When we were little, we used to play house. Obviously, I was the mom. Eric was the dad. Brett was the baby. Or the “kid”. Then eventually Kim came along so Kim became the “kid” or the “baby” and Brett demanded to be the “Uncle” because he was tired of being the little one.
Because there were four years between Brett and me, most of my early years I remember thinking he and kim were the Babies, and Eric and I the “big kids”. So for the most part, I spent a good ten years telling he and Kim to get lost, get out of my room, leave me alone, etc.
Brett was into neat stuff as a kid. He liked magic and science. He liked to collect odd things and learn odd things. He had a rock tumbler, and he loved to play on the farm. He was (and probably still is) a very talented artist, who contemplated going into an art field one day.
I went away to college while Brett was really becoming a “man”. I remember coming home one summer and he had literally grown four inches. FOUR INCHES?! He was suddenly a tall gangly man. It was so strange. He eventually went to college, and there were a few times that I drove him down to Athens. I remember driving one winter down River Road, listening to Blue Christmas by Elvis Presley, with Brett. I remember feeling like I didn’t know him very well. I wanted to, but I also wanted to do all the selfish things a college girl wants to do. So I put it off.
I believe it was September 17, 2001 that my brother Brett decided to go into the United States Marine Corps.
I was devastated because I knew what that meant. It meant he’d eventually go away. But I didn’t tell him that. At some point after he finished some of his boot camp stuff he came and visited me in Columbus. He had in his hands a pair of cowboy boots and inside one of them was a bottle of Black Velvet whiskey. It was hilarious. It was also one of the first times that I really got to hang out with my brother and just shoot the breeze, as young adults. I remember having a blast. I remember feeling guilty that I hadn’t gotten to know him better sooner. Because after all, eventually he was going to go away.
I was in a bar during happy hour on the day he called my cell phone to tell me he was being deployed to Dijibouti, Africa. “No worries, they’re not sending me to the Middle East. Just Africa.” I was probably 3-4 beers deep at a terrible bar in the Arena District when I was yelling through the phone, “Africa?? Why Africa? That doesn’t make sense.” He told me he didn’t know, but he’d let someone know when he landed safely. I told him I loved him, and he said goodbye.
I’m not sure how many days went by, but eventually he called my mom from Kuwait. And yes. He most certainly was in the Middle East. Shit.
While my brother was in the Middle East I was a wreck about it. I was still in my tv watching crazy news-obsessing days. I would scan the short videos they had of troops on tv, and look for his face. I eventually had to escape from the madness of the news. In March he was turning 21 and I couldn’t imagine what he was doing. He certainly wasn’t celebrating the way a lot of other American 21 year olds were. I had no idea.
I did get some letters from him, the guy who hates to write, while he was in Iraq. They are some of the funniest things I ever received.
He came home safe. I was proud. But more than proud, just glad he was home.
I feel like, even though I waited a long time to work on a real friendship with this brother of mine, that we’ve grown even closer over the last 10 years. I feel like he gets me in a lot of ways that other people don’t. Or, he at least humors me by listening and saying just the right thing. I think he might have been one of the first people I told that I was pregnant. He’s the first person I called when my sister got engaged and I was selfishly sad for myself. And he’s the one I’ve called sobbing (usually in my car) for whatever reason. It doesn’t matter. I call Brett. He makes it better.
I think about all the times I told him to “Get Lost” in my younger years and it really makes me cringe. I know I’m lucky to have him as a friend now, because I don’t know if I could befriend someone who told me (basically) that I was a loser during the formative years of my life.
But now, he’s married to Kristen, who is as much my sister as he is my brother. While they were in Ohio I had so many great times visiting them, or when they visited me. We went camping and canoeing. We had drunken nights where we laughed so hard my sides hurt the next day. I love them both. I miss them so much since they’ve moved away. I’m so glad for new technologies that allow us to chat on video and let him see Simon.
Happy Birthday to my little big brother. I love you dude. Come home soon.