Today, is my brother’s birthday. Chris is turning twenty-two which in some ways does make me feel extremely old. Right now I believe he is on a plane to a conference where he will present a paper he wrote. I am beyond proud of him for this and for many things. He has become a man (weird – he’s a man) who is smart, respectful, compassionent, insightful, funny, sarcastic, thoughtful and many other attributes. And our relationship has come a long way in the six years.
Flashback to our childhood: We were friends. We played together. We dug holes in the mud. Created entire worlds that our Beannie Babies existed in. Dressed up together, played hot wheels and soared through the neighborhood on our bikes often accompanied by our cousin. We were each other’s playmates, best friends and whole word.
Flashback to high school: You could safely say Chris and I hated each other. Well hate may be too strong a word but we definently weren’t friends. High school was hard for our relationship. We had different friends, different beliefs and little in common except our ability to fight with one another.
Flash back t0 2008: I was in college, Chris a senior in high school. That Christmas was horribly hard for both of us. We were barely speaking. I was in the midst of a horrible relationship, my life was beginning to crumble and Chris was dealing with his own brand of trouble.
Flashback to the fall of 2009: I returned home from college after only two weeks. Emancipated, weak, emotionally exhausted, dying. Chris, unhappy at school. This was when we began to talk. On our long drives that Chris would take me on because this was the only time I could fall asleep and I needed out of the house. He was my caretaker in many ways while my parents navigated insurance for the first time and tried to deal with the fact that their daughter was actively dying.
Flashback to Laureate: Family week – Chris accompanied my parents for Knees to Knees. A powerful exercise in which we were surrounded by the entire group of parents and patients. Each member of my family came up to me held my hands and then we each expressed our regrets, requests and appreciations. What 18 boy is capable and willing to do this? My brother was. He cried openly. He held my hands. He apologized I apologized. And our relationship was strengthened. Later, he attended family week again with just my dad and sat through family therapy learning how to support me. Going out of Laureate he was my cheerleader, my support and at times the one who could say the hard things and tell me that I needed more help when I was reluctant to admit it and my parents were reluctant to push.
Flashback to The Center for Change: Chris left his new school to fly to Utah for family week with my dad. This time he participated in molding. I ‘molded’ our family relationship. It required him to again stand up in front of a room full of parents and patients and let me place him where I thought he stood in my relationship to our family. He cried. I cried. And the girls melted. It was talked about for weeks how much of a support Chris was for me and how unusual it was for a brother to be able to be that kind of a support person.
Flashback to the beginnings of my recovery: Chris showed me laughter. Our relationship flourished like never before. We were friends. We were living life together. We talked on the phone. We shared our experiences.
Flash forward to today: Chris no longer takes care of me. We are equals. He moves forward in his life. And will soon be starting a new chapter. I could not be prouder of my brother. He has accepted Ben far more than I could ever, ever ask for. I am excited to travel to his school next weekend and see the life he has built for himself. I am glad that he will be home this summer because something tells me this may be the last time he lives near me for awhile. I no longer worry like I once did that he will fade away and cut off contact with me. I know that he too cherishes our relationship.
I love you brother. Happy Birthday.
“To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other’s hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time.” – Clara Ortega