Thursday, June 23, 2016

Tim, Just One Last Post

This is a continuation of some of my thoughts about my brother Tim who recently passed away from colon cancer. The previous post is here.

We mostly made small-talk as we drove around passing time before the anesthesia no longer posed a problem and I could drop him off. I did bring up faith and God at one point. It seemed that Tim had drifted away from his faith over the past several years as he consumed a steady diet of Christopher Hitchens YouTube videos while often sharing them on Facebook. I do think he had a faith but not one that could fit neatly into the confines of any religion and not a faith that he was inclined to talk about, at least not with me. He was fine with Tammy and me praying over him at the hospital before his upper endoscopy procedure.

He commented more than once about his desire for something solid to eat -- a hamburger or a hotdog. He couldn't wait to get back to Old Country Buffet but without any kind of appetite, nothing appealed to him now. He continued to shed weight -- about 100 pounds since last fall.

On Tuesday, June 7th we took him to see his doctor and we were with him for the news about the surgeon's findings from the previous Thursday. As we expected, the news wasn't good. Tim's cancer had metastasized in his chest and was now considered to be stage 4 which meant his condition was terminal. Tammy and I were certain before going into the meeting that the councel from Dr Gall would center around hospice care but there was very little mention of that. He wanted to start Tim on a six week course of chemotherapy. He stressed more than once that he has patients who live for years with cancer where before they'd survive for maybe six months.

Tim was relieved -- "I'm glad it's manageable -- those are words I wanna hear" but neither Tammy nor I were convinced. We had seen Tim age 20 years in the past 8 months but the doctor wasn't privy to that change. Dr Gall's words to Tim were: "You're not the picture of health by any means but you're still well enough to treat and that's why we're not having a hospice discussion today."

Tim would die 8 days later.

We spoke on Monday morning and Tim seemed pleasant on the phone. That was the last time we talked. I texted him Thursday afternoon but there was no response. Jackie called me at 7:00 Friday night to tell me that Kris (the woman he rented his room from) contacted her to say that Tim had died in his bed and to ask if I could go to his place and meet with the police.

It was such a sad scene inside.

We could've maybe gotten him into hospice but Tammy is pretty certain that he wouldn't have stayed and I think she's right. They actually wanted to admit him to the hospital just a few days earlier for observation but he walked out against doctor's orders and caught a cab home.

In looking at his cellphone, his last outgoing message was at 9:12 Wednesday morning to Kris and it didn't make sense in the context of the texts preceding it; he wrote "Asprin". There were several text messages that went unanswered beginning around noon. I can only guess that he died sometime Wednesday morning. There was no autopsy performed to make a more definitive determination and without one they would list his date of death as Friday the 17th, when he was found.

Looking back I feel bad that we were never able to take Tim into our home to live with us as we'd intended to so we could make his last days as comfortable as possible. Despite the relatively optimistic words his doctor was saying it was evident to us that his needs were more than we were prepared to take on.

Tracee, Keith and I were back at his townhouse a few days later to remove all of Tim's belongings. It's hard to know what to keep and what to throw out. As we were leaving I placed a plastic penguin Tim had been hanging onto for at least the last 30 years in with the trash. I didn't want it and I figured nobody else would either.

Later that night as I was laying in bed I was thinking about all of the stuff of Tim's we were throwing away and how we were sort of removing any physical memory of him as well. I thought about that simple, plastic, hollow penguin and decided that I really did want it after all as a memento of Tim -- and I had the perfect spot for it in our garage where I have it now and where it will remain for as long as I'm around.

Tim loved his guitars but in all of the time I've known him to play I never once sat down with him and asked him to play something for me. I never heard him play. I have much regret over that now but not only that; I think of how I should've done a better job of reaching out to him in other ways and taking the time to show some interest in the things that were important to him. He was skilled with his RC helicopters and once tried to show me how to fly one. I should've come back and taken more lessons from him. I get that it's not all on me but a significant part of us not connecting most definitely was my fault.

Tim's good friend Tony races at Elko Speedway on Saturday nights. Going to the track to watch Tony and the other drivers was one of Tim's favorite pastimes when he was well enough. Tony posted to his Facebook page last Friday "TOMORROW I RACE FOR YOU Tim Gilmore". I saw that and thought we really need to go and be there in honor of Tim -- so we did.

We got there plenty early and watched the crowd filter in as the drivers competed in the qualifying rounds. We kept looking for Tony on the track but we didn't see him. Then Tammy saw on his Facebook page where someone had written that he was hard at work trying to replace the clutch in his car and would hopefully be done in time for the main event.

A prayer was said before the racing began and in it there was a small acknowledgment to Tim and two others who had passed away recently. I was not expecting that and found it very moving.

Tony made it to the main event but he was positioned in last place. It was going to be next to impossible for him to challenge for the lead but he still did well. He passed several cars as he raced his heart out in honor of Tim. I caught some video of him (beginning at 1:30, car #7 in the video below) as I sat there watching with a huge lump in my throat and tears in my eyes as I imagined Tim being with us and enjoying the scene. Tony finished 12th out of 20.

I'm leaving for Lutsen in the morning for a mountain bike race on Saturday. I have no illusions of winning anything in Tim's honor but you can be sure he'll be on my mind the entire way.

Until we meet again, Tim...


John Hill said...

Nice post, Kevin.

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thank you, John. It was helpful for me to more better understand my feelings about Tim and my love for him.

David Bryan Gilmore said...

Sorry I haven't commented on this till now... trying to catch up on things after the reunion.
Great heart felt thoughts you wrote about Tim.
He was hard to love these past few years but deep down most of us knew that something was wrong. Tim wasn't his normal funny self.
It's easy to get mad at someone when they don't respond the way you would hope or act in a reasonable way... but there are times when we all would fit that mold I think.
It's so sad that he never married, had kids or what we would consider a "normal" life.
After he passed, my memories of some of the few times we spent together... just he and me, came back.
He was very proud of things he accomplished. I went to his workplace many years ago and he walked me through a process he had developed to improve how he did his job... I can't recall exactly what it was but I remember him being very anxious to show me... he was very proud of that.
I recall going to his elementary school class dressed in my "blues" when I was home on leave and talk a bit about the Navy.
And of course there was the 40th minus one surprise birthday party for me when he and I did Putt-Putt golf up in Anoka as I recall it while trying to keep me in the dark while everyone parked cars down the street and hid in the house.
Since we were 12 years apart we didn't spend much time together in the early years and when I came home from the navy, got married and created a family, we never connected very often other than at family gatherings and even then he didn't always show up to them.
His guitar collection was another thing he held dear. He borrowed my Hofner Beatle Bass for a number of months to use with a small garage band I think. I got it back damaged but he had fun with it and I guess I forgave him for that.
These classic photos with him and family are representative of him over his life. When you look at him posing in his youth it's obvious that he was the family "ham" in front of the camera. Some of the 8mm movies I have of him also show this.
The classic best is the one of him sitting on Dwight's lap when we took a motorcycle vacation in the U.P..
And of course are all of the photos of you and he with the cousins. Many taken when I was in the navy.
So thanks for writing this and compiling those photos.
Love from another brother.

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thanks for adding your thoughts to the comments here, Bryan.

Those are some good memories. It's hard to believe or accept that he's no longer among us. I never saw his life playing out like this when we were younger. To me he was always the golden boy -- the one who could do no wrong. I anticipated his adult life going much the same way as his younger years but he had other ideas.

He was one of the funnier ones in the family and I sometimes wonder if he used his humor to keep us at an arm's length, never allowing us to get too close to him. I can't think of many serious discussions we had when we were younger. We've had a few in recent times but they were more out of desperation while trying to talk to him about concerns I was having for him.

I'm surprised your guitar didn't make it back in the same condition you lent it to him. His guitars I'm holding onto are like new.

Thanks for the reminder about the 8mm movies. I embedded one at the end of the photos. There quite a lot of Tim clowning around in it.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Kevin, for your thoughts and information about Tim. Very nicely written. I was a friend of Tim's, and Tina too. Tim sent me a message on Facebook and told me of the cancer but I didn't realize just how serious it was and was so sorry to hear of his sudden passing. Sorry for your loss. Take care, Jackie

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thank you, Jackie and I'm sorry for your loss of Tim as well. He will be missed by us all.

Kelsey said...

Tim was an amazing guitar player. He taught me how to play. I remember he stayed with me and Cole one weekend when my parents were out of town. We spent hours just trimming chords. Thanks for this, Kevin.

Kevin Gilmore said...

Thanks for your comment, Kelsey. It makes me even more disappointed that I never heard him play when we were together.

He gave me a recording of a song he said he did with some friends at St Cloud State when he was attending there in the mid '80s. He told me he played bass in the song. It's an impressive bit of music. Here's a link -- Homicide. If I recall correctly he said the lead singer was the son of Bobby Vee or some such person of noteable fame.

Are you interested in taking possession of his guitars and amps? I think you would appreciate them more than anyone else could and I'm sure he'd be happy knowing they were with you.