Watch this first:
There is a devotion of a boy to his older brother that defies any kind of logic. My brother Scott, three years older than I am, was always there. And maybe that is part of the mystery. A younger brother has never known a life without his brother there. He was always bigger than me, faster than me, knew more about the world than I did. Even my preferences somehow always started with him. As a boy, when people asked me why I liked a particular sports team over another, I had no answer. I mean, I knew why. Because my brother liked them first.
Over the years my brother and I spent more time together than with any friends. We could find numberless games to make up and play—all it required was a ball of some kind. We wrestled, played football, baseball, some games on our trampoline, and dozens of games that involved throwing a racquetball against the house. Sometimes I would get tired of always being outplayed by him, and he would bribe me with some coveted baseball card or Star Wars figure to keep me motivated. And I always fell for it, even though I still always lost.
I think a younger brother just starts every question looking to what his older brother has done. Scott seemed to be so effortlessly cool and liked by everyone. I wanted to be like that. He was an amazing student and scholar at university—I wanted to be like that, too. His choice of profession showed his concern about the well-being of others, of his fellow human beings all over the world—though he would never claim that mantle of hero.
Then in the early 90’s I went off to England for a couple of years. A few months before I came back home, he left for his years in the Peace Corps in South America. And since then our lives have been a series of intersections at the infrequent moments that our orbits crossed each other. Over the past 25 years, I think we have lived on the same continent for only maybe 3 years. As I write this he lives about 10,000 miles from me in southern Africa.
Neither of us are very good about phone calls and other ways of staying in contact. We see each other’s orbital patterns, but seem to always wait until our planets intersect. And it is not that often. We have families, jobs, joys, worries. We are drawn into our work, pulled into the needs of our children, caught up in our separate universes.
But there is something about not being around my brother that seems off. We are the only direct male relatives in our families. No grandfathers, no father, no uncles in our bloodline. And if I want to see what I will look like in three years, I can just see what he looks like now. So though we are so often separated, we are still interconnected. It’s not quite like having a distant twin, I suppose, but somehow the separation still feels strange, not right.
And in the end, this is all we’ve got. What will be the tragedy that will make me realize that my brother is the only one I have? If you watched the video, you see how the brothers are brought together by the impending loss of each other. But isn’t that the reality for all of us? Our time is so short, incredibly brief. And if not now, when? I am sorry, brother, for not working harder to keep our lives in contact with each other. I don’t want some tragedy to make me realize how much I regret losing touch with my brother far sooner than I had to. I want to tell you that I love you, my older brother. I want to tell you that I am with you, always, from life until death. But I have to keep the promise to be with you now, in life. I miss you, brother. Happy Birthday.