Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Happy Birthday to You!

Today is my brother, Matt's, birthday. He is turning 31 years old. Where has the time gone? Being seven years younger than me, I vividly recall changing his diapers. And climbing in bed with him when he was scared. I recall cleaning up his messes--particularly his propensity for pulling the dozens and dozens of books from the bookshelf in my bedroom when we were growing up. I can't count how many times we found little toddling Matt sitting in a colossal pile of books, giggling with glee. Being the youngest and the only boy (and the only male in the entire house after my dad died) he was always kind of an anomaly. Really more of a pet, of sorts, to my sisters and I than an equal. As a matter of fact, at some point, we stopped calling him by his name altogether. He is simply "Brother."

As we grew older, Brother and I moved in different circles. I went away to college and couldn't be bothered with a pesky little brother. He became a football player in high school. I could count on one hand the number of times I went to see him play. After graduating from high school, Brother joined the Marines and moved away. I was living in Minnesota and he was a world away at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina.

In 2001, September 11th happened and our subsequent invasion of Iraq. Being a Marine, my brother was one of the first ones on the ground in Iraq. I worried about him profusely. I listened to NPR any time I was in the car. At home, the television was always tuned to the news. At work, I had up on my computer all day. I craved any and all snippets of information I could garner about the war and my brother's part in it. Every time I heard about a roadside bomb going off and Marines being killed, I froze in my tracks and made a silent plea that my brother was in another part of the country at the time, safe and sound. I waited to get a call from my mother informing me of my worst nightmare. Suddenly my pesky little brother became the first person I thought about every morning and the subject of every bedtime prayer. I named my son Lucas Matthew after my brother, who was still in Iraq in January of 2003 when Lucas was born.

Eventually, Brother did make it home safe and sound and was discharged from the Marines. The annoying little boy who joined the Marines in peacetime to see the world--oblivious to the hell that was waiting around the corner for him--emerged a man worthy of respect. A man who my children can look up to. They adore their Uncle Matt. Though 750 miles away in Kentucky, he has always been the constant, consummate, male in their lives. They don't see him often, but visits with him are memorable and beloved. He is a police officer now, which raises his "coolness" factor by about a thousand degrees in the eyes of my boys. Of course, I worry about him putting himself in harm's way...again. I guess worrying about a little brother is a job a big sister simply can't escape.

Today, I would like to wish a heartfelt Happy Birthday to my brother, Matt Ralph. The best pet I ever had. I hope you have a great day. Have a beer (or twelve). Kick back. Relax. Have fun.
I love you, punk!


Anonymous said...

That was great Shannon.

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