To my brother, Matt, the night before his wedding
I thought this letter would be easy to write. We’ve always had the kind of relationship where I don’t have to worry how I say something because I know you will understand what I really meant. But the occasion, I have found, is too significant for my recklessness with words.
I remember the night you were born not only because of the excitement but because I was at the emergency room after being bit by the neighbors’ dog. I remember seeing you in the nursery and though you were considered a large baby, you seemed so small to me. Everyone in the family had been worried about how I would take your arrival. I’d been the only grandchild on Dad’s side of the family: that’s a lot of spoiling for a little girl. A new baby would take attention, time, energy, much of it away from me. But I think I loved you the moment I saw you red faced and screaming in the hospital nursery. And though I did not understand how someone so small was going to be my playmate, I did know I would have a lot to teach you. I wanted to read you all my favorite books, have you listen to all my favorite music. I had stories of our family I wanted to tell you. It took too long, in my opinion, for you to get old enough to appreciate my attention. But once you were, we never looked back.
Growing up we were content to play together, dreaming up worlds, playing hide and seek. You used to get scared I think that I wasn’t going to find you. If your hiding place was too good and it took too long for me to find you, you would jump out and say, “Here I am! Here I am.” I could hide forever, or what seemed like forever, but I was never great at finding places to hide.
You were so different from me. You hated reading but loved trying to figure out how things worked. You asked a lot of questions, questions adults did not always know how to answer. You looked at the world like a puzzle. You'd spend hours examining objects, figuring out how it opened, closed, could it be punctured, how loud could it go? You could sit, quietly taking things apart, trying to put things back together. You had more patience with the simpler, smaller things. I ran around in circles, singing songs, quoting movies, making sounds, banging on things. Even as a boy, you had great determination. Your curiosity got you into trouble a lot. You were always into something: mom’s lipstick, motor oil, gasoline, etc.
In middle school, I got irritated that my friends, who did not have siblings, always wanted to hang out with you when they came over. You were MY brother. If I didn't want you around it was only because I wanted to keep you for myself. You were special, unique. I didn't want my friends to take that away. I'd rather have hung out with you anyway. Mom told me to be patient with you, that you wanted to be older like me, that I influenced you, and that you wanted to be like me. That's a lot of responsibility for an older sister to have. I don’t know that I have always lived up to it. In fact, I know I haven’t. I know there have been times I disappointed you, times that you didn’t always agree with the decisions I made. I know that our closeness creates a strange dynamic for others who love us because loving us means accepting our freakishly close relationship. It can be daunting to enter into debates or conversations with us when we finish one another’s sentences. We have a way of shutting others out and only focusing on one another because it’s how we managed when we were little. But no matter what happened, we had one another.
Life may seem more complicated now as we have grown up. We are getting older, taking on more
responsibilities, using our minds in different ways. There are different expectations of us, more and more things need our attention. But there is a lot about us that hasn’t changed. You can still make me laugh simply by laughing and get me in trouble more quickly than anyone I know. You can still talk me into doing something silly that makes no sense at all and I know that that’s why it makes perfect sense. And though I see you as the little boy in my roller skates, the patient engineer, taking everything apart to see if you can make it work more effectively, I also see you as an incredible man loved by an even more incredible woman.
So to that man I say the following:
I do not wish you a fairy tale ending because such a wish is unrealistic and will leave you feeling disappointed. And today is not the beginning of the rest of your life. You have been living your life this whole time; it doesn’t begin and end with another person. It does, however, become more vibrant, more significant, and more fulfilling when you share the good, the bad, the crazy, the sad, the loud and the quiet moments with someone you love. Someone who loves you for the exact same reasons you drive her crazy. What I wish for you is a love that is honest, that evolves as you evolve, one that terrifies you because it fills your heart so completely. I hope that when you see her stand before you tomorrow, you will scarcely be able to breathe. I hope you wake up each day with sheer joy because she is in your life and you in hers. But I know that life has a way of getting to us and we often forget that love and romance take work. So, I hope you can take the way you will feel tomorrow while waiting for your bride and embrace it, take it into yourself. Roll the moments through your mind like a film reel. Relish how it feels to be supported and loved by all of us who love you. Then take those moments and plant them firmly in your memories so that you can recall them on days you feel like nothing is going right. Remember tomorrow as your happiest day. And Relax.
Tomorrow you will stand in a church before your friends and family and watch the woman you love walk to you and promise her devotion, her adoration and love to you. She will vow to love you in spite of yourself. And you will vow to protect and cherish her promises to you. You will look into her eyes; maybe your voice will crack, as you think of all the ways you will fail her and the ways you’ll grow to depend on her sweet voice in the midst of your panic to remind you that life is about the silly moments between two people, that mortgages and vet appointments and deadlines can wait while you soak in the everydayness of your life together.
Love is an adventure, one you cannot undertake alone. You have to depend on someone to be your compass, to let you know when you’ve veered off course. Be one another’s North Star, guiding each other to safety, to the home you will build together. Inspire one another with your affection. Make the effort to tell her what she means to you. Remind yourself of all the reasons you fell in love. When things do not go according to plan, be gentle and understanding. Learn to appreciate the spontaneity of life with your partner in love.
Finally, know that no matter the circumstances I am always, always your greatest admirer, your loudest cheerleader, your most honest friend and your sister. You’re still my little brother and tomorrow you will become a husband. It feels so strange to think of you that way, as someone’s husband. I still see you in grease stained t-shirts, bleeding from whatever wound you’ve encountered from playing whatever game wholeheartedly. You commit 150% or more to everything you do. And I have no doubt you approach love with the same passion and drive with which you used to swing bats and practice pitching. Though Dad suffered quite a few bruises and black eyes at your dedication, I think we were all impressed with your commitment. And I remain impressed as I await your wedding because I know exactly what it means for you to commit your whole heart to another person.
So, may tomorrow exceed your expectations and each day after surprise you. May your love inspire those around you to see the possibilities in each moment and always remember how deeply I love you. I celebrate you and the love you have found. I look forward to being a part of the future you will build together.