April 17, 2011

what's in a question?

I am often asked, "how is your brother?"  On the surface, such a simple question really.  But it has become increasingly puzzling for me to answer.  I truly wonder what people mean by it.  Do they want to know everything?  Do they want the truth as seen through my eyes or my brother's?  Are they just being polite?  Do they want a simple summation?  Or, are some, as I strongly suspect, wanting me to answer how they wish him to be?
  • How - the adverb meaning "in what manner or way"
  • is - the intransitive verb meaning "to have an objective existence."  Think Hamlet's 'to be or not to be' soliloquy and all the philosophical baggage with that.
  • your - the adjective meaning "of or relating to you"
  • brother - the noun meaning "a male with a common parent"

So, in the fragile confines of my mind, this question has come to mean to me, "in what manner is the one whom you shared your childhood with existing at this point in time?"  Ah, it becomes a bit clearer to me now, though a bit less savory to answer.  Do I show how his daily life is filled with trips to MD Anderson like this?
Or, do I perhaps give the most recent medical finding that he's struggling with such as this?  "Patient presents with bilateral parasthesia of the maxillary branch of the trigeminal nerve, demonstrates no gag reflex, unmitigated weight loss, a "foggy head", severe fatigue and poorly controlled diffuse bony pain.  As cranial nerves V, IX, and X are becoming increasingly impaired, evaluate for potential brain mets or intracranial pressure through bony involvement of the skull/leptomeningeal disease.  Proceed with radiation to the base of the skull and systemic Tarceva.  Followup in 1 month."
Or, maybe do I reveal how people across all different backgrounds, united by their own desire to provide any comfort possible to those in pain have come to help in their own ways?
(picture by our mom taken at the hotel my brother's staying at near MD Anderson.  Includes my brother and his wife sandwhiched by two of our cousins from the Great White North, eh)

All are equally true in their own fashion.

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