Letters for My Brother
I had the stomach flu the night you were born. I slept in the car as Dad drove through the winding mountain canyons to the highway, making our way down to the hospital in Denver. The next morning, I sat on the couch at our grandma’s house munching Saltine crackers and basking in a cloud of grand-parental attention. I remember asking when we could visit you.
When I first held you, I thought maybe you were a doll — fast asleep and wrapped up like a blanket burrito with a pink pacifier (blue pacifiers were in short supply that day). Dad told us how the nurses gave you a shot and were shocked when you reached out and pulled yourself onto your side in the plastic bassinet, your tiny face flushed red with anger and effort. Confident and strong from the start. When you woke up I noticed how blue your eyes were — you still stand out in our hazel eyed family.
On your third birthday you wore a colander helmet over your blonde curls. I decorated a “yippee, I’m 3!” sign with Veggie Tales characters (Bob the Tomato was a big deal back then) and taped it to the colander. There’s a picture of you laughing with your face smeared in chocolate frosting.
I’ve always thought you were brilliant — that obvious, “sees different colors than we do” kind of smart. I wouldn’t have been surprised to find you doodling your entire genome sequence on a piece of notebook paper with my coffee can full of Gelly Roll pens sitting nearby. You walked up to your elementary school principal one day and told her you would be skipping a grade the next year — and then you did. Mom and Dad always joke you got a double dose of personality.
Now you’re a teenager, blonde hair dyed bright blue. Your days are filled with friends and school and college applications loom ahead. We drifted apart for a few years but we’re drifting back together, maybe closer than we’ve ever been. I know Mom and Dad (Mom especially) put so much pressure on you — so I try to keep things in perspective, telling you to stay true to yourself wherever you can. I hope you know how proud I am to be your sister. How much I brag about you to my friends/coworkers/anyone who will listen. I see you transforming, personality shifting and sharpening here and there. I see the outlines of the incredible man that you will be.
When I’m at home for holidays or long weekends — you fold and twist your always-taller-than-last-time frame to fit onto the couch cushion next to me. For a moment you’re not 16, you’re 1 year old again, leaning your head back against my shoulder while I read you a story. I sometimes wonder whatever happened to that pink pacifier. I hope you know I love who you are becoming — and I’ve loved you from the start.