To My Brother on His Sixteenth Birthday: Ways You Make Me Better

The day you were born was cold and biting. I remember because Nana and Poppy B drove Mom’s old Toyota to the hospital and the window got stuck and wouldn’t roll up. I covered Tyler and I up with a beach towel to keep warm and fell asleep in the back seat for an hour. I cried when I found out you weren’t going to be a girl. I was convinced God hadn’t listened to me when I’d specifically asked for a sister three birthdays in a row. I felt grownup though, a six year old, sitting in the living room discussing what we should name you. No one liked my suggestions. I could tell. But they listened anyway. “Andrew,” Dad said. “No,” Momma replied. “He’ll get made fun of. He isn’t a President.” “Drew then.” “Yes. Drew will fit him.”

Your name means “man” or “warrior.” You’re becoming one, you know. To me, you’ll always be a little goofus who would follow me around and give me hugs and kisses. I’m realizing, however, that you’re growing up. And so, I thought you should know just what you mean in my life.

You drive me crazy. You’ve always known the perfect way to get under my skin. You touch my arm a certain way or tease me about something. And I know exactly what you’re doing…but I respond because for some reason it’s fun to fight with you. I hate the way you hide behind corners and scare me…and make me, a 22-year-old woman, scream bloody murder. I’ll never forget the time you made me break my nose and how you woke me up the next morning singing a song about how big and swollen it had become. You were a pest. You drive me crazy. But I’m better because of you.

Let me tell you the ways.

You make me better because I want to show you what it really means to be a good person. Most of the time I’m not one. But I want you to be one. So I try really hard.

You make me better because you taught me normal things like how to hop a fence, how to throw a football, and how to love things that girls without brothers don’t learn to love.

You make me better by teaching me patience. And how to be calm. And how to respond when I find someone about to walk onto a tight rope held up by duct tape. I know I screamed at you that day, but I can’t help but laugh about it now. You and your yellow hard hat were so funny looking crouching on top of the bunk bed.

You make me better because you understand me. Like when we would always play apples to apples and we’d choose each others cards without trying. Everyone thought we were cheating, but we really just thought the same things made sense.

You make me better because I know that even though you’re too cool for me now, you really loved those games we used to make up or our silly songs, or the times we would sneak ice-cream and have “talk time” on the trampoline. You used to tell me how much you missed Jacob once he moved or how you were nervous about your soccer game, or how you couldn’t wait for Christmas. And it would start to rain and we’d squeal and laugh and jump till we thought we might touch heaven.

You make me better by just being you. You are smart and talented and handsome and my friend. And I’m thankful for that. And I’m thankful that you weren’t a girl. And I’m thankful that you’re my baby brother.

I guess what I’m trying to say…is that I love you. And I hope that no matter how old you get…you’ll always remember to not be a goofus.

Happy Sixteenth Birthday.

November 2009

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