The summer of 2000 was spent preparing ourselves for the death of my grandmother. My mother spent the duration of it at her house, helping take care of her, sorting out things with Hospice, and making arrangements for after her death. My father wasn’t working at the time, and he took care of me. I was 9 and I had no real concept of death yet, just that it was closer to me than I had ever anticipated.
My brother had just graduated from college at the beginning of the summer. He had made the decision to take a year off between college and law school, so he could be there for our family. He worked as a runner for a law firm, with long hours of ridiculous tasks. Never once did he complain, though.
Most of my days were spent following my dad around as he job searched (he had been shoved out of the business he had started with my uncle one month before I was out of school for the summer), but the first morning my grandmother did especially poorly, my father woke me up and told me that my brother was coming over to be with me because he had to go. He gave me a bright green apple and sat me down in front of Animal Planet to wait for my brother to get home from the law firm. It was the first time I’d ever been left home alone.
When my brother arrived, he ran into the room and swooped me up into the most loving and powerful hug I’ve ever experienced. I could feel his shoulders moving, I could hear his ragged breathing, but it never occurred to me that he could be crying. I had no idea why he would be crying, though I better understand it now.
After 5 minutes, he sat me down and told me that I should get dressed however I want. I was a ridiculous person even back then, so when I walked downstairs in a velvet dress and Hercules sandals, with costume jewelry lining my neck and fingers, he just smiled. He told me we were going bowling and then out for pizza, and that I could bring along my Britney Spears cassette tape that he had gotten me at the beginning of the summer because of a good report card.
My brother turns 34 today. I turn 22 on Sunday. Years have flown by since that life-altering summer, and yet I still remember every single detail of that day, especially sitting next to him in his car, listening to “Oops!…I Did It Again”, fearing the future but knowing I would survive as long as I had him. I remember his hand on the back of my shoulders, the look of concern in his eyes, and how he laughed despite himself when I tried to do choreography a la Britney.
We have a lot of issues now. The last 5 years have been especially rocky, and he has completely settled into his adult life while I’ve broken the barrier of childhood and started the terrifying trek into adulthood. However angry I am at him, however many decisions he makes that I can’t support, however many times he breaks my heart, I remember that day. And all of it comes rushing back.