|Family Reunion: My Brother Lonnie, Sister Jacqui (Umi), and Me.|
There are at least two very good reasons for this.
One, to the best of my recollection, none of my friends have ever met him.
And two, I was raised as an only child.
I'm sure those explanations require their own explanations, but before I get to that let me get to this: my brother, Lionel – or Lonnie, or Limabean to his besties – is in desperate need of a heart transplant.
He was diagnosed with congestive heart failure two years ago and currently is on the transplant waiting list at Spectrum Hospital in Grand Rapids. Even when a match is found, however, he still will need additional funds to pay for the hospital expenses and medications his insurance will not cover.
So a GoFundMe account has been established on his behalf in hopes of raising at least $10,000 for his medical bills.
Click here for the link to Lonnie's GoFundMe page. Please give if you can, and generously. Any amount at all is deeply appreciated. And as always, I would never ask you to do something I wouldn't do myself.
And do you find it bizarre and incredible, as I do, that two siblings should grow up to both need organ transplants –– for different organs? What is that, bad blood? Weak cells? Damaged DNA? Whatever the cause, I only pray that my brother may find an organ donor as perfectly matched and life restoring as I did.
Which kind of brings us back to where Mr. (Lima) Bean has been all my life. Now, I don't know if this story is completely accurate, but it's the one I was told growing up:
Lonnie and my sister, Jacqui –– better known as Umi (OO-mee) to practically everyone in and around Muskegon, Mich., including her 19 grandchildren and eight great-grandchildren –– were very young when our father walked out on them and my birth mother, Josephine. Only Josephine wasn't technically my birth mother at the time, since she was still pregnant with me.
|Lonnie and Jacqui. Notice who's not in the shot.|
Josephine could barely afford the two kids she had, much less a new rugrat. And while I stand foursquare in favor of a woman's right to choose, I am sooo thankful she made the choice she did, else I would not be here telling you this story. Rather than flush me away, she delivered me and almost immediately put me up for adoption to a wonderful older couple in tiny Spring Lake, Mich., about 15 miles from Muskegon. These were the McFarlins, my Mom and Dad, and a better set of parents you would be hard-pressed to find.
(I never knew my birth father. Wouldn't recognize him if he came into my office right now and poked me in the eye. Although if he tried, since he'd have to be pushing 90 these days, I'm pretty sure I could dodge him.)
Now, here's where a curious thing happened. Because our two towns were so close, and because the McFarlins knew Josephine's parents, my maternal grandparents, very well (that's kind of how the adoption was arranged, practically through a handshake deal), I grew up knowing my birth family, unlike many adopted children. Indeed, we often gathered together to share birthdays, holidays and other special occasions. And for about a week every summer vacation, we would alternate: I would go to Muskegon and stay with Josephine and Jacqui, or Jacqui would come to Spring Lake and visit with us. When you're a little kid, you can't have enough people loving you.
Where is Lionel in all this, you ask? Well, Lonnie was the oldest sibling, the man of the house, and I don't know how much time he spent playing with Jacqui growing up but I know he didn't much have much tolerance for a bespectacled little nerd who showed up once a year, baby brother or no. And Spring Lake was way too slow for his speed. Like most kids, he much preferred to be in the streets, running with his boys, than babysitting some intruder.
So I didn't see much of him. I totally got it. But I remember my "vacation" weeks in Muskegon as terrifying. Josephine was a single mother and had to go to work every day, leaving me in the custody of Jacqui and Lonnie. They weren't what you'd call homebodies.
They had to take me with them, and I recall being left in alleys, stores, strange houses full of people I didn't know...for sheltered Little Jimmy, who'd rather be reading a book through his Coke-bottle glasses or watching cartoons in the living room.... I may still have PTSD.
|My brother, Lonnie, today: Take heart.|
But now that we're all old folks, I've grown to respect Lonnie a great deal and the man he's become. He absolutely loves to hunt and fish (how can we possibly be related?), and can no longer fully pursue his passions. His quality of life, indeed the joy of life itself, has been seriously curtailed by his illness and reduced activity level.
My brother has a good heart, emotionally speaking, but the original equipment in his chest is failing him. He needs a new heart, quickly, and the ability to afford all the ancillary equipment and supplies that a transplant requires.
Again, here is the link to the GoFundMe page to support Lionel. Please give if you can; any amount is appreciated.
I know you may not know him, but I do. And he's a good man.