I am lucky that my mom wrote the story of my birth and homecoming in my baby book. She wrote that she had white powered donuts before going to the hospital, that my dad called me his "Bright Eyed Bobbi," and that my brother fell in love with me the instant he met me. There are photos of him playing the part of big brother (he's 17 months older than me) all throughout the family photo albums.
I remember my parents (or someone) once saying that the best reason to love my brother is because there is no one genetically more alike to me in the world than he is. In other words, we should bond because we inherited some of the same traits from our parents. This memory made me chuckle when I learned how much shared DNA humans have with chimpanzees and bonobos or the rest of the hominids in general.
In the years since, I've come to realize a different, more compelling truth: that there is no one in the world who shares more of my history with me than my brother. He was there when I was born, and up until he went to college, there were only a few days (school trips, mainly) where we didn't see each other.
I couldn't see that truth while we were growing up. Whether it was intentional (on my mother's part) or unintentional (on my father's part), my parents engineered comparisons and competition between my brother and I, instead of fostering a relationship that would draw us closer. My mother used this to her advantage when it came to chores, school, and all-over behavior. (Keep in mind, we weren't bad kids at all -- just sometimes our intellect got in the way of blindly following what our elders told us to do.) I think she felt like we couldn't gang up on her if we were rivals.
After our mom died, there were other issues that caused tension between my brother and I. Most of the tension I would chalk up to not having much guidance about how to grieve for her and how to get on with the daily business of living life. Suffice it to say that we had different priorities and visions of how to just get through things.
But then a wonderful thing happened -- college. My mom always liked to joke that our first words were "scholarship" -- but the serious truth about the joke is that my mom didn't escape the manipulative clutch of her mother until college. I think mom wanted the same for us, without admitting any shortcomings on her part. She wanted us to be independent. Once we both went away to college and started differentiating our fields of study, the wedge that separated us began to falter. No one was asking us to compete with each other. No one compared my brother to me, or me to my brother.
We were free to become friends and not rivals.
I don't want to put words in his mouth, but from my own experience and observation, I think we both used our time in college to sort through and contextualize each of our first 18 years. It was a time of understanding, growth, forgiveness, and a lot of gut-wrenching hard work. For me, a large part of that was learning how to let go of pain and hurt that expressed itself as anger (i.e., I stopped being a heinous bitch). For both of us, I think it was a time to come into our own in trusting our intuition and intellect when it came to how we wanted to be as people and how we wanted to live our lives.
But this post isn't about how we became different people. It's about how there's no one else in the world who knows me better than my brother. And I'm not just talking about knowing me, knowing my heart -- but I mean being able to summon up the context for who I am, what I say, how I think, and what I do. Even better is that sometimes I need not say a thing and he just gets it.
On Monday, he helped me get cat supplies (litter and cat food that weighed a total of 46lbs) -- one of the hardest things to do for myself while my neck/back is injured. We grabbed some dinner while out and he even helped me get it upstairs and into my apartment. My cats practically tackled him upon opening the door. We eventually got to talking about life, work, and my back injury. I took out my Human Osteology Field Manual and showed him where my herniated discs are, where the bulges are, and how it affects my nerves. I even drew (badly) on my whiteboard the difference between a bulge and a hernia. As he was about to leave, I broke down into tears, finally admitting the thing that has been weighing on my heart the most -- "I don't want to end up like Mom." In his eyes I could see he knew exactly what I meant by comparing myself to our mother.
In the movie version that is my life, there either would have been some exposition as to what that meant, or flashbacks showing what I meant. But as this is not the movie of my life, I'm just going to leave that comment about my mom where it is for the time being because the point of the post is that I'm thankful that there's at least one person out there I don't need to explain anything to. I'm lucky to call him "brother."