When I was 12, my mother told me we were going to have a new baby in our family. I pictured a little sister to love and play dolls with, but never thought it might be a boy.
It took a while for me to process this, but once the reality of a new baby in the house sunk in, I was hooked. Every morning at the first baby sounds I was at his crib, grabbing blanket, toys and anything else my 12-year-old-self could hold, reaching down to lift him, tiptoe back to my bed and snuggle with him until my mother came to find her baby.
Having 12 years between us, our lives took different paths. When he started Kindergarten, I was a high school senior and a flag twirler in the marching band. The year he started first grade, I started college. My little brother was only nine years old when I graduated and was married.
A month and a day after I moved to Upper Michigan as an AF bride, from our home in Pensacola, Florida, my 53 year old father died of a massive heart attack. Our lives became a blur. A funeral was planned. We drove home from Michigan.
My mother told me later that she would take my brother to the cemetery where he would sit by the grave with his new portable radio to play it so his father could listen. He was nine. I can’t even imagine the heart ache this must have caused each of them.
From then on my brother and I lived different lives. He finished high school and college while I became a mom. I had two marriages. He had three. I had two children. He had none. We were together a few times at holidays, but not often. Letters were sparse. But I loved him, always remembering our times snuggling under the covers until my mother insisted he needed to be changed and fed, and I would reluctantly hand him over ~ all now a life time ago.
My little brother is now 62 and in a hospital in Georgia. It’s cancer. He’s been told it’s terminal. Hearts break silently when such words are spoken. A caring angel named Jan took him to doctor appointments, brought him food, cared for his dog, and called paramedics. He’s past the surgery stage, on cancer medications, and has had dental care in preparation for radiation and chemo. Hospice is next, sometime this week.
I was able to visit him briefly in October, but it was not long enough. It felt surface. He did not want me to see him in decline, and I did not want to see him in decline, either. It hurts to know I can no longer protect him, but I can see that his ashes are buried as he wishes, the last good thing I can do for him.
My brother is confused now, sometimes unsure of where he is, and suffering the pain of finding out today that his cancer is back, and that he does not have long to live. But one thing is certain. I will always love him, even when he sometimes forgets that once, a very long time ago, he loved me, too. My little brother will always have a permanent parking space in my heart.