying home for the people that I have never met who might accidentally catch the virus from me if I become infected and travel brazenly around my neighborhood and my city. I don’t want to be that person who spreads disease because I am unwilling to be careful. I don’t want to be someone who assumes that we are being duped into a draconian situation that is based on some grand hoax. If I flaunt the rules and I am wrong I will only be complicit in prolonging society’s suffering. I’m staying home so that we have a chance at getting back to normal sooner rather than later.

I’m staying home because I truly believe that God has given us the intellect to know what we must do not just to save ourselves but also as many of our fellow humans as possible. He has placed many brilliant doctors and scientists in our midst who believe that if we can flatten the curve of contagion there will be fewer lives lost. Why would I not listen to the experts? Why would I be so arrogant as to believe that without any knowledge of viruses and medicine I know more than those who have studied these things?

I’m staying home for my children and grandchildren so that they will have one less person to worry about because I know that they are indeed concerned about me. I want them to be confident that I am going to be fine because I am not taking any unnecessary risks. Staying inside my house is a very small sacrifice to provide them with a greater sense of well being.

I’m staying home because this virus really is novel. There is so much more that we must learn about it. I want the rise of emergencies to subside enough that those who study such things will have more time to discover the secrets of Covid-19. We have to know exactly how it works and what if anything is capable of stopping it both before and after it happens. I want to help clear the hospital decks so that this kind of work can commence without interruption.

I’m staying home because I know that it is the right thing to do. I understand that sometimes my liberties must be secondary to the good of all. I may have a right to be cavalier but if doing so endangers others then I am wrong to insist on bucking the system.

I’m staying home so that those who have lost their jobs may possibly get back to work sooner rather than later. I understand that we must all make sacrifices and be willing to help each other even when we are once again allowed to emerge into the outside world.. There will be much need for support and I want to be healthy and ready to do my part.

Who are you staying home for?