“It’s time to get up boys. Off to work – there’s cash in the meal stash.”
They almost orchestrated their response, “Ok mum, have a good day.” After all they were identical twins. This ritual of fending for themselves had been their daily routine five days a week since Granny had died when they were just ten.
Ben and Bert were happy-go-lucky lads who appreciated all mum had done for them. She had struggled to support them when dad left just before they were born. When they reached fifteen they couldn’t recall what dad even looked like. He had visited a few times in the early years but they couldn’t remember – eventually he disappeared.
By the time they reached eighteen both their weights had ballooned from eating too much junk fast-food. Ben was 252lbs and Bert 280lbs. That Christmas a friend bought Ben a health manual titled, ‘Avoiding the Hazards of Obesity’. It was a book that set the twins on dissimilar lifestyles.
Ben started pumping the weights. He would say, “Bro, come and join me down the gym.” Bert much preferred to pump fast-food into his gut. So he ignored the offers.
Bert’s bro Ben slimmed down to a 6ft muscular 182lbs. He married Sue when he was twenty six and they had two lovely girls by the time he was thirty. He had studied hard and was now a practicing lawyer. They were happy with a good fulfilling family life.
Bert’s life went in a different direction. When he reached thirty he weighed in at 450lbs and suffered from the effects and discomforts of diabetes. He often said to Ben, “I wish I’d have had your will power back then, but now it’s too late.”
Ben’s response was always, “It’s never too late Bro – why don’t you give it go?” But he never did.
When their mum died of cancer Bert seemed to go on a quick downward spiral with his health. High blood pressure and cholesterol level gave Bert heart problems. He had to have a bypass, at just thirty five, which didn’t quite work and left him so breathless he spent the majority of his time in a wheel chair.
Ben would check on Bert most days and he invariably left distraught by his bro’s disabilities. Sue would say, “Ben you have been a brilliant brother, you’ve done all you could.” He wished there was more he could have done but he knew deep down he had done his best.
The Pilger family had just arrived home from Church and the phone rang, “Daddy, it’s the Hemingfield hospital for you.”
“Yes!…....Thank you!” Ben put the phone down ashen faced. “Oh no, it’s Uncle Bert – he’s had a stroke and we need to go immediately.”
It was too late; he’d passed away at 12.10 pm at the young age of thirty eight. Ben couldn’t believe that Bert was gone. When he saw him he wept but thought, ‘At least he’s free now from all his pains and disappointment at life.’
It was a sunny day when they interred the body of Bert. It felt as if Ben was losing part of himself; they had always been close even in the womb. Now Bert was gone forever.
After they all had left the graveside Ben remained. Again he wondered if he could have done more to save Bert and encourage him into a better lifestyle.
As he looked down into the grave he read part of the brass inscription, ‘Albert Pilger died June 29th 1997 age 38 years.’
His mother had called him Albert after his father. She secretly hoped to encourage him to return but he was never there for any of them – then or now for that matter. Ben thought, ‘He doesn’t deserve to hold the same name as my bro.’
He slipped his hand into his pocket and pulled out a sprig from one of Bert’s much loved plants.
He gently dropped his favorite orchid into the grave and stood and watered it with his tears.
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