Letter to My Brother

Because in July I think of you a little more

lettertobrotherpictureI was six when you were born. With you as a baby, I wanted to be a big girl and help mom. One day I asked to take a nap with you. We were lying on the playroom floor and you peed on me and the blankets. This dimmed some of the romance of having a baby brother.

You were like an only child. You weren’t close enough in age with us three older kids, nor the two youngest. So you learned to entertain and challenge yourself. You would put on your running shorts and jump over cardboard boxes you stacked at one end of the living room. If you succeeded, the pile was raised a bit. Run and jump. Run and jump. Jumping boy, we called you. Sometimes you talked me into joining you. You were too darn cute to say no to.

You loved hats. You had a cowboy hat, Daniel Boone coonskin hat, and a fireman’s hat. Uncle Dick came over once and put on one of your hats and sat on your small trike you rode through the kitchen and living room. Of course his legs went over the handlebars, while yours went under. You laughed so hard when you saw him and then asked him to do more.

LettertoBrother6Once I saved my money and took you to a movie. It was just the two of us. We got to the mall early and wandered up and down. Then for a snack we bought some bulk trail mix. Then when I counted my money to buy the tickets, I was 10 cents short. We wandered the mall searching the floor for a dime or two nickels. We didn’t even find a penny. What to do? We couldn’t get tickets to the movie and mom wasn’t picking us up for another 2 hours. Finally, minutes before the movie began, I walked back to the small shop where I had bought the trail mix and asked the employee if we could return ten cents worth of nuts so we could go to the movies. He looked a bit puzzled until I explained with an embarrassed face that we were a dime short of our movie tickets. He took the bag and weighed out ten cents worth, maybe half a bite, and then handed us a dime. We skedaddled, bought our tickets, and only dared laugh about it when we were safely in the darkened theater.

LettertoBrother1As I was leaving our church’s youth group, you were joining. You were on the basketball team and not a very good player that first year, but you practiced and practiced and became one of the star players. Day after day you would bounce the ball and shot in our gravel driveway. You also watched a lot of basketball games on TV, studying them. You had determination and patience to get what you wanted.

As a teenager and you were tall and so skinny, like the rest of us, but you wanted some muscles. Ingenuity, that is what you had. You claimed all the logs delivered for fire wood as your own and sawed and chopped all that wood by hand to develop muscles. We didn’t have a weight set or the money to buy one, so you made your own. You started lifting cinder blocks, one on each end of a thick rod. These were your barbells. Muscles developed and your neck thickened.

You developed a sense of humor as you matured. You could tell dry, dull stories that soon had everyone laughing and clutching their gut. You and another brother loved to play off one another and could keep us in stitches for a long time. I have precious memories of laughing in your presence.

You were a groomsman at Curtis’s and my wedding. I remember you smiling above your peach tuxedo tie nipping in your white starched shirt, greeting and seating guests, cracking jokes at the reception, and hugging me good-by.

After our honeymoon, you helped Curtis pack up all my worldly goods and drive them to our apartment in Seattle. I have a picture of you and Curtis screwing together the chairs and table of our dining room set. You are lying on the floor looking up at the camera, turning bolts into seat bottoms.

You lived with us while attending college and had the appetite of several of us put together. I never had leftovers in my refrigerator for long. Then you graduated, we moved, and now we were living half a continent away.

LettertoBrother5Our last visit together you were helping me bag pruned tree limbs for my mother-in-law. You rode over on your bike (the one you sometimes rode 100 miles on weekends) and we worked and caught up. We were both adults now, in the thick of living. You were no longer my little brother, but an equal.

You were one of those persons who if I didn’t see for a long time, when we finally met again it was like no time had passed. We talked and laughed and you gave me some wise advice. That was one thing you were known for. You never ran off at the mouth, but would sit back and study the situation or person before commenting one way or the other. You asked questions to get the person to see the truth for themselves.

LettertoBrother3A year later on July 25, 2012, the phone rang in the middle of the night, screeching us slowly awake. My sister solemnly told me you had died at work. A heart attack. And we sobbed. For the loss. The suddenness. The longing to see you again so great it was suffocating. You were only 41 years old. So vibrant and full of life. No indication of anything wrong. No health problems or concerns.

I had heard of primordial sobs, but never experienced them. Until you died, and suddenly they were bursting forth from my throat, chocking my breathing, rattling my ears with their anger and grief.

How does an older sister deal with the wounds of a younger brother dying? With the scar that one carries deep in her soul forever? Suddenly the world seems more fragile and I feel much older.

Letter to brother quoteTime marches forward and I think of you in odd moments. Hear your voice occasionally in my mind saying something wise or funny. I see you in a photo, and my heart stops. My eyes tear. I remember a memory and you are part of it. A snippet of the past, never part of the present.

You prepared me in a way for dad’s passing four years later. I now knew the ache I felt would never really go totally away. But I did smile when a sibling said that now you weren’t so lonely with dad there. That you two were probably having a good old fashioned gab fest and catching up.

Brendan, I always loved to hug you. You knew how to give great hugs, enveloping the person in your strong arms and whispering into their hair, “How are you?” or “Good to see you.” Or at the end of the visit, “Take care of yourself.

LettertoBrother2There are many things I miss about you. Two are your laughter and humor. The other are your hugs.  And one more is your care and concern for others.

But I know as sure as the sun rises and sets that one day we will see each other again. I hope we meet in a sunny field with a boulder nearby for us to sit on and catch up on. For we will have a lot of catching up to do. But before we start to talk, I want a good long hug and you whispering in my hair, “Good to see you Theresa, good to see you.”


Join the Discussion: How do you remember loved ones who have passed? What are some favorite things or memories you remember about them?

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