At age two and a half, my parents gave me something that would change my life.
And no, it wasn’t the pink bike that would be my first ride.
On September 2, 1980 they gave me the gift of a little brother.
I was just a tad younger than what Eddie will be when this new baby arrives, and it’s been on my mind a lot.
I don’t remember those early years, but the pictures of me playing with my new baby brother are among some of my favorites.
He was the first boy I ever tried to impress. I wanted his approval. I wanted him to think I was cool.
Sometimes, as we grew up together, he did look up to me. Many times, he just saw me as bossy and mean.
At times I was able to combine these views for good.
I can distinctly remember playing school with him. We had a blue chalkboard easel and colored chalks on which I would write letters and words that I would demand he repeat and learn.
My teaching pedagogy back then was “learn it, or die.”
I have since learned better ways of motivating and inspiring my students, but back then it worked.
As we continued to grow up together sibling rivalry and battling reared their s ugly heads. The house became a battleground. In the summer, if my mom was at work, all out wars ensued. One sibling pounding on the other. Tears and horrible things yelled at each other.
If I knew then what I know now, I would have never let those words cross my lips.
If I knew what our shared future would be, I would not have let myself be so hurtful.
In elementary school our younger brother came along completing our sibling pack.
At times he united us. He was the little one. The scapegoat. The butt of all our jokes. The easy target.
At other times he separated us. They were boys and did boy things that weren’t fun to me. They had their inside jokes. They had their brotherly bond.
No matter what our differences were at home, in public no one messed with my brother.
My senior year of high school saw a shift in my relationship with my younger brother. He was now a freshman. We were in the same building for the first time since elementary school. We had a class together, band, which meant we were also together during extracurricular time.
My friends started to become his friends.
His friends started to become my friends.
When he had trouble in a class I had already taken, I played the role of teacher.
When he couldn’t talk to our parents, I played the role of his mom.
When he had a bad day, I played the role of friend.
We still had our disagreements, but no one was throwing elbows or harsh words anymore.
And even though we went to rival state universities, we still visited each other and hung out together when we were both home.
College graduation usually means that you have entered adulthood and left the bad choices of your youth behind.
That wasn’t necessarily the case with my brother.
I fielded late night calls.
I opened my door to a tearful lost soul needing guidance and advice.
I listened and I listened and I listened and I listened.
One day he brought a girl to meet me and my fiance.
She had lovely red hair and gorgeous freckles and a great laugh.
And she smiled at my brother in a way I had never seen before.
I knew she was it.
Until she wasn’t.
She was almost four months pregnant with my nephew when their relationship fell apart. However it was so important to Chris to be part of his son’s life, that they agreed to at least be civil.
My brother became a daddy in 2004.
I wasn’t there.
But I would be.
I babysat, I gave rides, I helped, I loved.
And I listened and listened and listened.
For five and a half years I listened to his side of their disagreements. About what wasn’t fair. About how he missed his boy. About how he didn’t want to involve the courts. About how unhappy he was with his life.
There were more late night phone calls and IM chats.
Just a month before his 30th birthday, he and his son’s mom started trying to be friends. To hang out. To get back what they liked about each other.
This Saturday I will stand up in their wedding.
I don’t see much of my brother anymore now that he is getting married and he lives with his fiance and son.
They have moved to a neighboring city that isn’t a far drive, but it’s not a short one either.
I don’t get random texts or IMs or calls anymore asking advice or if I can do something for him.
This past year has been the quietest year we have ever had.
I miss my brother.
But I know he knows where I am.
It’s where I have always been since he came into this world.
And it’s where I will always be when he looks for me.