I sat on the center cushion of the brown plaid sofa. My dad was across from me in our new rocking chair, elbows resting on his knees as he leaned toward me. “You have a brother. The baby is a boy!” His joy was contagious.
“Really?” I asked. “What’s his name?”
“What do you think we should name him?”
Momma and Daddy discussed names for months, but this was the first time someone asked me what I thought. “Jason,” I answered. Dad nodded.
My grandmother drove me to the hospital that evening after school. In 1979 hospitals frowned on children visiting their mothers in the maternity ward, but my mom was in a room on the ground floor. My grandmother walked me over to the open window where my dad was holding my baby brother.
He was the most wonderous thing I had ever seen. I could not wait for him to come home so that I could take care of him.
The day they came home from the hospital I ran outside to the car. I jerked open the door to the backseat where my mother was sitting with my brother. Filled with excitement, I reached for him. “I’ll hold him!” My mother, exhausted from childbirth and a raging case of the flu, passed him to me without question. From that moment on, in my seven-year-old mind, he was my baby.
I played with him. I fed him. I rocked him. I burped him. I cleaned his spit-up off my clothes only slightly horrified. I did not, however, change his disgusting poop diapers. Gross.
When he learned to crawl out of his crib at way too early an age, I let him sleep with me. Two years later it was decided he needed to learn to sleep in his own room. His wails echoed through the house. “I WANT MY SISTUH!!!! I WANT MY SISTUH!!!” I shed my own share of tears during that time too.
When I was 12, I got a go-kart for Christmas. The next summer my cousins and I drove it back and forth on the gravel road in front of my grandmother’s house. I would let Jason sit on my lap and steer while I pushed the pedals. Once, we were racing down the road. The wind snatched at his peals of laughter. “Don’t turn!” I instructed him. I knew that we were going too fast, but we were having so much fun. He did not listen.
He turned the steering wheel as we reached my grandmother’s driveway. The go-kart flipped. As we slid through the gravel, I wrapped my body around his to protect him. I lost most of the skin on my thigh, but he was unscathed. After crawling from my arms, he looked at me. “Let’s do that again!”
The three of us, my mom, Jason, and me, were close. Especially after my parent’s divorce. Sometimes it felt like us against the world. My mother would hold our gaze. “I want the two of you to promise, that no matter what happens, that you know you will always have each other. The two of you will forever belong to one another. Nothing can change that.”
Me and my brother are different in a lot of ways. Sometimes I will joke that we are polar opposites. But that really isn’t true. We have the same blood flowing in our veins. The same genetic code that gave us brown eyes and is making our hair go prematurely grey. We like the same music and the same movies and the same food. We both can cook you out of the house. We were both raised the exact same way and taught that the people who truly love you will always stand by you. No matter what.
I haven’t always agreed with him, and I’m sure he doesn’t always agree with me. But that’s okay. Because I have always loved him. No matter what he does. No matter where he goes. No matter anything. I will always stand by him. Because that is what real love is. Unconditional. Unending. Always patient. Always kind. “It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.” (1 Corinthians 13:7)