I’m sure you’ve all heard the old adage, “April showers bring May flowers” or “Into each life some rain must fall.” These two sayings remind me of what I hope was the most challenging time in my life, my third year in law school.
The last year of law school is a horrible time in a person’s life. You’re at the end of a long and arduous process that is designed to destroy your ego, self-esteem and social skills. There is this agony of having to complete courses while your mind is completely focused on the biggest and excruciating test you’ll ever have to take in your life — the bar exam.
My third year was an exercise in seeing just how much stress I could take. I was living in a dark, dank, hovel of an apartment that I rented for a reduced rate because I “managed” the building for a Santa Monica property management firm. My mother was in her early 70s at that time. She underwent heart bypass surgery, and I found out about it when my oldest brother called to tell me she survived surgery.
Two weeks later, my other brother called me and asked me to take him to the doctor. This was curious because he was 14 years my senior, and as a 42-year-old man he was ostensibly in good shape.
It was Tuesday, April 4 that he called me. I remember having to leave work to take him to a doctor in Brentwood. My formerly hearty and hale big brother, the man who won the award for the most wins and most losses in one season for the UC Riverside wrestling team, could barely walk.
His personality was there, he was upbeat and charming as always, but he was unsteady on his feet. The doctor saw him, and diagnosed him as being severely dehydrated, and in need of immediate hospitalization to treat a lung infection.
I’m sure the doctor realized my brother was in late stage alcoholism. At 42 he’d lost a career, a wife, his friendships were in tatters and now his health was failing. The direction from the doctor was to be hospitalized immediately.
But that’s not what happened.
My brother was a smart guy, too smart really for his own good. He was a lawyer, stockbroker, and life insurance agent. He was so smart that he knew the doctor was overreacting when he said to go to the emergency room and get treatment. Earlier that year, when one of his oldest friends from college, a doctor himself, tried to convince my brother of his alcoholism based on the damage done to his liver. My brother’s reaction was to determine that the human body only needs 20 percent of the liver to survive.
So when we left the doctor’s office with a prescription for anti-biotics we headed to a Rite-Aid instead of emergency aid, because my brother knew better than his doctors. At the Rite-Aid as we waited for the prescription to be filled, he bought a bottle of Gatorade to combat the dehydration, and a bottle of vodka to mix with the Gatorade.
I had to go back to work, but as I left the house where my brother was staying, when I reached the front door, I looked back to see my big brother at a cheap Formica table, with the little old lady he was renting a room from, and he called to me, saying, “I love you David.” I said I know, and left. That would be the last thing he ever said to me.
The next morning, as I was preparing for work I received a call from that little old lady that she couldn’t wake my brother, who had fallen asleep in the hallway. I knew.
I knew he was dead. I told her to call 911, but I knew.
When I got to the house, I was told officially what I had been sitting in traffic dreading.
That was April 5, 1995. I spent the day waiting to speak to my oldest brother, who would have to break the news to my mother that her middle son was dead. I was scared of her reaction as she was recovering from heart surgery. I was scared that it would cause her to die. She didn’t. She was a trooper and kept on going for years afterward. I made it through that third year of law school and now I practice family law in Santa Monica.
The memories of that period of my life are the showers of April for me, the changes in my life since then are the flowers. I miss my brother, but every April I have the chance to remember him, and to be grateful for the flowers of today.
David Pisarra is a family law attorney focusing on father’s rights and men’s Issues in the Santa Monica firm of Pisarra & Grist. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (310) 664-9969.