Wednesday, June 2, 2010

My Life With Comic Books: Part # 106

The current cast of characters:
Paul Howley: age 41
Mal Howley: my wife
My brother Rick and his wife Lori


My youngest brother, Rick, was only six years old when I got married so we weren’t very close when he was really young but there had been a period of time when we got to know each other pretty well. In the late 1970’s and very early 1980’s Rick worked with me at the many baseball card conventions where I set up booths of cards to sell. Even though he was only a teenager, he had a good head for math and knew more about sports and the players than I did. It required long hours and hard work at these card shows, but we had a fun time together. But after Mal and I had our son, Adam, we weren’t attending as many card shows anymore and as Rick got older he got more involved in school, sports, and girls.

Rick eventually married his high school “sweetheart,” Lori, and they had a son, Jordan. Rick was a hard-working man who frequently worked over sixty hours each week at a physically demanding job in order to provide a good lifestyle for his family. They bought a nice home in a quiet rural town because they wanted to have a pleasant and safe place to raise Jordan. Even though it required Rick to drive a long way to work each day, Rick was willing to sacrifice a lot for his family.

In April of 1996, Lori was pregnant again, this time with twins. As they were preparing for life with twins, they were stunned when Lori began to have complications during her 19th week of pregnancy. She was hospitalized in Boston from that time on. During the 28th week of her pregnancy, it was determined that an emergency surgery was needed and Lori gave birth to Ryan and Tyler Howley on October 23rd. The two tiny babies each weighed only two pounds, two ounces and had serious health concerns. While Lori was on another floor, recovering from the surgery, the doctors told Rick that Ryan wasn’t going to make it. Rick held Ryan in his arms as he died. Rick then had to bring Ryan to Lori so she could say her “goodbyes.”

I couldn’t possibly understand what Rick and Lori went through during those weeks. Lori had been hospitalized far away from their home for nine weeks. Rick had visited Lori in Boston as often as possible and he also had to deal with going to work and keeping as much of a normal life as possible for Jordan. Some of us helped out by taking care of Jordan when we could, but much of the time, Rick handled it all. Now they had lost Ryan and Tyler was in danger. They also had to arrange a funeral for Ryan.

Although I don’t remember all of the details of the funeral and burial, I’ll never forget the intense look of sadness on my brother’s face at the cemetery. As I watched him live through this tragedy I wished I could help to relieve his emotional pain but I had little to offer him.

A high school English teacher had convinced me that death was just “part of life.” I wasn’t an emotional human being and death rarely surprised me. I still felt very saddened by the death of those people who were close. I understood why people would cry but I was unable to let the emotion out. In his time of need, I wasn’t a “good” brother for Rick.

Rick and Lori’s new son, Tyler, continued to lose weight and soon weighed only one pound, eleven ounces. It was a scary time for them as they waited for Tyler to become healthy and strong enough to be released from the hospital. Thankfully, he survived and is a healthy young boy today.

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