Friday, December 22, 2006

Lil Bro

Watching how well Susie and The Boy get along is one of my favorite things about being a mom. I remember being a kid, living overseas in a gated compound with ten other families; my brother was the only other kid to play with most of the time. And we were great friends. Sure, we fought like most siblings, but we were always pretty tight. We had a lot of friends in common in the one year of high school in which we attended the same school - he even had a crush on my best friend for a minute or two. Since my kids also share many friends and attend the same school, will they have a close relationship as adults, too?

My brother (waving at lil bro) and I have a relationship that is very different from the relationship the Husband has with his sisters (and from the relationships I've seen in friends). While the Husband and his sisters remain in contact, say, once a month with some regularity (although the number of times he has called any member of his family in the past ten years can probably be counted on one person's fingers), my brother and I go in spurts. We'll talk A LOT for a month or two, then have almost no contact for six months or more.

I assume that our current "on again" phase was inspired by the impending holidays, and our family's extremely rare moment of "all together". The last time we were "all together" was in 1997. Susie was a six-month-old baby, The Husband had just finished his Master's degree, there was no Boy yet, and Lil Bro had never been married (although he was dating his first wife). It was a lovely holiday celebration, captured on my Dad's brand-new video camera. I had a great job that paid more than I had ever made, and I'm pretty sure that Lil Bro was in the same situation. My strongest emotional recollection of that holiday was, "Yes, this is how it was supposed to be. We have succeeded. All is well."

A few years later, however, there was upheaval. Lil Bro married shortly after The Boy was born, and divorced less than a year later. I quit my great job because I couldn't handle pregnancy, a toddler, and a job very well, and a newborn, a toddler, and a job were unimaginable. The Husband was teaching more and more classes.

A couple more years passed and Lil Bro met someone else. I had been working at a much less wonderful job (but it was what I needed to be doing....didn't go home with me and only required a little brain power since I was breastfeeding and that took half my intelligence away), The Husband continued to teach. Lil Bro's job was becoming less great by the minute. Months passed, then another wedding.

In 2004 it all hit the fan. I was jacked up on a lot of prednisone because I had just had my thyroid gland nuked to high hell, visiting the family in Michigan (with the kids, but not the husband). I was grumpy and hungry and being the evil version of myself. Lil Bro was miserable in his job and in his marriage. We had cross words followed by tears. Just hours after I left to return to Memphis, all hell broke loose. Lil Bro, in a brave and reckless and necessary move, quit his job and his marriage ended. Just like that. The last time I saw him was Thanksgiving weekend 2004. I was about to start a new job (the one I have now) and his life was pretty uncertain. Newly-divorced, trying to make a living freelancing. I worried about him.

Fortunately, this story has a pretty happy ending so far. He left Michigan after many months of distance-dating a woman in Chicago, who is coming to Michigan for Christmas (and for this big sister to check out the new woman in my brother's life). He's got a great job. And he called me last night, so excited about the holiday. It was so cool (and yes, so cute) to hear him say, "I don't think I'm going to be able to sleep tonight; I'm so excited to get on that train tomorrow!" I told The Husband about the conversation and even he was touched to hear about my brother's excitement. So be patient, Lil Bro. We'll be there in less than 24 hours. And we can totally make stupid jokes all weekend. I'm excited too.

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