My eyes graze over it, and then rest on it for a while. It’s the book my brother got me this past Christmas. I am taking down the last bit of decoration, the little tree that has graced my antique dresser for so many years. We adults stopped exchanging gifts years back, but he cheated this year. It was a book on digital photography because we both have the same camera. He also got me a Seinfeld T-shirt and two beautiful ornaments, hand painted cats from a local shop. He is a good gift-giver, my brother.
My memory traced a line back in time and it was tethered to a snapshot taken of us in the driveway, long ago.
When we were in school, he would always look out for me on the playground. He used to let me ride on the front bar of his bike, before I got my own, and never hesitated to hold my hand on the way to my classroom. I wanted to be like him when I was 4. I even insisted on my own pair of black high top sneakers and to my parents credit, they bought me a pair and let me wear them.
In middle school and high school we passed like two ships in the night, both at home and school. He was the popular jock, and I was the nerdy girl in choir. He teased me for leaving a permanent imprint on the couch and I got mad at him for eating my Taco Bell leftovers when he came in late. And yet, he came to my concerts and I went to his swim meets.
Then we went our separate ways. For years I think I was invisible to him. I wanted a relationship…….for him to see me as a person, not just a little sister, yet I always knew that if I needed him he would be there.
I remember the fender bender I had one year on Christmas Eve, how he was first to show up on the scene, driving in from a neighboring town.
Years later, thick in the battle of recovering from anorexia there came a letter from him. I can still see it resting, fluttering, on top of the bicycle basket where it rode on my way back to work……..tangible hope when I needed it most.
As years passed, every now and again I would get another letter and it would be pages long……..letting me know what was going on in his life. Somewhere I still have them.
And then there was that very worst of times. I still remember him having to climb 14 floors to reach me in the stifling heat of Mexico after my husband died. He was soaked with sweat and red in the face, but he was there. I was never so relieved to see anyone.
Nightmare Days passed with me in a fog. I would be okay and then with no warning I would collapse with grief. And one time he broke down, this big grown man sobbing tears I had never seen him cry, and in a voice choked with emotion he said, “All I wanted to do was take him fishing.”
That was June 1987. In February of 1998 he would face his own shadow of death when he would lose his wife of 12 years to ovarian cancer.
Years have flown by and its hard to believe they have been singing with the angels for so long already.
Life and grief has left its mark on both of us as it does everyone. No one gets out of this life without some battle scars. But we have emerged stronger, and it’s amazing but sometimes I think that pain and grief have a way of eclipsing differences in a way nothing else can.
As I sit here at the keyboard I get a text message…..the first one says, “Rsuctxjcwxvc” and it’s from my brother’s phone, and I smile.
The second one says simply, “Lauryn.” I smile again because what better way to punctuate the end of my story. She misses her Auntie.
No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons,neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord. Romans 8:37-39
My brother and me, (and Thunder) circa 1965 or so