So now, three giggling girls, we sat up almost all night waiting to hear if my brother had yet been born. The news came later that day; he had been born, but there was a bit of a problem. Without going into too many details, the problem was life-threatening. My brother, given the appropriate name of Ethan, meaning "fortitude," went through a great deal just to stay on the planet in his first year of life. When I first laid eyes on him, I knew it was my job to protect him...he was my responsibility. He needed me. And he did.
He and I had an instant bond; the kind that not all siblings are lucky enough to have. We two are very lucky in that way, and others. Despite our differences in age, birth order, and gender, we are almost identical in how we think. We each look like one of our parents, so we don't look alike; in fact, if you saw us together, you may not, at first glance, even think we're related. Of course, that's just the surface--not only do we share a life-long love of all things space, including Star Trek (name the series and we've seen ALL the episodes, and I mean ALL the episodes), we also share the same sense of humor, the same taste in food, wines, share the same moral and financial sensibilities (though those two things aren't necessarily related in and of themselves), both generous to a fault, and both of us are open people, willing to take risks.
What I love most about my brother is how, no matter what, he is there, and so am I. We don't fight--not saying we agree on everything, but we really do love one another, really do respect one another, and really do understand one another in a way that surpasses typical human understanding. The bond again. Sometimes, it's almost as though I can hear his thoughts--that's how much alike we are. How close.
In the family, he's the engineer-brain--I'm the "writer." While I taught writing in a college classroom for the better part of two decades, he just completed his first decade as a computer engineer. I've been married for most of my adult life; he is just standing on the edge of such a decision. But what I think is remarkable, as I look backwards at our lives, is how much we both have meant to one another--despite what could have been insurmountable differences.
How many of us can say that about another human being? Even a sibling? When I think ahead, my brother is always part of that picture. I'd say he's as close to a best friend as anyone can get without that person being your spouse. I recently saw Angelina Jolie being interviewed on the Actor's Studio. She spoke about the bond between herself and her brother--how much she loved him, how much he meant to her. People thought their relationship may have been inappropriate; there was speculation about how close the two really were. I never found their relationship odd; I think part of the reason why is because I understand what it's like to have a sibling you are intensely close to--usually, that intensity springs from difficulty.
The night my brother was born was very exciting; I was scared, too--I remember looking up at the stars--it was a clear night--and thinking as I gazed upward, "please let him be safe..." as if I KNEW him before he even arrived. I remember thinking he would be a great man, not a President, but maybe an inventor--and that he'd love to look up at the stars as much as I did. Interestingly, he is a bit of an inventor--he can make anything--even built a working electrical lamp at the age of four! He also ended up loving space--the idea of the possibilities, those millions of stars up there beckoning us with every twinkle in the night sky.
My brother can't have the same benefit of knowing me my whole life as I've known him--he missed the first eight years. It is amazing to be there at the very beginning of a life--especially a life you feel so deeply connected to. My brother's birthday is next week--it's funny, but every year, I feel like I did when I was just that giggling little girl, as if the universe were about to deliver the very best gift any human could possibly ask for.
I may not know you, dear reader, may not know your family situation, or if you have any siblings at all--but what I can say is that you DESERVE to feel the same kind of connection my brother and I have. You DESERVE it. You may not think so--you may have five or six siblings and you may not like ANY of them. You may be a single child with no siblings. But you don't need a sibling to find this kind of connection. It's out there:
"Now voyager, sail thou forth to seek and find...." (qWalt Whitman from his book of poetry, Leaves of Grass)