Or maybe the title should be “I wish you never left.” Or “18 years.” Or simply “I miss my brother.”
On August 23, 1995, I was sitting in the waiting area at the car dealer, having my car tuned up etc- getting ready for the long trip east I knew was coming soon. I was living in Lynnwood, WA at the time- and I loved it there. As I was killing time in the waiting room, I just knew there would be a message on the answering machine when I got home. And I knew what it would say. Sure enough, it was my father, telling me (in a shaky voice) to call him. Eric had died. It wasn’t unexpected. AIDS was most definitely a killer then. But still- expected or not, when your big brother dies, a little of you does, too. I called in to work- no big deal- they knew this was coming, too. I lit candles, then sat in the middle of the floor and cried. And cried. And cried.
That memory is crystal clear. But there are many, many good memories that are just as clear. This year, especially, my sister and I have been thinking of when Eric left for William and Mary to begin college. Williamsburg and Culpeper are about 4 hours apart- but then, when you are 13 and 11 it seems like forever. It’s been on our mind because my nephew is leaving for college, and his little sisters are left behind. They are 6- time and distance are harder to comprehend- they just know that their brother won’t be home. They’ll learn that his going away to college is not a bad thing. When he comes home, he will have so much to tell him- the holidays will be even happier. They’ll get to go visit him and see so many new things. I wish I could get through to all of our kids just how wonderful all of the things their older siblings will show and teach them can be.
That’s what I’m remembering this year. Things that I saw, experienced, learned- that I might not have if it weren’t for Eric.
What I’m wishing for and missing- pretty much the same as every year. I’ve remarried, and I really wish that Eric and James could have met. I know they would have liked each other. I wish the kids could have known him, and that he could have known them. I wish my parents hadn’t had to have a child die. I wish Manda and I still had our big brother here.
I ask you this every year- kiss or hug your brothers/sisters. And if you absolutely have to call them names, please do it with love.