The things that you do will always make your mama cry:
Last week, my sweet baby brother graduated from high school. He’s obviously no longer a baby, and sometimes he isn’t very sweet, but he’s the one person on the planet whose genes are closest to mine, and sometimes that just boggles my mind. I’ve mentioned my brother briefly here a couple times before: we have very little in common, aside from the fact that we came from the same parents and laugh at the same things. He is athletic and active and has red hair. I can sometimes run in a semi-straight line, and everything about me is dark—hair, humor, soul. I spent most of my formative years in a library, and he spent most of his in emergency rooms. Sometimes we communicate via raised eyebrows and non-words, but this mostly works in family situations. If we were strangers in the outside world, the odds of us ever meeting would be sliver-thin.
That being said, he is one of my very favorite people on the planet. We’re almost seven years apart, and I was overjoyed when he was born. I wanted a brother desperately. I knew I didn’t want a sister, although I’m not really sure why, and I knew that more than anything, I was tired of being alone in the backseat all the time. I think my parents finally just had him so I’d quit spending dinnertime playing my favorite game: “Who could sit in our empty fourth chair? Grandma? The dog? Mr. Glenn from next door? A BABY BROTHER?”
Growing up, he was the best sidekick ever. He would follow me around and draw me pictures and make me birthday crowns out of construction paper. He was constantly in costume and always game to play any part in whatever scheme I made up.
When I was seventeen, I found out on Valentine’s Day that my high school boyfriend was cheating on me, and my little brother heard me crying in my room and asked me what was wrong. I told him, and he left, and returned a few minutes later with a heart-shaped candy box filled with tissue paper. Inside was a fake gold bracelet that you’d win playing skee-ball. He had tried to give it to his second grade sweetheart earlier that day and she’d spurned him, in front of all her friends. It remains to this day the sweetest present anyone has ever given me. He’s a lover and a fighter, though: he attempted to beat up my ex-boyfriend—more than twice his age and size—that summer at the swimming pool, and when the lifeguard made him sit out, I brought him a snowcone and we sat together, silently commiserating in the unfairness of life.
When he was fourteen, my brother accidentally ran through a plate glass door at a party. The door wasn’t made of safety glass, and a huge shard the size of a butcher knife had gone into his side and shattered into a billion pieces when it hit his backbone. After several emergency surgeries and MRIs and CAT scans and months spent in the hospital—including a bout of E. coli meningitis that almost killed him—they removed almost all of the glass, but there are still four pieces stuck in between his lower disks. He went from bedridden to a wheelchair to a walker to a cane to a backbrace within months, and after almost a year of physical therapy, he managed to go back to doing his favorite thing in the world: playing baseball. I’m not trying to be corny or tug on your heartstrings by telling you this part, but I admire my little brother so much for overcoming all of this. I know I never could have done it.
Anyway, he isn’t all sweetness and heroism. He’s also been a teenager, and a perfectly rotten one, and that was kind of fun for me, since I didn’t live at home while it happened, and it made my own moody teen years look golden. But now that he’s finished with high school and headed to college, I’m suddenly hit with this weird old aunt syndrome, where I just look at him and my eyes get all wet and I say things like, “Just the other day you were playing ninjas in the laundry room!”, to which he rolls his eyes and goes in the other room to watch TV. Last night after his graduation barbecue, he snapped at my parents, grunted a goodbye in my general direction, and slammed the front door. But less than a minute later, he came back inside and hugged me without saying a word.
I am so glad I know him.