A memory of us as kids came to me earlier this evening and I wanted to share it with you. One morning, Dad and I walked you to school, the small daycare down the hill from our house on Mesa Verde Street. It was a sunny day. I don’t think it was your first day of school. You went out to the play yard with the other kids. I don’t remember if you were crying when we took you inside the building, but you were sobbing by the time you were outside. I remember you standing at the fence, clinging to the chain links, sobbing hysterically as we walked away. I don't remember what you were saying, but I know you were pleading with us and the memory tears my heart open. Dad walked us away, towards home, and I looked back over my shoulder at you. I can see you so clearly in my mind, more than 25 years later. If I sit with the moment for longer than a few seconds, I can hear you sobbing and I am punched in the gut with guilt and the undeniable truth: although our separation was temporary, we abandoned you. All I wanted to do was go back and get you and make you safe and happy. You screamed so loud that eventually Mom and Dad couldn’t take you to that preschool anymore. The teachers couldn't handle it. Or maybe they finally conceded to the emotional trauma you were going through.
I can't help but think there is a connection between that moment and your memories of being a foster child before being adopted by our folks. You had lived with your foster family since your birth. They, of course, loved you, and how could they not? My God: the dimples, the smile, your curls? Anyone would have wanted a baby just like you. Mom and Dad brought you home to us right before you turned one and they said everything was fine on your first night until it was time to go to bed. Dad put you in your crib and you looked around, confused, and said in this small voice, "Ma?," apparently asking after your foster mother. So simple a question with so profound an impact on your new family. Dad said we all gathered in our parents' bed, the four of us, and sobbed. I was three, you were one, and our parents, our parents were younger than I am today. I cannot fathom what it was like to be parents to a son who by one-year-old was on his third mother.
I know you’re grown up and you don’t remember these things happening. You’re almost 32 and, as far as I can tell, pretty well-adjusted. But me? At almost 34? I start crying as I write this because your pain was so intense that day at the preschool, your confusion your first night with us so profound, and I helped contribute to part of it. The preschool 'incident' must have happened 27 or 28 years ago and I can’t let it go and I don’t know why. Maybe because as you grew up, you were the little brother who defended me on the playground from kids who were making fun of me for being fat, something I only found out about recently. You were looking out for me and I knew none of it. I certainly didn't make things any easier by eating anything I could get my hands on and by befriending only kids who had money to buy me snacks. I vehemently denied it then when confronted by a girl I wouldn't play with, but she was right. And you were there, small scrappy you, jumping in the face of anyone who dared make fun of me. We are bound together by a lifetime of experience and memories, good and bad, and with the knowledge that you were a savior during the beginning of a dark time, I feel my love for you intensify.
I cannot tell you how happy I am that we’ve become friends as we've grown into adults. I turn to you for advice. You were the person who pointed out, when I called myself a loser for not being interested in or especially talented at cooking as you are that my talent is writing and that you can barely type. It was so cut and dry when you said it. I'm the cook, you're the writer. No shame, no trauma, no pain. This is just how it is, okay? Come on, let's go watch the game.
Our relationship isn’t hokey or covered in flowers and I’m glad that I can be honest with you about everything. I think you should give Dad a call because Grandma isn’t doing so well and I think he’s sad and could use a phone call to cheer him up. And you say okay and I know that you will call and surprise Dad and it makes me feel good to know that you’re a good son and a great brother. Unfortunately, my love is spliced with the panic I feel for the well-being of those I love and I ask of all the deities I know Please don’t take my brother from me until we are both white-haired and creaking and telling stories about our respective childhoods. If he is taken before his time, I believe I will follow because I will not know how to live with the pain. But as soon as I say that, I rescind my words. My love is stronger than pain, so I take your face in my hands and I look into your eyes and I say You are my blood. Let no one tell you differently.