Wednesday, September 12, 2012


This summer, cc and I took a road trip to St. Louis, where my brother now resides in a cute second-floor walk-up apartment. It's his first solo place, and it was funny to watch him debating whether to get a living-room rug, attempting to caulk the window casing that was letting in ants and even showing off the fancy coffeemaker-with-the-cups that his girlfriend, M, got him as a housewarming present. Actually, it was kind of adorable.

I was in Mother Hen mode, worrying he didn't have enough towels, surveying the neighborhood suspiciously, lecturing him about how frivolous it is to sign up for pricey tv packages when he's only there on the weekends. Cc had to shoot me the "dude, he's a big boy," look at least once an hour. And I get it: The guy jet-sets around the country, drinks heartily, holds down a demanding job and still manages to feed himself and take his medicine every day. Sure, he is a big boy. But I can't help it--whenever I look at him, this is what I see.

Probably sometime in 1984 or 1985. On the lawn of the local college (which apparently has now become a University).

It was after some event, and my friends and their mom were hanging out with us on the lawn until my mother came to pick us up. My brother started getting anxious. He was a stubborn little one, and after he had his mind set there is nothing you could say to convince him to change it. Everyone was trying to soothe him, distract him with jokes or games, but he kept asking when mom was coming. I did the only thing I could think of and picked him up. My arms were sore, but I held on tight and did not put that kid down until she pulled into the parking lot.

It's always been like that. Maybe I feel extra responsible because I prayed so hard for a brother and my mom did a good job convincing me that I summoned him and I could never give him back:
i let my mother deal with the noise and the mess, but if i do say myself, i was damn good. i even got to choose his nickname: mickey mouse, even though they shortened it to mickey. i didn't even get that upset when people fawned all over him instead of me; but if they were hogging, they'd hear it. of course he's gorgeous, you think i'd pick an ugly one? hello! dammit, i did all the work to get this kid, i wasn't about to let some auntie leave her nasty lipstick all over him.
But my brother bought into it too. When he went to the doctor and had to get shots, he often wanted me with him instead of one of the parents. My dad would playfully ask "Whose are you, mommy's or daddy's?" and the kid would say "my sister's" (he's always been very clever). And for years, every time drunk dials were to be made, I was sure to get a ring. Those are the rare times when he's chatty.

While we were in St. Louis, they took us to this place downtown called Rooster (10 different types of bloody Marys!). My brother was nursing his coffee and picking at his French toast, silent as usual. I looked over and saw a black spot on the side of his head that I hadn't seen before--was it a weird mark or some kind of mole? I reached over to touch his face. He jumped away as if my finger was a red-hot iron poker and asked me what the hell I was doing. Cc's eyeroll was practically audible. What? It's not like I licked my finger to clean off his face or something.

Later that day while he was driving the car, I saw Girlfriend M reach over and touch my brother's face in that same spot with the black mark. He turned and smiled at her in just the way that my husband smiles at me when I absently run my hand over his very soft beard. And at that moment it *finally* clicked for me. He really isn't a baby anymore. He's, like, a man. And of course he will be turning to a significant other for reassurances, not us. Which is the way it really ought to be. It just took me a long time to accept it.

Today my brother turns 30. I am so proud of the man that he is. He's intelligent, strong and under all that sarcasm, very kind. The fact that he orchestrated and attended a girls' trip to Las Vegas for my bachelorette party (he was maid of honor) last summer speaks to how much he loves me, too. And when we had that car accident in December, he calmly took charge of the situation while I fell apart like a soggy Kleenex at the thought of nearly killing him.

I may no longer be able to make him feel better by picking him up and squeezing him tight. But I hope he knows that no matter how old we both get, I will always be there for him. And he will never have to be alone.

Happy birthday, brother.


Becky said...

gorgeous writing, girl - and happy birthday, little brother!

Eclectic Bride-Wife-Mom said...

awww. he's still so stinkin' cute though! I maintain that I'm not convinced he should be driving a car already let alone turning 30. You're a WONDERFUL big sister and I hope that Baby B learns from you as she gets ready for her baby brother!

Natalie the Singingfool said...

This is how I feel about my little sister, who's 11 1/2 years younger than I am. I have to resist the urge to groom her in public - but she's so darn cute!