When I discovered that Bobby had taken mom’s car, I had decided that I would not say anything to my mom about it. I wanted her to focus on getting over her pneumonia rather than trouble her with bad news. Besides, as of Sunday afternoon she was still disoriented and rambling incoherently most of the time. As I drove to the hospital, I was pondering what to do about Bobby. One thing I knew I could not do was to let him continue to stay at mom’s apartment.
As I entered mom’s hospital room, I saw Bobby hunched over her and feeding her pudding with a spoon. “Oh please!” I thought to myself as I watched him playing the role of a dutiful son. I walked around to the other side of the bed and placed my hand on mom’s right leg as a gesture of reassurance. Mom looked up at me and began to speak. “Thomas,” she said weakly, “I understand there has been a dispute.” I glanced over at Bobby with daggers in my eyes. While I had hoped to shield her from all of this until I felt she was ready to hear it, Bobby had used his time alone with her to make a preemptive strike and try to undermine me by getting her forgiveness.
Mom mumbled something about giving Bobby a second chance. I looked over at Bobby and said sternly “I would like to talk with mom alone for a few minutes.” Bobby’s blue eyes glowered at me from behind his weathered visage. “What for?” he asked. “Look,” I replied, “you have had her all to yourself for the last two hours. Now it’s my turn.” He took a deep breath, nodded, and walked out of the room.
I began to explain to my mom that on Friday night, Bobby’s priority was himself, not her. If I had been delayed in getting home from Manhattan, she would have been alone for much longer and if she had tried to get up again to walk, she might conceivably have fallen again and hit her head on the night table or the dresser. It was because of me that she was in the hospital getting the medical attention that she needed. Furthermore, it was easy for her to be in a more forgiving mood because it was I, not she, who was forced to deal with him taking her car. Bobby returned to the room after a few minutes and we stayed a little while longer. I told Bobby we had to leave because Dawn and Michael had a New Years Eve party to attend shortly.
After mulling it over, I came to a decision that while not entirely satisfactory to me, would achieve my primary goal. From all of the history books I had devoured, I remembered that when civilized states found themselves plagued by barbarian tribes raiding their frontiers and the states were too distracted to deal with them militarily, they would resort to buying the barbarians off with tribute to make them go away. I told Bobby that I would put him up in a nearby motel for two nights at my expense and at the end of those two days we would take it from there. He grumbled about it at first but then became quiet, asking only that he be allowed to go to mom’s apartment to get the rest of his things. After that I dropped him off at the Days Inn motel near mom’s apartment and told him I would call him the next morning when I was ready to go back to the hospital.
The next evening, the night before he was to check out of the motel, Bobby mentioned nothing further to me about where he would be staying the rest of the week. I guess he sensed that I would not budge on mom’s apartment. The next morning he was scheduled to work on the construction job in the city. He said that when he checked out, he would leave his bags with the front desk and I would come by later to pick them up when I formally paid for the room and got my security deposit back. With my wife having the day off, my son back in kindergarten and my daughter back in day care, I looked forward to an easy day. But when I went to the front desk at the Days Inn and inquired about Bobby’s things, the girl behind the counter said she did not know anything about it. She called Bobby’s room and said “Your brother’s here.” She then turned to me and said “You can go up.” I sighed wearily. “Now what?” I thought. When I got up to his room and he opened the door, he looked like hell. His room smelled almost as badly as my basement did the night he slept there. “What happened?” I asked. He told me he was sick all night throwing up and that he hardly slept. As it was still several hours before check-out time, I told him to go back to bed for a while and get some more sleep while I attended to some errands. So much for a peaceful day.
I returned around noon to pick him up. As he was flat broke, I took him to a Chinese take-out and got him a cup of wonton soup and dropped him off at the hospital, as I still had other things to attend to. To cut to the chase, when I returned to the hospital again the evening after having picked up my children and bringing them home, mom was again babbling about forgiveness. Bobby left the room at some point and again I reminded her that it was easy for her to be forgiving because she was not aware of what had happened when it happened and that I was the one who was forced to deal with the situation. When Bobby returned to the room, I told him it was time for me to go home. I asked him where he wanted me to take him, and he said the Hicksville train station. He told me he would spend the night in Penn Station. Maybe he hoped I would take pity on him and offer to put him up in a motel room for the night, but to his credit he did not ask, nor did he mention mom’s noises about forgiveness. As I pulled into the parking lot, he asked me if I could give him some food money as he was not due to be paid until Friday, three days later. Because I happened to have a lot of cash on me at the moment, I threw him $50, which I figured would last him until he got paid. I resolved to myself that he would not get another cent from me.
I saw him the next evening, January 3, when I stopped by the hospital with my children. He again left the room to allow me and the kids to be alone with mom. Because my wife was working that night, and I had to feed and bathe the kids for school by myself, I had to leave after a few minutes. I did not notice Bobby sitting on the couch in the lobby as I walked by, but he saw me and called my name. I told him that I had to take the kids home and said goodbye and left. Thus far, that has been the last time I have seen him or spoken with him.
(Coming next: The Conclusion)