My Brothers, the Grown-Ups

An embaressing family photo

I don’t think I have lived in the same city as either of my brothers for almost fifteen years. And since the middle brother is 35 and my youngest brother is 31, that is almost half of their entire lives that we have been apart. I’ve missed pretty much all of their adult lives. The bulk of my memories of my brothers revolve around our childhood. 

Saturday morning cartoons, eating donuts in our pajamas is stamped boldly in my mind, as well as building elaborate Barbie camps invaded by G.I. Joe and Boba Fett. We shared collections of Smurf figurines and Bazooka bubble-gum wrappers so that we could keep telling the jokes over and over. We built hammocks hanging precariously from trees in our backyard and pushed each other as hard as we could on our tire-swing. I remember who their friends were, what clothes they liked to wear, the sound of the music pumping out of their bedroom and even what were their favorite foods. The smell of too much cologne still lingers the halls of my mind when I think about first dates, and I can still feel the panic when I heard that they had wrecked my mom’s new car. 

However, humanly stupid feelings of jealousy still crept into my heart occasionally. Jealous of the depth of their relationship. Sharing a room was the least of their intimacies. They were each other’s best friend and confidant. I was just the older sister. 

For a while we only lived an hour away, but we didn’t see each other much more than family gatherings. They were college students, and I was newly married. Then a new mom. Then a divorced and single mom. Then a divorced, single and college student mom. At some point during my very-selfish-total-drama-my-life- is-falling-apart phase, they both moved states away to further their educations. The middle brother went on to become a lawyer, while the younger one finished a P.H.D. in Neuroscience. Impressive. 

I managed to squeak by with an English degree, two marriages and two children. Not so impressive

There has always been mutual respect and undoubtedly unconditional love between the three of us. No matter our differences, I have never questioned how they feel about me. If anything, it is I who puts the most pressure on myself to try to “measure up”. Even though I am the oldest, I admire and look up to them as though I am the youngest sibling. 

The Tortoise and the youngest Uncle on his first visit

The first time my youngest brother came to visit me in Michigan was very exciting. It was almost monumental because it was the first time I had ever had him over for a meal, let alone visit for an extended period of time. I know that seems almost an impossible thing, but it was true. I had never entertained either of my brothers in my own home until I was almost 30 years old. In fact, I don’t remember ever hosting a holiday, birthday, or special occasion in my own home with any of my family until after DW and I got married. 

I spent weeks cleaning and preparing my house. Decorating, re-arranging and meal planning were done with great care and detail. I even had thought of topics to talk to him about, tried to find something in common beside reminiscing about childhood moments. I really felt it was going to be like I was meeting him for the first time. As usual, all of that self-inflicted stress was unnecessary. It only took a few hours before I threw in the towel and surrendered to myself, quit trying to impress him, and gave up pretending I was someone else. I did not read Nietzsche, I read Dr. Seuss. There were no $30 bottles of wine on my kitchen counter, just Cheerios and teething biscuits. My freezer was stocked full of breast milk instead of frozen dinners. And although I had no clue what current artists played on the radio, I could recite every song, from every album of Raffi or Veggie Tales. The canyon of differences opened miles wide, yet it was one of the best weeks we ever spent together. He poured on the charm as Uncle, watching cartoons and eating donuts in his pajamas with both of his nieces. His mellow voice filled the house while The Tortoise taught him how to sing her favorite songs and he spent hours reading books to The Hare, using funny voices to get her to squeal and giggle so hard she would get hiccups. We even managed to get a couple of tours of our favorite spots and restaurants, as well as cook some homemade meals. When he left, I gave him money for his layover and a sack lunch for the plane. 

A few days later my mom called. 

“Do you know what your brother told me about his trip?” 

“Hmmm…do I really want to know?” 

“Of course you do!” she said surprised. “He said – Mom! It was the best trip ever. Emily is amazing…she’s like a real mom or something…a real grown-up!” 

A real grown-up. 

I had forgotten that he hardly knew me this way too. Our relationship stalled when we were 17 and 23. This was the moment we started to “grow-up” together. 

My middle brother's first visit

My middle brother decided to bring my mom on his first trip, almost as a buffer I think. Just in case we didn’t have much to talk about…or do. But of course he discovered the same thing my youngest brother did – fun as well as family. The girls soak in his calming presence. He is an incredibly good listener, even hours after hearing the same made-up story from The Hare and laughs just as hard at hearing one of The Tortoise’s jokes the 100th time, as he did the first time. He has come three more times since that first visit. One evening as we were saying our childhood jingle – goodnight, sleep tight, don’t let the bed bugs bite – he gave me a longer hug than usual. 

“I’m glad I came,” he said, “I’m really enjoying you.” 

Loving me came naturally. It was part of being family. But knowing that he liked me added another depth to our bond. I felt part of the “club” between my brothers. I’m sure it had been there before, this “likeability” but there had been so many years between us that I wasn’t really sure anymore. 

“I’m glad you came. I’m enjoying you too.” 

I think the years have been good to us

As you may already know from reading my entries this weekend, one of my brothers got married. I’m not really at liberty to buzz about which one, but I can tell you that while one got married, the other officiated. It was an incredibly intimate ceremony and reception. Just a handful of friends, and a representation of the bride and groom’s families. I love my new sister-in-law. She is an amazing combination of all the things that I admire about my brother, and all the things that I like about myself, if that makes sense. She adores my brother, and it is obvious that the feeling is mutual. But what struck me the most, was how grown-up my brothers appeared. Yes, they had visited me numerous times now. And yes, they had come to the conclusion years ago that I am a wife, a mother…a grown-up, but I still referred to them as “the boys”. But they aren’t boys anymore – they are men. Men who have multiple degrees, honors, jobs and responsibilities. Men who have strength of character, honest hearts, giving spirits, wit and charm. Men who love their families and friends. Men who honor the world around them. 

Men whom I love, adore, and enjoy. Men who are my brothers.

65 thoughts on “My Brothers, the Grown-Ups

  1. I’ve had this post favorited for so long now and I always re-read it, and every. single. time. it brings tears to my eyes. I have 3 younger brothers, and I’m the oldest of the 4 (I’m 20, they’re 14, 11, and 9, although the 14 year old had a major growth spurt and could pass as the oldest now 😡
    …Anyway, just thinking about the four of us in the future completely blows my mind. I’m always scared of our relationship falling apart when we all go our ways, and your story gives me hope I guess. I don’t know. It’s really good. Thanks =)

  2. I have two brothers too. Im the youngest. I have also envied their closeness especially when we were kids and they were best friends. We have all come a long way I wonder how they feel about me? What they think about the life I have. They are excellent with my son and he loves their talk about fast cars and the latest i gizmos. The keep checking on my how im doing what im doing and my plans for the future. At the end of it all I know I they love me and I hope they know I do too. Its not always easy with siblings to express these feelings without embarrassing each other!

  3. I wrote my first “blog” today. If I can honestly call it that. Very short, but were my thoughts at the time. (So…I’m new at this.) This blog, your blog, was the first one I have read and I enjoyed it so very much. It makes one think about family, life, etc. Keep blogging…..I’m sure people will keep reading ! 😉

  4. Beautiful post. Thanks for sharing this glimpse of your family and congrats on making FP again. I don’t want to discourage you, but you’ll find that it’s harder to keep in touch once your parents are gone, since they are your common connection. It seems like it’s the female sibling that becomes the one who keeps the lines of communication open after that point. That’s what I’ve observed with my husband’s and my families, having lost all parents now.

    Interestingly enough, Facebook and blogging have helped my brother and I to reconnect across the miles — having two very different lifestyles. I’m thankful my son and daughter are very close as young adults. It’s my prayer that they’ll remain that way.

    Once again, thanks and congrats! Mary 😉

  5. Your blog is nostalgically beautiful…brothers are the best. I just had a text message wrestling match with my brother. Did I mention he’s 41 and I am 39 it was an absolute blast.

  6. Wow! What an amazing story. You tell it so well.

    I, too, have two brother — and two sisters, for that matter. And while we haven’t all reached the same milestones as you and your brothers, we’re most definitely on our way. I can only hope that when our time comes, we can be as thoughtful and warm and loving as you.

    Great Post!!!

  7. A beautiful post!
    Thanks for sharing. I especially loved the last 7 sentences of your post as it’s such a poetic tribute (of course the whole post is!) to your brothers and to real men out there who know what matters in life.
    Congrats on being freshly posted! God bless!

  8. Your post made me nostalgic and reminding my childhood days.You have described your feelings so well,that it seems like things are happening and you have captured them at the same moment.
    When the time we spend it so smooth and happy,we tend to cry when we remember that time.Really time flies so fast.We can only rewind and forward it in dreams.

  9. i loved your blog entry!! i also have a brother whom i love a lot, also your family pictures are great 🙂 family is a wonderful thing isnt it? i always find it a little magical,that one moment we all are fighting and the next its like nothing happened 🙂

  10. Great blog – congrats on being Freshly Pressed! Your writing deserves it!

    I did have a great family life growing up. My younger sister and I were only 2 years apart, but my older brother was 7 years my senior. It always seemed like I was in his way, breaking his possessions (okay, so I wasn’t supposed to be playing with his train set…), or he was stuck baby sitting us when he wanted to go out.

    But in adulthood, we have grown to love each other so much and found that bond which you think cannot ever exist when you are young. Reading this post makes me remember so many times which seem so funny now… Great work – I look forward to much more!

  11. I can so relate to what you said. I also have a younger brother, and for years he has been a perpetual high school freshman in my head. He’s almost 30 years old. For the last 5 years we’ve lived 1300 miles apart. When we do get together, it’s like meeting someone you’ve known your whole life for the first time. We have interests in common now that we never did when we were younger, and we both sort of regret the fact that we are too far apart to share those interests in the fullest manner. But learning to see your sibling as an adult is indeed a revelation. 🙂

  12. I can realate to your story in so many ways. Just last night I was thinking about my 3 younger sisters and how we are all so different in so many ways. But mostly about how I wish we were closer geographically so I could get to know them for the young women they have grown into. Your story is beautiful and gives me hope that one day we can all reconnect in as grown-ups.

  13. Reading this reminds me of why I love blogging. You give us a peek inside your life and we get to enjoy those moments with you like we are friends.

    Thank you for sharing this, it was wonderful being your friend for a few moments.

  14. I saw this post advertised on freshly pressed a few times before I eventually decided to click on it and I’m glad I did. What a lovely post and so beautifully written. I have several sisters most of whom are much younger than me and it has been a strange transition at times, thinking of them as adults rather than children!

    1. Ha! My mom actually said that she rathered liked that first picture – funny how we each see something different at times.

  15. I can tell that you really like your brothers from your story. What a wonderful family you have.

    I can relate to your story as I have 2 younger brothers my self and a little sister which I left them very young when I went to college and stayed far away from home. It’s been 10 years since then but still whenever I went back home, they always greet me happily.

  16. Wow–I’m jealous YOU have two wonderful brothers! Beautiful family pics too. Seems like your family really did/does have a great bond that has lasted even through those fifteen years not seeing them. Great post and congrats on freshly pressed! LB

  17. Great post! I love stories about family. I’m happy for you that you were able to reconnect to your brothers. Your love for them shines through in this post. Oh yeah, the Tortoise and Hare are awesome names!

  18. Grew up as a boy with two brothers and no sisters, so you could say our relationship dynamics were a little different. LOL. A lot of jockeying for position and physical contact, even as adults on occasion. Maybe it wouldn’t have been so bad having a sister like you around to even it out… I’m sure my mom wouldn’t have objected.

  19. I am glad this worked out so well for you. I suspect I am some time away from this with my sisters. One is visiting this weekend. While she is riding high, the Crisis has hit me hard. We are both learning Spanish, as I am in Madrid and her husband is half-Spanish. Dad said she would be working really hard because of the sibling virally, which I said I doubted she was worried about any more. When Dad asked why I thought that, it was Mum who said “because she has won!”. Ouch!
    You’re giving me hope.
    Looking foward to a great weekend.

  20. Great post!
    I recently heard of a woman my mom worked with who died somewhat suddenly at home alone. They only knew she had died because work missed her and checked the next day. My point in telling this is that her kids didn’t speak to her. And reading your blog brought the point of family to mind. When we’re young, we don’t always get along, we don’t always even know each other or want to be so close. But it’s great to grow and realize that there are wonderful aspects to the people we took for granted to be around. That’s what good families are about – growing, letting each other find our wings and crossing flight patterns at will.

  21. E! yay for freshly pressed again!! 🙂
    nice post… makes me wish I had a relationship with my brother. sometimes life doesn’t work that way though. and your mom is precious!! ^^^

    1. Ha! We all have our skeletons…some just more noticeable than others. But yes – I think I was very lucky to grow up with the family that I have…hopefully my children will feel the same way when they are my age.

  22. I have been estranged from my family for eleven years for reasons that sound like a soap opera (but, which, sadly, are true) so I read this entry with a combination of bittersweet regret, envy, and joy. Thank you for sharing, and for reminding those of us who don’t have close knit families, that discovering yours, was a wonderful start to the day…

    1. I am so sorry about your family – I can’t imagine what that must be like for you. Perhaps you will find peace with your family at some point and be able to rebuild a new relationship.

  23. This post really resonated with me. I have three younger half-siblings that I rarely see, and now that I’m in college, I wonder if I will ever be close to them. Family is a blessing.

  24. Congratulations for finding your siblings. I found a lot of similarities in your story compared to my own four younger siblings.

  25. Emily, I have been struggling with my relationship with my brothers for years. I’m having trouble bringing us into an adult place because our connection ended when I left home at 18 (they were 13 and 11) and they moved to be with their dad. Now we’re grownups, and we don’t have reference points for each other any more. To them, I’m still the angry teenager who resented babysitting them instead of the woman with a career, husband and baby. I’ve been slowly working on giving them glimpses of my life as an adult and reminding them that I’m here by texting or e-mailing often. This post makes me want to try harder. 🙂

  26. I love this post. I have three kids, two boys and a girl, all grown and scattered to Charleston, Seattle, and London. They aren’t “best friends,” and each is aware of the other’s foibles. But they all make huge efforts to stay connected, and when they are together, I marvel at how they really enjoy each other’s company. The bottom line is that they love each other, and they show it. A mom couldn’t ask for anything more.

  27. I, too, have just had my brother and his young family staying with us at our home in Spain. Although my brother towers above me he is the “middle one” of 3 ( two sisters) and I have always been BIG SIS and I have been his friend and counsellor. He has grown up to be a quiet, responsible, hard working, loving Dad, a far cry from the rugby player who I once rescued from a pub with a lavatory seat around his neck! Even as BIG people he will always be my kid brother and I, his BIG sis, but at least he no longer gets embarassed when I give him a BIG hug.

    Siblings forever!

  28. Family is so awesome. Have 4 brothers and 3 sisters myself – my folks were married almost 50 years before my mom past. It’s odd to have so many siblings and they be full-blooded. I am blessed. Thanks for your story. God bless you and all yours! 🙂

  29. Okay, I am still crying about this. What a wonderful blog entry. I hope your brothers read it. I have always known how special you are; now I hope you are seeing it for yourself. We have a great family, don’t we!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s