There I was, the picture of nervousness in white. With the ceremony just a few minutes away, I sat in that room on the brink of one of the biggest days of my life. I looked up and there he stood in the doorway, all 6?3? of “little” brother complete with tux. I braced myself for what would come next as I saw his face curl into the smile we had always shared.
“Don’t touch my stuff.”
“Stay out of my room.”
This was the extent of our heart to hearts growing up. I’d go to my room for peace and quiet and seconds later, his music would be shaking the windows. He drank out of the milk carton, left the bathroom a mess of puddles, and thought nothing was ever his fault. He could spoil even the best of my moods in five seconds flat and then breeze out of the room to finish his day. By our late teens, we had grown into our own lives, and they had very little to do with each other anymore. I remember one day I’d noticed he’d started shaving. Another day I was shocked to finally see a hint of muscle on that beanpole frame. It wasn’t until my wedding day, though, that I realized that he really, finally had grown up. And it isn’t until now that I realize that in such a short time he taught me the biggest lesson I’ve learned about life and love.
It was impossible to think that in one moment he’d be gone. It was unimaginable to me that the first funeral I’d ever go to was not for my 87-year-old grandmother, but for my 20-year-old brother. But one Sunday morning the unthinkable became reality.
I spent the first few nights just rocking and crying and repeating the same four words. “I love you, Mike.” “I love you, Mike.” Oh, why didn’t I ever just tell you that? All that silence, all that yelling, all those opportunities I wasted in getting to know him were eating up my soul. This wasn’t the plan. We were supposed to become friends again when we grew up. There was supposed to be so much time left.
I got my wedding pictures back right around the time that he died. When I saw them, I remembered that day and what he had said. It was not what I had expected, not “that dress makes you look fat” or “what happened to your hair?” but just one simple word:
I may not get any more days with my bratty little brother, but I got one day that meant everything to me. In that one moment he taught me that with some people in your life, the words “I love you” just come in another form. But in any form they take, they’re something to be treasured.
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