As I mentioned, my little brother got married a couple weeks ago. “Little” brother is quite a misnomer, as he’s about 6’4″, but to me, he’ll always be the lovably hyper boy of my memories.
It was such a strange experience to watch him get married. Not a bad one, by any means – his wife is lovely, and it was a great weekend – but any of you who have younger siblings will know what I mean. In some ways, he has always seemed like my actual kid, not just my kid brother. I’ve certainly doled out plenty of bossy older sibling advice, at least.
And then, suddenly, this little kid of mine is a husband! With a wedding ring! And a for real wife!
His best friend from growing up (whom I also can’t picture as older than 13) gave a moving speech at the reception about how kind and loyal my brother is, and it’s true. He’s a neat guy – incredibly nice, with an infectious spirit of whimsy, and he can rattle off any sports stat you’d ever care to know. But the best man also talked about how hard it was for my brother to lose his father at age 14 – when you’re just starting to figure out how to be a man.
Hearing that was a gut punch. It made me sad that I didn’t do more for him in the past 10 years. When our dad died, in one sense it brought us closer together, but in another, we all drifted apart. You have to fight so hard to hold yourself together, which you do not just for your own sake but also for your family’s, that you sometimes forget that they need support, too. I thought about all the CDs I never burned for him, all the weekends I never invited him visit me at college, and all the phone calls I forgot to return. For all my parental feelings of ownership, I’m afraid I failed him in some really important ways.
But then I heard him stand up and thank all his family and friends for being there to share his wedding weekend, and he sounded like a real grown up. Standing on the beach in his wedding suit, he looked so much like our dad it was eerie. I realized that, in spite of it all, he had forged his own path to manhood, arriving on a pristine beach in California, standing next to a beautiful young woman who has fallen in love with all the things we love about him.
We couldn’t have failed him if we’d tried, because he’s a resilient, joyful man – one I’m proud to call “brother.”