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home : insight & opinion : guest columns May 29, 2016

7/23/2014 11:17:00 AM
Looking at ourselves in 'the bean'
For the Daily News

It has been more than a year now since the big news for me was that my brother didn't die. 

I got the pro-forma call of notification to next of kin from the hospital in Kansas July 5, informing me in a rather perfunctory way that he had been found unconscious in his home, had apparently been that way for several days, and that they were now keeping vigil and would notify me when the end came, which was expected any time. I protested.

That began a series of exchanges, some pleasant, some not, which ultimately resulted in my exercising the power of attorney authorizing risky procedures against doctors' advice.  Most are uncertain enough already in such situations, and it did not help that the person about to perform the procedure was giving me the advice that it would probably do no good. 

Fortunately for me, I had the clear expression of his wishes set down to aid me, and thanks to the wonder of cell phones, was able to see them carried out over the nine-hour period it took me to drive there and be there to find that he survived - mostly.

Afterward, I got a good deal of "I told you so" remarks from his medical providers, who seemed disappointed with their result. I eventually decided he would be better off with people I knew and/ or trusted, and since I was once one of the attorneys who provided malpractice services to Carle Clinic, I had him taken there. He recovered, or more accurately he recovers, albeit at a glacial pace.

I had business in Chicago over the weekend and took him along.  He had never been to Millennium Park near the lakefront, and I wanted to show him what locals refer to as "the bean;" it no doubt has some official name, and if I used it, no one would know what I meant.  It is a gigantic, polished stainless-steel marvel the size of a small house that sits lightly on an elevated plaza, seeming almost to float there, as it reflects the city and all who come to gaze upon it.  It does what great art is meant to do - it makes you wonder.

It is a wonder that anyone conceived of making it at all, let alone actually did so and did it flawlessly. It is amazing the way it draws you in and distorts the world around it and you while showing you yourself in the process. You wonder whether that was intentional and what it was meant to illustrate.

Thousands flock to see it, touch it, and watch others do so. We sat on a bench in the shade on Saturday and looked at it, and them for some time and talked as I prodded his mind to see how it was working.  He tolerated me and what I was doing for the most part, but I should add that he doesn't know he's not who he once was. It is often the case that the delusional don't see it in themselves.

Oh, I don't mean that unkindly, I mean it sincerely.  To be fair, I am not who I once was either, nor likely are you.  We all leach out memories of things as time goes by, and some are more important than others.  We hold things dear or true which prove to be worthless or mistaken in time.

He still knows more things than most of us.  At one time he knew a great deal more, but that is not what troubles him now.  He thinks he is fine; nothing new there, he always did.  He thinks he is smarter than I am - again, not news. The fact that he cannot find his way back to the car, or recall what sort of car we came in, doesn't seem to register.  It's a problem so large he can't see it.

We left the city that night having been in Chicago proper for just under 12 hours.  I heard on the radio as we were leaving that in that time, 22 people had been shot. I was appalled. One, an 11-year-old girl, was dead from a shot to the head received through a second-story window as she attended a sleepover at a girlfriend's house. The circumstances of the others varied, but the results were the same - lives ruined by bullets from guns that facilitated the reach of an irresponsible or even malicious act by someone who deserves to be punished but will probably never be found. 

Guns, and those who say there can never be any limits on who can have them, are a problem. They may not be the only problem, but it is undeniable that they are a factor. It is a sickness to tolerate the murder of children in the name of a right to bear arms that was originally meant to keep our Minutemen prepared when the Redcoats came.  Some may now have an urge to shoot me for saying so, but don't see that as a problem, either.

I agreed with the radio commentator's observation that proponents of concealed-carry have no idea what they have done to hinder the efforts of law enforcement to end this madness in the neighborhoods of Chicago.  It makes us wonder.  What is played out as a consequence is not art, but it does show us a distorted image of ourselves when we reflect upon why we are so willing to let our children die so we might feel safer because we have arsenals of our own in our homes.

I am happy to be safely home and glad to report that my brother enjoyed the weekend and is again safely in the care of those who will see to it that his distorted thoughts don't harm him or anyone else. Now if I could just find some way to do that with the other things that have our world seeing through such hateful eyes, we might find some peace.

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