They’re never long conversations. Just a quick “Hi, I’m on my way” and “I love you”.
Even with their brevity, the calls are comforting. I like knowing where he is going to be. And when he is coming back.
So Saturday afternoon, when my brother called as he was making his way across the desert, I asked my teen to pause “Grey’s Anatomy” (Season 9 on Netflix. Making our way through the series) so I could chat with her uncle for a few minutes.
When I came back in to the den to start watching again, my daughter asked me what the call was all about. (She has bionic hearing, when she wants.) I told her that Uncle Josh calls me every year when he’s on his way to Burning Man. He calls our parents also.
So we started talking about Burning Man and how there’s no cell phone service and no Internet access. And had I ever told her about the time eight years ago, when her great grandfather died, at the age of 91, and Uncle Josh was at Burning Man? His partner in San Francisco had to have somebody go and find him among 50,000 plus people to let him know so he could make it to the funeral.
Except that Josh didn’t make it to the funeral because it was foggy in Charlotte and his connection was cancelled so he and my sister-in-law took a cab. All the way from Charlotte to Fayetteville. One hundred and thirty seven miles. And that it cost $400. And that we texted back and forth during the funeral to try to make it seem like we were together.
When the cab pulled up outside my grandparents’ house on Mirror Lake Drive, everybody walked outside to greet my brother and sister-in-law. But I ran. As fast as my little legs could carry me. And in to the arms of my brother where I burst out in to these gigantic sobs. I couldn’t stop. And when I had to move out of the way so everyone else could hug him, I shifted over to my sister-in-law who wrapped her arms around me.
At this point, as I’m recounting the story for my daughter, reliving the moment of running to my brother as he got out of the cab, my eyes started welling up with tears.
I was surprised by my weepiness. And I think that she was too.
So I tried to explain to her, and to myself, why I was crying. Almost eight years after the fact.
What was it about that scene that still had the power to make me teary?
I think it’s because I knew that he would be able to share my grief better than anyone else.
Our bond is strong. And our history is unique. To us. We’re only 18 months apart. We shared our childhood. I dressed like him, until he wouldn’t let me. We played sock baseball for hours. Explored streams on family trips. We made our way through our parents’ divorce when we were in high school. We were in each others weddings. And he walked me down the makeshift aisle, and on to the back deck, when I got married a second time.
It doesn’t matter that we live on opposite sides of the country and don’t speak that often.
He’ll always be my brother. The only one I have.
Through my tears the other day, I decided to use this as a “life teaching” moment with my daughter. Even though she hates it when I do that. But I couldn’t help myself. She and her brother are two and a half years apart. And man, do they fight.
“You see, one day, you and your brother will be so close. You’ll be happy to have each other. There’s nobody else like that to you.”
I got the eye roll. Lesson over. And we moved on to the next episode of “Grey’s Anatomy”.