I have an advantage over those of you who grew up with brothers. All those of you got beaten up, shot at, hung in trees, fought constantly, competed about everything…I’m the winner. My brother and I grew up together, apart. In different states. With a 10 year age gap (I’m the big sister.) I remember the exact spot I was standing in when Daddy called me to tell me that Alex had been born. I was ecstatic and couldn’t wait to get back to 5th grade the next day to tell my friends ALL about it. I was FINALLY a sister!!! He didn’t see me cry tears of joy. Our Daddy worked for Delta when we were growing up, so I flew for free. So, we still saw each other often, but because it wasn’t an everyday thing, we overlooked all the bad stuff and were just THRILLED to see each other! When he was little, I always stepped off of the plane with gifts for him, and between trips, he would mail me drawings and letters, written in crayon.
Like all brothers, he eventually grew up and became a moron. I, thank goodness, was always the perfect child. Ahem. (Don’t believe that.) But, when Alex grew up, he grew quieter. It was harder to find common ground because I didn’t know how to talk football, baseball, fast cars…guy stuff. I just hung in there and talked about what I could, and prayed for him.
Then he got REALLY crazy. He piped up one day and told the family that he had decided to join the Marines. The USMC. I asked him not to. He flew to Camp Pendleton. He deployed twice. I cried. I sent care packages. The very rare phone calls were full of me forcing a smile and laughter and assuring him that he was loved and prayed for. He didn’t see me cry tears of worry.
He called me from California when his wife was in labor. He was scared and worried and felt helpless. He didn’t know what to do, so he. called. me. I was walking through Garden Ridge looking at patio furniture, coaching Alex, telling him how he could help her. “Give her chapstick”. “Give her ice chips.” “Let her hold you and sway.” “Be strong, brother, you can do this.” He didn’t see me cry tears of pride. He also didn’t see the tears that soon followed when he texted me a picture of my perfect, gorgeous nephew…the little guy who made me an Aunt for the first time ever!
When Alex returned from his first deployment, his wife asked my oldest daughter and me to meet her at Camp Pendleton to help take pictures of his return. My baby nephew was now walking and too much time had passed. I jumped at the chance. We waited for hours. We saw thousands of Marines walk by and searched every face for those big green eyes and every walking pattern for that characteristic swagger. I took a short walk around a grassy area. I saw him across the path. Big guy. Big swagger. Big green eyes. That’s my baby brother. I ran at him. He scooped me up and squeezed the breath out of me. I let him see me cry.
Alex, you being a Marine has nothing to do with you being my hero. You’ve always been good and kind and loved me. You’ve always had my eyes. You’ve always had my heart. You’ve always been a little crazy. But then look who’s talking. I’m thankful for the adventures we’ve had. Parasailing over Hawaii, walking through Gramps’ corn fields and Mesquite trees, playing checkers, listening to your ridiculous music on the radio, you hobbling on a broken leg at my wedding because you insisted on ushering, Las Vegas and the chka-chka-chka laughs bellowing through the night, Hollywood, Austin and one tiny blue star, befriending your beautiful and amazing wife, watching your baby grow up. You’ve given me lots of great memories. You made me a “Seester”. You’re pretty much the best. Next to me. I love you. Happy Birthday, bro.